Freedom from Regret

Regrets are a sensitive topic. They are difficult to talk about for us as humans who (hopefully!) feel empathy because recalling them brings about certain degrees of guilt or shame. To cope with these uncomfortable feelings, it is common for people to say things like, “I have no regrets because everything I’ve done has gotten me to where I am today, and I love where I am.”

While there is some truth to that statement, it isn’t exactly the healthiest way of thinking. And it doesn’t fully free you from regret. The only way to begin letting go of regrets is to acknowledge your faults and learn from them.

I would be lying if I hadn’t echoed sentiments similar (okay, identical) to the whole “I have no regrets because I love where I am” mindset. And like I said, there is some value to it. 

Being grateful for the present moment is a good thing. The trouble with this perspective comes with the idea of having no regrets. Though it may be undesirable to do so, we must own up to the times when we made mistakes. If we didn’t, we’d be doomed to repeat them.

But it takes a toll on us as people to feel like we did something bad. For me personally, one of the deepest regrets I have relates to unintentionally hurting another person. And not just any person—one of my best friends.

In my senior year of high school, personal disputes between a few members of my friend group grew increasingly hostile. I was on the edge of all the drama, scared to take sides and scared to watch my group fall apart amidst the stress of college applications and other preparations for the future. As time went on, my best friend’s disagreements with other members of the group led to her getting treated very poorly. While I never participated in the mistreatment, it also took me months to break away from it and let myself and others know that this was not okay. Before that, I permitted things that I shouldn’t have out of fear of getting caught in the drama. I am so lucky to have my best friend back in my life and I am so grateful for her forgiveness, but I will always regret the way I behaved during those months. 

Something that many people fail to realize is that there’s a healthy way to carry regrets. There’s nothing we can do about what’s in the past, so it is irrational to let regrets consume us. But remembering the experience in the form of a lesson is still valuable. Instead of getting weighed down by the remorse you feel and getting stuck in cycles of shame, try to approach regrets with a more optimistic attitude. Don’t think about what you lost from the experience—focus on what you gained. If you take responsibility for whatever happened, you automatically gain the tools you need to be a better person. And as hard as regret can be, this learning process is very empowering.

It is also critical to forgive yourself. Don’t acknowledge your regrets for the sake of repeating painful feelings. Acknowledge your regrets to remind yourself how to be a better person in the days to come. You have the power to wake up every day and be a better version of yourself. Something my best friend always reminds me to do is find the beauty in where you are at a current moment rather than looking backward or forward. So with that, I say yes, I am content with where I am right now and what I have learned. But that isn’t because I have no regrets. In fact, quite the opposite. I love where I am because I know what my regrets are, and while I’m not perfect, I’m getting better every day. So are you. 

 

Image Credit: Feature, Sydney Schulman, 2