Guilty

I FEEL GUILTY.

There. I’ve said it. I’ve shouted it in capitals. I feel guilty. For being ‘lazy’. For not eating enough vegetables. For not going for a run when I said I would. For not emptying the dishwasher. For not staying in touch with friends. For spending too long on Facebook. For not blogging often enough. For using too much plastic.

Until very recently, I genuinely thought that I didn’t put much pressure on myself. Which is ridiculous. I just didn’t have a name for it. A niggling feeling like you haven’t cashed that cheque from months ago, or registered to vote, or been to the dentist, or revised for an exam that’s tomorrow, or trained enough for an ultramarathon.  A feeling that you’re not good enough.  A vague, ebbing feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Like it’s the apocalypse tomorrow and you haven’t gained any relevant skills.

This time next week I’ll be recovering from my second-ever 50 mile race, my fourth ultramarathon. I’m at that stage in the lead-up when I feel like I’ve never run before, and I’m in way over my head. It’s time to publish this blogpost which has been sitting in my drafts for over a month, but I was worried was too personal (feeling guilty about not blogging about guilt? #irony). Hopefully posting it will be helpful to someone.

Pressure is what it is. I feel compressed, and when I make that phonecall I’ve been meaning to make for months, it lifts a little bit. Only a little bit because the damn recipient wasn’t there and I had to leave a voicemail… and I’m now trying to figure out how to relieve more of that pressure.

Let’s face it, I’m not going to change overnight; from someone who gets bored halfway through putting the laundry away to someone who completes a To Do List (ONCE. I’ve done that ONCE.), or feels ready…ever. I’m a chronic over-preparer, always feeling under-prepared.

I did actually enjoy the imperfection of last month’s Plastic Challenge because of that. With my current mindset and lifestyle there’s no way I would or could have fully fully prepared and used zero plastic for the month… but there were no dire personal consequences when I ‘failed’. So it was good practice, failing. Not quite being perfect. There are all sorts of motivational quotes out there about failing, and at least one excellent podcast (transcript available at the link), but it’s hard to take them to heart when we’re brought up in a culture of All or Nothing, In or Out.

For me, guilt (now I’ve realised that’s what it is) is a massive demotivator, and I’m not alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the to do list, and get distracted by stuff that doesn’t feel productive, doesn’t bring you joy…like Facebook. Ahh, Facebook. A few months ago I ‘gave up Facebook’ for 40 days. It was glorious. I read more, cooked more, got into daily yoga and had a better headspace. Irritatingly, I’ve since slipped back into being on social media a lot, feeling hugely guilty (hence not blogging about it before), and my attention span is

They say that goals should be concrete. Vague aspirations like ‘be fitter’, ‘be more confident’, ‘use less plastic’ are hard to quantify, and I guess these feelings of guilt are similarly indistinct. I’ll probably always feel like I’m on Facebook ‘too much’, or not doing ‘enough’ yoga, unless I set myself limits and goals. Having a training diary (and Strava) has certainly helped me fitness-wise. As it gets closer to my scary races of the year, I can look back and see that I have done plenty of training, rather than panicking that I haven’t prepared at all. One of the things that pushed me to write this blog was a hyperbolic link that keeps cropping up when I’m scrolling (again with the irony).

It’s the start of the summer holidays for me, meaning it’s a good time to remind myself how good I’ll feel when I’ve made that phonecall, eaten that salad or fitted those skirting boards, but not to beat myself up for sitting down reading a book. Seems like a good time for setting concrete goals… although as my brain is mainly filled with race prep right now, I’m going to start small today.

1. Stop saying I’ll do something when I don’t have the energy, time, inclination or resources to do it. As Matt Frazier and Nichole and Aja (and probably lots of others) would say, it should be either a “Hell yes!” or “No” (lots of lovely handy lifestyley stuff at the links). I’d also apply this to things I should do – I need to make time for them, and not put them off by scrolling, which leads me to

2. Limit social usage to when I have a purpose for it (i.e. checking the time of an event or reading a saved post, rather than aimlessly scrolling). I’ll see how this goes but will probably need to be harsher – possibly with set timings. To be reviewed.

Let’s finish this post off with some advice from a box of chocolates:

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