Life isn’t about living without regrets, it’s about learning to live with them

I recently read a post that referred to American motivational author Louise Hay and her 12 commandments on loving yourself. Now I’m not one for over the top self help, but one ‘commandment’ really stood out to me, it’s something I’ve been told in the past that I really needed to hear and always need to remember:

Forgive Yourself.

Let the past go. You did the best you could at the time with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge that you had. Now you are growing and changing, and you will live life differently.

I just think this is so important and completely paramount to being content with life. People talk about ‘living without regrets’ and ’embracing every opportunity’, but in reality we’re going to make mistakes, miss opportunities and, at least temporarily, regret things. I think the key message here shouldn’t be about living with no regrets, but learning to live with our regrets, accept them and move on.

Regret: A feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment over something that has happened or been done. You can’t just remove feelings of sadness or disappointment from your life – you can’t truly live with no regrets – but you can choose to move on.


Now I do love a good TED talk, and it hasn’t taken much searching to come across this one, which shares some of my thoughts. I’ve definitely had multiple emotional meltdowns over regrets in the past, and as Kathryn Schulz says, regret is painful.

Kathryn talks about the components of regret, and the one that hits home for me is bewilderment, the ‘what was I thinking?!’, the alienation from the part of us that made that particular decision, and the lack of empathy for that part of ourselves.

She reminds us that, just like her tattoo, some of our own regrets are also not as ugly as we think they are, and she says that if we have goals and dreams, and if we want to do our best, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is not to hate ourselves for having them.

5 comments on “Life isn’t about living without regrets, it’s about learning to live with them

  1. Great thoughts. I can definitely relate – I’m so good at tearing myself limb from limb in shame and guilt when I mess up – this post really speaks to guys like me. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. azygous30 says:

    This is my biggest challenge. I keep thinking what was I thinking. It doesn’t help either when people around you also seem to think you might have been naive and foolish and see through the self esteem issues. Its like I know I have been stupid but I have to live with it so give me some benefit of doubt, but no. So I try to not think these days. Currently struggling with some side effects of regret, namely bitterness and disillusionment.

    • It is so hard to accept regrets straight away, but they definitely do fade with time. I think it’s so important to find empathy for the past version of yourself that made that choice – regardless of what others around you think of it. You’re living for yourself, not for others, and making your own mistakes along the way. There are always new opportunities out there, and each choice simply leads to a different path, not necessarily any better or worse than any other path. All the best.

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