We are excited to share an interview with the Inspirational Kelda Wood, former horse rider and trainer, who battled against a life changing injury to compete in the GB Squad as a Para-canoeist, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro retraining as a climbing instructor and founding the charity ‘Climbing Out’. The organization runs outdoor activity programmes aimed at rebuilding confidence and self-esteem in young people who’ve been through life-changing injury, illness or trauma. Kelda then went on to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America at 7.000m and inspired us all in 2018 by entering the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, becoming the first para rower to solo row the Atlantic Ocean. The whole aim of Kelda’s row was to inspire and motivate young people facing mental or physical trauma, and each day on the ocean she was rowing for a different young person, sharing their stories as well as links to charities and organisations providing support. Over 75 young people wrote and shared their stories through Row to Raise.
It’s hard to imagine Kelda, with all that you have achieved and overcome, that you have ever experienced self-doubt. Have you always been self-confident?
NO! I’m still not……I’ve got a strong sense of self belief, but I think we can all struggle with self confidence. Someone once said to me, “I doubt myself like everyone else, the only difference is that I do it anyway” I think that’s a great way to look at it. I also believe that you have to go on the journey to find that self belief. There was a time when I really struggled with confidence, especially around what other people thought of me……but I look back now and see that was all part of my journey. I had to go through those challenges to teach me what I needed to know in order to have true self belief. It was also learning to overcome those challenges that inspired me to both set up Climbing Out and to take on the row.
Most people would recognize that confidence comes and goes….How do you maintain yours?
I train really hard. I’ve learnt to adapt my training to work around the limitations of my leg and I’m probably fitter and stronger now than before I was injured. Getting in the gym, or doing something physical 4-6 times a week really helps my confidence, both physically and mentally
I’ve also found it’s really useful to create triggers so that when I have a wobble (as we all do) I can remind myself of the journey I’ve been on and the learning’s I’ve made. After sumitting Aconcagua I found a real acceptance of the person I was with my injury instead of always chasing after the person I used to be. I then got a small tattoo done on my injured leg saying “Something inside so strong” (and yes those are the words taken from the song 😊). Whenever I start to doubt myself I think of my tattoo and it reminds me of that strength.
I’m not suggesting everyone needs to go out and get a tattoo! It could be a photo, a piece of jewelry or a quote…..I’ve got a framed quote from Nelson Mandela at the bottom of my stairs so every morning when I first come downstairs it acts as a trigger. It says “I never lose, I either win or I learn”. That’s always a great way to start the day!
You of course must identify with the experiences of those you work with every day. How do these experiences impact on their confidence and self-belief?
So many of the young people we support doubt what they can do after having been through a serious injury, illness or trauma. I get that. That’s exactly what I went through with my leg injury. Our aim with Climbing Out is to challenge that perception and to show them that they can do so much more than they maybe think…they might just have to do it a bit differently to how they did it before. I’ve got a saying that I use all the time…..”It’s not about saying ‘I can’t’, it’s about saying ‘How can I?’”. The thing is when you start asking that question….”How can I make this achievable?”…..there’s always an answer! When I did Aconcagua, doing it with a leg like mine was going to be really difficult. So I said “How can I make this achievable?” The answer was crutches! I got some specially adapted crutches made, took my leg out of the equation and bingo! I made it to the summit!
When it came to the Atlantic, rowing over 3,000 miles with a leg like mine wasn’t going to be straightforward. So again, I asked myself “how can I?” The answer was an adapted footplate and seat, a strict pain management regime, and hey presto….my leg wasn’t an issue any more! It gives you such a sense of freedom and confidence once you realise there is always a way, it’s just a case of being open minded enough to find it!
What was it that inspired you to found Climbing Out?
I’d really struggled with my own mental well being after my injury, and I got stuck in that rut for the best part of 10 years. After climbing Kilimanjaro I realised I needed to change my attitude and I needed to start focusing on what I could do with my injury, rather than what I couldn’t. I began re-training as an outdoor instructor, and the outdoor world then played a huge part in my own mental and physical recovery. Shortly after I was then asked to speak with a young man who’d suffered a similar injury to me, but hadn’t been able to accept the impact it’d had on his life to the point that he’d tried to commit suicide. It was after speaking to him that I realised there must be so many other young people going through what I’d been though. I knew I wanted to do something that might give them the opportunity to find a new way forwards as I had done…..the result was Climbing Out.
Who inspires you?
The young people we support through Climbing Out! When I hear some of their stories I realise that what I’ve been through is so insignificant in comparison. Then when I also hear about what they’ve gone on to do after taking part in a Climbing Out programme, it inspires me to keep pushing and making sure we reach more and more young people, Climbing Out really is changing lives.
Throughout my Atlantic row one of the most amazing things was how it was such a two way experience. Those 75 young people that had written and shared their stories….well, there were so many days when I was finding things tough that I would remember who I was rowing for and what they’d overcome, and it’d give me so much inspiration and motivation to keep rowing. Equally I had so many messages while I was out on the Atlantic from young people who were struggling saying that if I could keep going stuck on my own in the middle of the ocean, then they could keep going in their fight against whatever it was they were facing. That was something truly magic and so, so special about the row.
What would you say to Confidence Guru followers out there who are struggling to develop their self-confidence and struggle with self-doubt?
I’d say it’s ok to not be ok, it’s ok to find things tough…..but that doesn’t mean you have to sit still and think that’s how it’s going to be forever! You’ve got to keep moving. As long as you’re moving somewhere, you will learn from it and it will lead to other opportunities….and eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for. If you just sit still, that’s never going to happen! I always said when I was on the Atlantic, as long as I kept rowing, no matter how tough each day might be, I would eventually get to where I wanted to go….if I’d curled up and just sat in the cabin then things would never have changed or got any better!
Thank you Kelda – I know Confidence Guru followers will be encouraged and inspired by your story. You have achieved so much in so many fields and in such a short time. You are truly inspirational!!
Want to learn the skills and strategies of a confidence coach? Sales of my new book ‘Confidence Guru – Discover a Confident You’ have been keeping us very busy this month. You can buy both the Kindle and Paperback versions via our website at www.confidenceguru.com or through Amazon.
Love and Positivity