Regrets: Tell me the good side, tell me the bad side, just don’t tell me you don’t have any

Here is something I regret every time it happens. Engaging in a conversation with someone who tells me that they do not have any regrets. Really?? I always want to respond to that person by asking them if they regret being a narcissist. However, the temptation is usually thwarted by the notion that I would just end up extending the conversation and listening to a long-winded explanation detailing their brilliance and masterful ability to rise above whatever it is they do not regret.

Now I understand that lots of people like to say they do not have regrets because everything they have done has made them who they are today. That is the ideal and something we should all strive for. But to say that you do not have any regrets is that really honest? You haven’t done one thing or said one thing that you regret?

We all have regrets some big some small. I often regret my shoe choice if I am standing all day. I regret the fact that last night my husband and I discovered Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream and because of that my workout today will be significantly extended.

I regret some of the major decisions I have made in my life. Yes, I have learned some valuable lessons and I hope that I have gained strength and positive personal growth from those situations. However, that doesn’t mean I do not regret making those decisions. I do.

Living life without regret is an amazing thing to strive for. No one is perfect. Mistakes happen, regrets happen and that is life. However, there are some instances where regrets can cause a lot of trouble.

  1. The regret you keep repeating: You do something regrettable and then you keep doing it. “I keep wearing the same heels that give me blisters every time I wear them. I keep doing it. Why? Because I just love the shoes.” Seems silly doesn’t it? Let’s change a few words. “I keep dating the same guy even though he continues to hurt me. Why? Because I just love him.” Repeating regrettable actions, no matter what they are is a big sign that you may need to dig a little deeper to understand why you keep doing it and how to move on from it. Repeating the same regrettable actions usually means that you are getting something positive; however most would see that the negative is stronger the positive. You may not be able to see it because you rationalize your behavior and/or minimize the actual negative effects.
  1. The regret you hang on to: The regret you hang on to is also resentment. You wear it like a badge of honor and refuse to let it go, or your refuse to address a deeper issue it reflects about you. “I can’t trust anyone in a relationship because he cheated on me. I regret ever meeting him.” Or “I can’t get anywhere in this company because my boss takes all the credit for my work. I regret taking this job in the first place.”  Both of those instances could be true. You dated someone and they cheated on you or your boss takes all of the credit. You may regret dating the guy, or you may regret your current career choice. However, letting other people’s actions keep you stuck in a regrettable situation, is your choice.
  1. The regret you keep secret: Regrets that are kept secret are dangerous and extremely harmful to your physical and emotional well-being. Whether they are secrets about an affair, debt, addiction, a time when you were really mean to someone; if regrets are kept secret they will more than likely effect many areas of your life negatively. Now, I am not saying that you should head to all of your social media accounts and tell the world that you have a secret shopping addiction that has spun you into major debt. I am saying that if you have a secret regret you should tell someone who will be able to help you through it, a friend, family member, clergy, therapist, or maybe even a lawyer.

Sometimes we may do regrettable things. And when we do, if we own it and move on from it versus repeating it, holding on to it, resenting it, or keeping it a secret; our lives will be much happier and healthier.

Sarah E. Stewart, MSW, CPC, Author and Life Coach

Sarah Stewart Consulting   Broken in the Back Bay

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