No Regrets? Really?
Join Tina as she has a full circle moment from thinking she had “No Regrets” (because it was all part of who she's become today, right?) to realizing, actually, she has regrets - daily… and perhaps this isn’t entirely awful. Perhaps, regret is an important emotion to feel after all…
And after discussing how important it is, and in which ways regret aims to serve us... she is still all too aware of the heaviness that it brings with it. Why? Why, if it’s important, does it feel so heavy to experience this feeling of regret?
ACOUSTIC GUITAR # 1 by Jason Shaw https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jason_Shaw
Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International License
I want to talk to you today about those passing phrases we’ve made in days past, before we would ever be put to the test of proving what we’ve said as truth. And maybe we didn’t say them out loud, it’s not even that we had to prove them to someone else… but we did say them, even quietly to ourselves, like promises that we knew we wouldn’t break.
And often these promises or vows or at least really solid plans with all the intentions of being truths, were made while witnessing something or hearing about something in someone else’s life.
And they were phrases like this:
When I have kids… they will never act like that – in public or at home. No way, that’s ridiculous.
When I find a partner… I will never put up with being disrespected. I will not stay with someone who treats me like that.
I would never stay in a relationship with someone who cheats, lies, has an addiction, or treats me badly.
I will never yell at my kids or make them feel the way I did growing up.
I will never lie, cheat, or be disrespectful to my partner.
I know who I am, what I will and will not accept in my life, and I know how to be for others as well.
I won’t turn out like this person. I won’t act like that person. My kids, my partner, my life… will not turn out like that at all.
And then fast forward. Here we are. You be eating some of your words now. And they do not taste good at all.
You said you, your partner, your kids would NEVER… and here ya’ll are, nevering like you have never nevered before.
Ugh, now what?
Well, there are different ways to handle this. And to be clear, sometimes the easiest thing to do (initially anyways) is to blame someone else.
I know what I said BUT – these kids. Literally feral, I think. This generation. Terrible.
Men these days, can’t find a respectful one anywhere.
Women! Are you even serious?
And that can help us feel justified in the moment. Even a bit validated so that we don’t feel that we failed, but rather didn’t stand a chance anyways.
But isn’t it true, that when we sit in the silence all alone and ponder where we are and what things are really like in our life, we can feel this seep of regret for certain things, trying to blanket over us?
And that doesn’t mean we wish we didn’t get into this relationship. We aren’t saying I wish I never met this person. It doesn’t mean I wish I never had these kids – NO. Regret doesn’t have to mean you wish everything could be undone.
Regret is a combination of sadness, disappointment, and remorse, that something happened, or happened the way it did.
And I have a confession to make here. Because in all of the talk that happens about this topic regret, I have been one of those who boasts “no regrets – I have no regrets”.
And not because I haven’t been sorry and remorseful for things I’ve said and done, and not because I haven’t felt sadness or disappointment in things said and done to me… but because I wanted so badly to blanket those feelings quickly with a cozier one that read “but everything got me to where I am, and I am content”.
Anyone just recognize that t-shirt, knowing they own the same one?
I think that’s been a message we’ve been taught to some degree – to make peace with it all as quickly as possible, and hey, it’s made you who you are. Am I right?
In sitting and preparing for this episode, I’ve been really challenged in this thinking.
I have had to turn completely around from saying “I have no regrets” to admitting that I think I actually have daily regrets.
Because if this definition that I’ve been studying is correct, then yes, daily I can feel sad and disappointed and remorseful for my own actions and words, as well as the experiences I have from the actions or words of others.
Let’s just sit in that for a moment, can we? Cause that’s a lot to take in. Or at least it is for me.
And right in this moment it’s sitting somewhere between freedom in truth, AND failure in my weakness.
But let’s be honest. Take an inventory of the last day or few days or week even. What have you done, said, experienced or remembered?
I regret taking the street I took and ending up in construction chaos.
I regret saying what I said when my kid called to tell me something.
I regret eating that bag of chips after a really good workout.
I regret not hugging my mother more. I regret not taking more time with her.
I regret not playing with my kids more than I cleaned the house.
I regret waiting so long to choose to be confident in who I am.
I can’t actually, truthfully look at those things and just say “no worries, they made me who I am”.
No, I regret them. They make me sad and disappointed - to be totally honest.
What do we do with this then? If this is a realization you’re just having now, or maybe you’re way quicker on this and have been in this place of recognizing your regrets, what do we do with this?
Because I am positive that this is not it. Regret is not something to just notice and throw in our backpack of heaviness to carry around all day, every day.
But that’s what I’ve been doing. As if to admit this feeling of regret, is to disappoint myself or change the trajectory of life. Like it would be to admit I am weak and not who I say I am, hope I am, or who I thought I was.
Regret just left hanging feels like a list of mistakes that I keep reading over and over. I don’t want that. I don’t even think that’s good for me, to see it like this or feel it like this. So again, what do we do with this? Because I feel everything within me wanting to resist this feeling of regret.
And that word “resist” is a real thing. We heard about it in last week’s episode about growth. We talked about growth being uncomfortable but also inevitable if we don’t quit. We talked about growth happening when we leave something old and familiar and comfortable, to go towards something new.
So, if I sit in this space of uncomfortably recognizing regret as a part of my experience in life, in my emotions and thoughts, then perhaps it’s accurate to see it to as growth. An opportunity to aid in my growth.
And my mind is not totally wrapped around this yet, we’ll have to keep going with it, but in its infancy here, what’s emerging to me then, is that regret is not a final grade.
Regret is not an evaluation of a moment in time. It’s not having to take an event and grade it as good or bad. We don’t have to say, “I’m grateful for that so it’s a pass, or I regret it, so it’s a failure”. It doesn’t have to be a good or bad moment based on whether I felt joy or regret.
So, if it’s not pass or fail, what’s the middle ground? I guess to me, between pass and fail, seems to lie “LEARN”.
If we believe this, then we would have to see regret as an important emotion.
An emotion that we don’t have to pretend we don’t have or try to make into something else. Maybe we need to see it, hear it, and feel it to reckon with what it’s trying to teach us.
Maybe you’re listening today and you’re fresh out of an experience that has you feeling regret. Maybe you’re in the same boat as me thinking I didn’t have any regrets, until now, which is kind of not cool, but also feels more genuine at the same time.
Maybe you have one or a few big regrets, from a long time ago even, but they’ve been in your backpack weighing you down for years now, as you’ve walked around in your “no regrets” t-shirt.
And a piece of you has shut down, ceased to function, or decided to hide because the regret feels like a declaration of failure… instead of a lesson being taught that we could choose to attend, and learn so much from.
But that would mean we have to be teachable. And being teachable requires a certain attitude.
Regret, again, remember, is not the grade we receive for the experience, but the lesson that prepares us for the experiences to come. But we have to be able to receive the lesson being taught. We have to be aware that we don’t know everything. We have to be open to the fact that we aren’t gown… but are still growing.
Regret then doesn’t feel like such a determination of failures or spotlight on my struggles. Regret then looks more like a teacher who believes in their students.
When we learn, we grow. When we grow, we make changes. Regret then is not the end. At least it is not supposed to be. It is supposed to be about changing.
It’s saying yes, I regret that, but not only do I regret it, but I’m going to change it. Not only do I regret it but I’m not going to do that again. Not only do I regret it but I’m going to make sure that it is not in vain as I learn and grow and make changes in my life.
I think regret has felt so bad and so scary because we have seen it as the end. The final result of that experience. The way it will always feel when I look back on that page of that chapter of my life.
But regret doesn’t have to be the end. It is not the period that ends that sentence of who we are.
But it can be the end of that version of ourselves, of who we were.
Regret then looked at in this light, includes grief. And that makes sense to heaviness we feel in this emotion. Because seeing it as a lesson, a teacher, and mean of growth and change is good. I think it’s accurate, but that doesn’t explain the feeling of heaviness that accompanies this emotion…
Until we understand the element of grief that’s a part of it.
When we look back and remember, recall the day, the moment, the event… When we think of who we were, what we did, what we said, what our thoughts were… When we remember how we reacted and the outcome, after the learning from it, but before the changing into something new with more understanding and perspective, comes the grief of that version of who we were.
When we remember who we were that allowed that toxic relationship to chip away at our sense of worth and value…
When we remember how unloved we felt that we allowed anyone to touch us.
When we were so scared to be alone that we stayed where we were not wanted or respected.
When we were so power hungry that we stepped on anyone to get to the top.
When we were so insecure that we put our own well-being in the hands of someone who didn’t have our well-being in mind.
Regret includes the grief we feel when we remember who we were.
And that grief is an opportunity, an invitation for you to have a memorial for that version of yourself. Because they may have existed. But that is not the end. Those versions have extraordinary value to teach you so that you can learn and grow from there. So that they do not repeat going forward.
But to just move on and pretend that didn’t hurt, that there is no regret, that it was just all part of what makes you who you are today… doesn’t give full recognition of your growth or the pain of getting to where you are now.
Regret is not your oppressor. Regret is your opportunity to see it all, your whole self for who you are. It’s who you’ve been, it’s what you’ve experienced, who you have changed from and who you are now as a whole life event, rather than all the little ones that looked like either passes or failures.
Regrets then, actually acknowledged, are not meant to make us feel bad, but to help us continue in our growth. Does that mean it won’t feel bad to acknowledge regret? No, not necessarily because again, there is an element of grief.
Listen, it’s good to be self-aware. Self-awareness is vitally important. But you can’t just be aware that you are organized, compassionate, devoted, punctual, and kinda cute. That doesn’t do anything for your growth unless you are only looking to grow your ego.
Self-awareness that is healthy, and also dedicated to your growth will include knowing that you are organized, compassionate, devoted, punctual, kinda cute, and also have a lying problem. Also got a temper on you. Also tend to be controlling when you’re feeling insecure about something.
And how do you know this? Because you been feeling regret when you think to those experiences that exposed these things.
So, we now say what? Doesn’t matter. Makes me who I am? Yep, some people say that. Yes, that’s who I am… I’m no good I quit. We could say that, but I really don’t want us to.
There is a way of saying yes, I recognize that in me. I regret that. I regret being that person in those circumstances. I regret being that version of me. That is sad and disappointing, and I have remorse for that version of me.
I grieve that version of me. I am committed to being a new and changed version.
That’s not the end. That’s not a failed grade, is it? That’s undeniable growth. That was a lesson taught, a lesson learned, a memorial, and a new version emerging.
I don’t know about everyone else, but this feels ok to me. This understanding that we’ve unfolded today. I think I feel better realizing I do have regrets, rather than trying to squeeze into a t-shirt that no longer fits.
I think I’m ok having regrets, as long as I can keep them in check as lessons to learn from, and memorials of old versions of me, that make way for celebrations of my growth.
How about you?
Something to think about, isn’t it?
I want to thank you guys for joining again today. I appreciate you all. Until next time… this is Tina saying good-bye for now, and we’ll speak again soon.