Imagine this: Someone makes a comment that touches a nerve. Your thoughts begin to swirl. 'Could I have done better? Should I have made a different choice?' What ifs and if onlys start racing through your mind and your mood plummets. In this way you let yourself feel the pain of regret again and again. Some off-handed comment and an old habitual thought pattern takes over, eventually dissolving into a pity party for one with no clear way out.
When I've spent too much time in feelings of regret, I find myself in a lonely place with neither comfort nor reassurance. I've opened my heart to feelings of self-doubt creating fertile ground for guilt, fear and depression. The weight of disappointment and regret heaps on more doubt, self-blame and indecision.
When things don’t come out as hoped and we wish for what might have been, the world seems to be conspiring against us. It’s easy to think if we’d only made a different choice, everything would have been rosy.
I realize now that regret did not serve me well. I'd turned to a sadly familiar emotional habit that offered little, if any, illumination. Rehashing circumstances, looking to lay blame, or wishing things had come out differently are all dead end thoughts. We cannot change a choice made in the past, nor can we erase its results in the present.
It’s only natural to feel pangs of disappointment or regret when our expectations aren’t met. And good or bad events in our lives invite comparison to what might have been. But as I develop my more self-compassionate thought process, I find it much more constructive to turn the situation around and ask myself 'Would I make the same decision if in that situation again?'
I am a caring, reflective and hopeful person, and when I look back, I feel I generally tried to do the best I could do at the time, so I feel confident I would probably have made the same decisions under the same circumstances. I didn’t have a crystal ball then, nor do I have a reset button now.
I haven't always made the best choices in hindsight, but I feel I do the best I can at any given time, and I have learned that mind-numbing regret is not productive. Learning my lessons and moving forward with new information is helpful. Accepting the past and living without painful disappointment or regret helps me feel much more confident and positive.
I hope you encourage yourself to use a more self-compassionate inner voice. Catch yourself as soon as you can and move forward with greater self-appreciation and confidence.