Skip to content

Why Don’t We Appreciate Where We Are?

women riding bike Athlete self-appreciation and growth

Most athletes are very goal driven. They establish goals at the beginning of their training, or season, so that they have something to work toward. Having goals helps athletes stay focused and on track with their training and intentions. The question to ask is: why do some athletes struggle to feel proud of their progress and accomplishments? How can we focus on athlete self-appreciation and growth?

Why Don’t We Appreciate Where We Are?

Several reasons this might occur are based on the individual athlete. Some examples include the athlete struggling to remain connected to their intentions, challenges recognizing growth, and focusing too much on external cues. A primary element for any athlete is to develop their intent or purpose when starting a training program. Having this intention established assists the athlete in setting goals and making educated decisions as to what will aid them along the way. It also helps the athlete connect with themselves and remain self-aware regarding aspects they are trying to improve upon or master. For example, when an athlete cannot stay connected with their intention, they might experience a struggle with accepting their performance and appreciating the growth they have made thus far in their training program.

Another area that can cause an athlete to struggle with self-appreciation is experiencing struggles in recognizing their growth. Growth is challenging! It requires the ability of the athlete to be willing to accept and welcome failure and mistakes into their lives. When mistakes are made, usually feelings of shame follow- which for many athletes is uncomfortable. Athletes with high levels of achievement motivation can recognize that these moments, which do not look perfect, are the moments that provide them the opportunity to challenge themselves and push to the next level. When an athlete struggles with a high level of achievement motivation, they could also struggle with appreciating themselves. Not every workout session or competition will be perfect, but each provides essential lessons!

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

It is easy to get caught up with external cues. An athlete might be focused on what others think, how they measure up to what is portrayed on social media. How they feel they should be doing when comparing themselves to others. Athletes getting caught up in this comparison game makes it extremely challenging to take part in appropriate self-reflection and acceptance. When athletes compare themselves to other athletes (that they know or don’t know personally), they are taking on a social evaluation based on performance. So even though it might be easy to get caught up with comparisons, it takes away the athlete self-appreciation and growth opportunity.

Another aspect that can impact an athlete is thinking they always need to do better. It can also be thinking they should be trying to do better. Even though it is essential to strive for greatness, it’s important to recognize that celebrating achievements is critical to growth. The mindset of always needing to do better can negatively impact how an athlete self-reflects. It can also present a challenge to their performance outcomes.

Strategies To Help Athlete Self-Appreciation And Growth

  1. Practice Gratitude– Implementing daily gratitude allows athletes to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It also helps an athlete be observant with their responses in situations. Most importantly, this practice encourages incorporating a non-judgmental approach.
  2. Self-Reflection Exercises– It is critical to include self-reflection exercises throughout an athlete’s training. These exercises help keep the athlete grounded and focused on the process and stay in the present moment. Examples of self-reflection exercises include journaling, meditation, and imagery practices.
  3. Revisit Goals– When athletes struggle with the lack of self-appreciation, it is essential to remind them of the importance of their goals. Consider revisiting the initial goals that were established. Reflect on what has been going well, the obstacles and struggles encountered, and how they plan to continue growing.
  4. Tune into the Thought Process– Learning to pay attention to the inner dialogue is an essential element for an athlete, especially when experiencing low self-appreciation moments. It is important to examine if the thought process is positive or negative. If the thought is negative, recognize it exists but does not define the athlete. Instead, realize that those negative thoughts do not hold any value and let them go.

Athletes quickly become extremely self-critical of themselves and their performance. This can take them away from enjoying the process and recognizing their growth. Self-Reflection becomes important in those moments. Not just throughout the week, but the entire season. Athletes that recognize a natural ebb and flow, connected to performance, can set themselves up for success. On some days, they understand that self-reflection might be challenging but still be able to themselves as athletes.


Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.