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Dealing with Feelings of Guilt

Guilt has a funny way of rearing its head even if you're not really doing anything that would warrant it. The emotion is learned through our childhood experiences and is associated with the boundaries that are set for us, or we set for ourselves and our core values. Feelings of guilt give us a sign that we have done something outside of our set values/boundaries. Guilt is a strong cue towards building self awareness and pushes us to examine how our choices and behaviour impact on those around us and how we can correct to not keeping make the same mistakes.


Guilt and the emotions that go with it can be a great growth opportunity - but for many people dealing with guilt is the hard part - knowing when to accept it as an appropriate response to a situation and when you need to let it go as an unnecessary response. For many recreational athletes "feeling guilty" can be something that comes up from time to time. Here are some the feeling guilty scenarios that I see athletes facing. Such as

Feeling Guilty;

  • For training too much (time away from family and other commitments)

  • For not training enough (feeling like you are letting people down or not doing what you feel is expected)

  • When you miss a session (or a few)

  • When you take a holiday

  • For needing to say "no" to something

  • For saying "yes" to something you didn't really want to do (especially if it is a time and financial commitment)

  • For spending money on sport related items & race entry fees

There are more, but I think you get the idea. So some of these are healthy guilt and some are not, and there is no universal right answer here as we are each in our own unique circumstances. So the best thing to do is to take time to assess your feelings and then take action to not get stuck in feeling guilty. Here are some simple tips for dealing with guilt when it comes to our training and racing: 1. Is the guilt you are feeling appropriate, and what is the point of it (ie what can you do to correct the situation, is this even a situation you should be feeling guilty about?) 2. Make the changes needed to bring things back to balance. Don't get stuck feeling guilty - do something to change the situation. 3. If you did something wrong - then accept it, own it, address it and use it as a growth opportunity. 4. Learn from your mistakes - "sometimes you win, sometimes you learn" 5. Understand that no-one is perfect - if you mess up, if you get out of balance, if you fall off the rails - don't get stuck in that space of feeling guilty and feeling bad. Use it as a platform for growth to become BETTER. It's also important to remember that if we take a full view picture of a situation - like missing a few days training for instance - you will see that this is not a appropriate time to be guilty if you have been working really hard or had a lot going on in your life to warrant the break. If you have simply fallen of the training wagon, and are feeling guilty about it - don't wallow there - do something about it, reach out and talk to friends, your coach etc try and work out why you stopped training - cut yourself some slack and then get yourself back on track. My biggest advice is that for the most part - we often feel guilty about things that we don't need to feel guilty about. So when you feel guilt creeping in - stop and really assess the situation with an "outsider's" perspective and you might just find that it's not an appropriate response to the situation at all!

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