Regret Has Made Me A Better Person

January 15, 2013

People are always bandying around that cliché “no regrets” and in recent times I’ve seen the god awful “never regret anything because at one time it was something you wanted” being plastered all over the internet in those picture quotes, usually by teenagers with no life experience.

Regret_by_classically_fragile

Um, no.  The whole point about regret is because it wasn’t something you wanted.  There are things in my life I wish I had never done, therefor, I regret having done them.  They were not things I wanted to do, they were knee jerk reactions as a result of low self esteem.  Sure, I learned lessons, and for that, I am grateful, but there are some things I could have gone without experiencing.

Personally, I think that if you have no regrets, you haven’t truly messed up and maybe you need to get out of your comfort zone and start being honest with yourself.

I would hazard to say that regret has made me a better person.  Like getting burned on the stove, you learn where not to put your hands again.  I don’t want to make the mistakes I made again, because regret hurts, so I figure out what the lesson was in that situation, and move on, better armed.

Regret is a yard stick.  It’s a little reminder of where you fell and why so that you have less and less regrets as you get older.  At least, to me, that’s the aim.

Dave Ursillo says there are two camps of people with opposing ideas on regret:

It seems that there are at least two equally strong but diametrically opposed camps of thought regarding regret. One camp embraces feeling regretful as natural and inevitable to occur, that it presents the opportunity to evoke positive change and inner growth. The other camp explicitly chooses to disregard ever feeling regretful, that the past should be left there and that regrets burden our minds and prevent us from acting as we “ought” to.

AND

…neglecting to understand and harness one’s regret is ultimately more detrimental because holstering it can cause us to neglect to take responsibility for wrongdoing, to acknowledge one’s own shortcomings, and failing to learn lessons from the past — all of which can be harnessed and used for the sake of bettering one’s self in the present and future.

I know which camp I’m in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t beat myself up over the things I did that I regret, the key is to learn from the mistakes so you don’t make them again, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have to wish they never happened.

How do you handle regret?

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  • Not being a teenager with no life experience, I have regrets. But nowadays I think I’m so motivated by a fear of regret it does a weird thing. (1) It makes me overly cautious or (2) it is the main driving force behind me “making the most” of life experiences. I can’t really tell if it’s a good or a bad thing, yet.

  • Kayleigh

    This post is really thought-provoking. I can understand your take on the concept of regret, but I seem to come at it from a different angle myself. I am one of those people who say ‘no regrets’ ha!

    That doesn’t mean I haven’t done things in my life that I would choose to do again. For example; I used to regret some of the choices I made in my teens regarding my education and early working life. But ultimately, I decided this way of thinking was kind of fruitless because it just led me to feel negative about how those experiences had formed part of who I am today, which created a vicious circle. Today, I don’t regret those choices in the sense that I wish I had never made them because that just sets off the debilitating vicious thought circle again, however I do make a point of learning from them. and focusing on how the positives that have come out of the choices I have made. I just try and put a positive spin on things by not referring to ‘regrets’ or ‘mistakes’ 😉

    But, it has occurred to me this could just be a question of semantics and maybe your associations with the word are slightly different to mine 🙂

  • I have to say that I do live by the whole “no regrets’ thing. Do I wish I hadn’t broken my leg in 5th grade? Sure, but that was a freak accident and not to be avoided. The major things in life, the huge errors in judgement….well those had some serious repercussions but also life lessons that came with them. I know it’s cliche’d but it really has shaped me. Honestly, if I hadn’t made the mistake then I’m sure I’d have made them at older ages when the consequences were higher. I love your take on it though.

  • Regret is a tricky thing. I’ve certainly made some interesting mistakes. Some of them were quite painful to go through, and some of them are still quite painful to remember, so from that perspective, I’d say I do regret them. Memories that make you cringe and think “what the hell was I thinking? Where was my mother?” count as regrets I guess. Like you, I do think those experiences made me a better person, though. I appreciate your honesty on this topic!