Know this: you can start over, each morning.
Over the past 2 months, overcoming regret has been a recurring motif in my life. Not to say that I have never had regretful experiences in the past 20+ years – I most certainly have. However, the past 2 months? Whew. In the beginning, I’d bury myself so deep in the hole of regret that I’d spend all my energy ruminating – so much so that it physically hurt. My anxiety was at an all time high. I was operating under the assumption that regret is imperative – that I have to yield to it like a bed I made and have to lie in.
However, with time, I have rested in these truths:
- It’s going to be okay. Things happen so that you can learn and grow (being fixated on regret is not how you grow). Not to mention, the more you beat yourself up, the less esteem and confidence you have to move forward, and also, the less perspective you have. Embrace new beginnings and always believe in your capacity to grow.
- It’s in the past. Whatever happened is gone. You can only choose to focus on today and tomorrow. That is the only place your locus of control lies. “Stay away from what might have been and look at what could be.”
- It’s not as bad as your overthinking tendency is making you believe a.k.a it is never that serious a.k.a it is what it is.
- It’s not going to matter in 3 months, so let it go. Time, with determination and intention, heart and grace, heals. And if it will matter, the best you can do is accept, embrace and move forward. The more you practice adapting to your reality, the more room you create for happiness that is untethered to perfect conditions.
- It’s normal. It’s life. You’re not alone. Everyone has done something they wish they didn’t do and there will always be something you wish you could have done differently – but you can’t. What you can do, is try to do things differently moving forward.
Ultimately, a lot of what happens in your life comes down to choice and intention. I can choose to forgive myself for where I have erred, I can choose to not let regret cloud the good and I can choose, most importantly, to grow. The older I get, the more I realise how purposeful I have to be about manifesting joy and peace in my life – I have to be willing to step outside feelings of guilt, shame and regret (after I’ve given myself sometime to process of course).
You get to give yourself as many chances as you need, to get it right.
As for for practical and positive coping mechanisms:
- Acknowledge the source of regret – many times, regret stems from self sabotaging patterns (“the universe is going to give you the exact same lesson in different versions until you master it”) – things you said you’d never do and then do repeatedly. Rather than judge yourself, identify the areas you are lacking self control and find ways to gradually improve your habits. Rewiring is done one step at a time, not all at once.
- Feel your feelings – when you acknowledge, name and feel your feelings, you allow yourself to move past the initial sadness that’s blocking you from seeing the entire picture. You’re able to deal with regret in a less overwhelming and more digestible manner. The key is to honour your emotions and come back to the present moment; don’t wallow and stay stuck in the past.
- Be objective – come out for air, sis! I’ve found that truly considering the facts helps me to put things into perspective (on that note, bookmark these super helpful questions). Hindsight is 20/20. Recognise that you probably did the best with what you had and what you knew at the time. Additionally, uncomfortable as it may feel, regret is not entirely bad – it indicates that something is happening in your environment or that there’s something you need to work through. It gives you a chance to ditch the labels and get in touch with your core being. Most importantly, it gives you an opportunity to learn more about who you are and what you value.The key is to process regret in a way that doesn’t burden you nor turn to self hatred.
- Embrace your humanness – perfectionism is the perfect lie. You are not defined by your ability to be perfect (no one is). You’re not exempt from making mistakes. In fact, you’re human hence mistakes is part of your experience.
- Gratitude – gratitude is easily one of the most effective and positive coping mechanisms. What am I thankful for in this situation? And in the odd case that there’s no silver lining there, what am I thankful for in my life now? “Gratitude is the root of joy.”
- Take responsibility – when you own up to everything you do, you allow yourself to learn, you strengthen your relationships (because fessing up when you mess up solidifies respect for the people involved) and you don’t give people power to weaponize your actions. You’re all round better for it.
- Release – write it down, talk it out, scream…releasing helps to process your regret, put it in context and let it go. It also helps to recognise the thought patterns that may need changing.
- Forgive yourself – for the bad decisions, the times you lacked understanding, for being young and reckless. Forgive yourself, not just once, but as many times as it takes to find peace. You’re not a bad person because you made a few wrong turns. “Choose, everyday to forgive yourself. You are human, flawed and most of all, worthy of love.”
Remember that we are powerful only to the extent to which we are willing to face our reality as it is right now. Release the shackles of yesterday and make the best out of today.