"Now that my past is erased
I feel the healing
I found the meaning of grace;
I'm not what I have done
I'm what I've overcome"
It's time to have the conversation about regret. I've always worried about the decisions I make or have made because I don't want to do the wrong thing, feel stuck, uncomfortable or like I "should have" done something else. I never wanted to regret any decisions, so I always played it safe.
When it comes to rethinking the 24 years I have been on this earth, I have many, many things I wish I could change. Does this mean I feel guilty about absolutely every mistake? Not even close. Why? Every past mistake in our lives is an opportunity for a new beginning and change in our future. Regret acknowledges the integrity of oneself in the current, rather than labeling ourselves with negative beliefs from the past and, potentially, the future.
Regret is the feeling of wishing we'd done (or not done) something in the past different than what we actually did. Guilt is feeling bad with, or even disliking ourselves, over some past act or error. We all experience feelings of regret at some time in our lives. But because we don't always perform perfectly, we bombard ourselves with 'could haves,' 'would haves' and 'should haves.' We need to begin by accepting that imperfection is not only inevitable, but also part of our reason for being.
Regret, in my opinion, can be looked at as self-affirming, rather than self-hating. Sadly, many people (the old me) with past hurts don't look back with a similar view on regret. They actually develop and retain compassion toward their disorder before they knew what recovery was like. Some recovered individuals testify that, if it weren't for their illness, they may not have come to view their lives and the lives of others with empathy, nor would they have been able to understand what it means to respect the imperfections and vulnerability in all human beings. This is an amazing statement about the power to turn your life and circumstances in a new direction.
I know that in my life I have always been a 'black' or 'white' type of person when it comes to decisions, especially in thinking of everything as 'right' or 'wrong.' This poor coping mechanism (not an illness) has actually allowed me to unlock strongly distorted views of people and their circumstances.
Here are a few of the regrets I've thought about and utilized in my life today and will in my future:
I regret not having the strength to be assertive in the moment: If chasing my happiness means confrontation in my life today, then I don't just accept the confrontation, I embrace it.
I regret basing my happiness on others rather than finding it in myself: By realizing how miserable relying on others approval for my happiness made me, I see where hiding how I feel can lead me. I can now assert my own opinions with confidence and without hesitation.
I regret waiting so long to reach out for help: Even though I regret waiting for national television to help enforce the realization of my struggles, I understand now that I'm incredibly thankful for it. I can now use that experience and my old hesitations to garner support for those suffering like I once did.
Illnesses of any kind presents influential symptoms and illustrates various conflicts within, forcing people to utilize their disorder as a declaration of their control over life's circumstances and their need for reassurance from others. The use of one's symptoms is a powerful tool to create and maintain separation from the real problems at root within the individual.
The only thing painful guilt and regret make certain is that we continue to allow pointless suffering and continue to give our lives over to negative emotions. Neither wants us to see how inventive we can be in our everyday lives. Even better, because you've let go the burden of dealings now long gone, visualize how much more time and energy you'll have to discover the authority and the guarantee of each new moment in your life! It has been said, "It's only when we are truly new, when we no longer bear the burden of unnecessary pain and are in a conscious relationship with the new and ever-changing present moment, that it's possible for us to make real changes in our lives that lead to being wiser, kinder, more creative human beings."
Today, I know I love my regrets. Like anything worth considering in life, there are possibilities for self-discovery in every mistake we make. Never give up. If we have failed to achieve a particular purpose once before or many times before, it doesn't make it unattainable in your future. Learn your lessons, mature stronger and continue to get back up. Whether or not you accomplish the objective is trivial. What really matters are the lessons you learn and the contributions you make along the way. At the end of the day, material accomplishments are simply washed away; but lessons learned and experience gained contributes to both personal and spiritual growth.
This Emotional Life is a two-year campaign to foster awareness, connections and solutions around emotional wellness. Join our community at www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife.
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