Regret: Dealing With and Understanding the Feelings that Come With it

Is there anything in life you regret doing or not doing? I’m sure everybody has asked themselves “what if that did not happen” or “what if I did this instead.” To some degree I think we all have some regrets in life, whether they may be huge life-altering and soul-crushing, or small “I wish…” regrets.

Too often do we hold grudges against ourselves longer and emotionally beat ourselves up more than the people we hurt. We also tend to forgive those who hurt us a lot faster and easier than we forgive ourselves.

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I, like others, try hard to live life with a Scotty P. attitude “No Ragrets” ya feel? And while that is a nice thought and one that promotes positivity, there is no such thing as being 100% regret free.

I’m 21 years old, going to be 22 in a 2 months, and I already have more than a couple of things I regret. Most of it comes from the first major I chose in college and some of it comes from lost friendships.

Though there may be no way to escape regret, there are several ways to deal with the feelings that come with regret and ways to overcome those feelings as well.

When dealing with feelings of regret, the most important thing to do is to understand why we are feeling the way we do. In my case, I found myself wondering over and over what my final GPA would have been from college if I changed my major after my first term. Would I have graduated with honors, instead of being a smidgen away from doing so? Would I have been happier and less rushed with my choice of major if I had more time to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life? So, to help me deal with all these feelings, and to understand them, I turned to my trusty journal. I wrote down what I regretted and all the questions I was constantly asking myself. I would write down possible answers to these questions, try to understand what made me stick with it and why I did not change it earlier. I tried to learn from what I did and the outcome so that I could overcome that regret. And eventually I graduated from constantly questioning to aaron-burden-90144-unsplashturning the whole thing into a life experience and learning from it.

Constantly pondering what could have been is, and excuse my harshness here, useless. You have no idea what could have happened, because it did not. So you really have no clue if something would have been better or not, since you never lived that reality.

Take a lost friendship for example. Say you were hurt because your close friends stopped inviting you to hang out with them. They posted all about their outing, knowing full well that you followed them on social media. Others, who knew you were “supposed” good friends with them, started asking you “oh how come you’re not with so and so?” or “oh, did they not invite you?” or “are you guys like fighting?” So, you take the first step and text them all asking to talk. They give you some BS excuse about it being a last minute decision, when you know full well the things they did required booking a reservation beforehand. It was not just an impromptu dinner at a cafe or small restaurant. It took planning, it took coordination being that it was far away. But, hey everyone makes mistakes right, you forgive and move on. Then you start hearing people say that this group of people is now talking about you behind your back…you confront them and they lie, and start showing you their colors even more. However, as the years go by, you find yourself wondering “what if I stayed their friend?” “What if that never happened?”

Honestly, who knows what would have happened if you were invited and stayed friends with them. And who really cares? Once you found out they were talking behind your back, saying that you were not fashionable enough to hang with them or that you were not pretty enough, or that they only hang out with pretty people, you understood the type of people they were. The “what ifs” at that point are wishful thinking, because, if you stayed friends with them, how do you know in the future after investing years into a friendship something worse and more hurtful would not have happened? That’s the thing you do not know, so living in the past and considering possible outcomes for something that has already happened is pointless. The only way to live a complete and fulfilling life is to live in the NOW. Be present and fully immerse yourself in everything you do now, not stuff that happened in the past.

toa-heftiba-274947-unsplashOnce you begin to understand your regret and know what the cause it, you can take the steps to let it go. Instead of continuing to put yourself through the endless suffering of living in the past, you can begin to actively move forward and move on.

In the case of lost relationships or friendships, what active steps could you take to move forward? Maybe reach out to those individuals and see if you can talk to them about what happened. Apologize if you did something wrong, listen to their side of the story, understand how they feel so that you can see what part you played in the fallout. After all relationships, regardless of the kind of relationship, are reciprocal. And hey, maybe it is not too late and that relationship can be mended. You never know until you start taking those steps forward.

Once you have done that, forgive yourself. What good does holding a failed friendship or choosing the wrong major help you in the current situation you are in?

So, instead of entering that cycle of negativity, remind yourself that everyone has regrets, everyone makes mistakes. After all no one is perfect, we are only human. The only thing you can really do is understand the regret your are feeling and work on learning from that experience, and try not to repeat it again.

Experiencing the feelings of regret shows that you care. And that is a good thing. Just make sure you deal with the feelings, or else that regret will stay with you for years to come, which is exactly what we do not want.

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