Regret can leave you wishing for ways to erase your past forever. But it can also teach you the 5 most important lessons you need for your future.
Regret is when we feel sad, ashamed and disappointed over something we’ve done, or perhaps failed to do.
Regret is a negative emotion and therefore, often extremely difficult to deal with.
And yet, in order to live your life to the absolute fullest, it is essential to understand what regret can teach us, and not solely dwell on its negativity.
My story of regret
While going through a relationship dilemma during my early twenties, I made a few tricky mistakes and had to deal with the harsh reality of feeling deep regret.
At the time, I thought I was fairly confident and sure about who I was as an individual and a partner.
I had clear-cut rules about love and relationships, and was very black and white about what was right and wrong in love.
Yet, after dating my first boyfriend for over three years, I did *what I believed to be* the number one unforgiveable thing – I cheated.
It was during this time that I learnt a lot about regret and how it can be an extremely draining emotion. It can suck you in, toss you around, and spit you back out before you truly realize what has happened.
For quite sometime after I cheated, and my relationship ended, I was stuck in a vortex of regret that caused me to stagger from emotion to emotion, ranging from extreme guilt, denial, blame, sorrow, bitterness, and of course, depression. It was intense and difficult to see past these dominating feelings.
I reached a pretty low point that was becoming increasingly self-destructive, and knew I needed a change. So, slowly *very slowly* but eventually, I convinced myself that I could no longer let the regret consume me. Instead of focusing on the negative, I chose to look at the other purposes the regret could serve. I tried to pinpoint what the situation could teach me. [Read: 15 love lessons your own break up can teach you]
5 life lessons regret can teach us all
What I discovered are a few things that I think most people who’ve stumbled through the cycle of regret come to realize.
Regret can offer a lot of valuable information, depending on how you view yourself and the situation you’re in, and here are a few amazing lessons that regret can teach you.
#1 Regret can lead to insight about yourself
I discovered that regret has the opportunity to offer a very accurate and deep understanding of one’s self.
For example, I began to understand the true reason that I cheated. I learnt that I was not as confident as I believed, and couldn’t admit to myself that my partner was verbally and emotionally abusive. I was not strong enough to leave my not-so-healthy relationship, and instead of facing the situation head on I decided to take a roundabout way of getting out – I cheated and used it as an excuse for myself to end the relationship. [Read: How to let go of a relationship that’s doing you more harm than good]
Instead of hating your past or wishing for it to change, try to understand what led you to that moment, and confront the fact that there is something you need, but look for other ways to fill that void.
#2 Regret can help you avoid future mistakes
Through regret you find out very easily what habits and behaviours are unhealthy for your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and therefore what not to do in the future.
Through battling with my personal regret, I learnt what wasn’t healthy to repeat in order to protect myself, and not to hurt others. I knew that I couldn’t possibly deal with another situation where I had to confront the fact that I cheated. Dealing with it once was enough, and therefore I resolved that I would not use cheating as an excuse to leave a relationship again.
#3 Regret can encourage you to take action
Well, it is often easier, and less intense to let situations slide by without dealing with them properly, regret teaches us that it is important to address what happens in our lives actively. You should make your own decisions, and be assertive in expressing what you need and want.
In this respect, I should have been more insistent in vocalizing my relationship problems with my partner, family and friends, and not just allow them to continue to a point where the only way out *I believed* was through cheating.
Yet, instead of taking action to solve the real problem, I accepted the hurt from my boyfriend and ended up making a decision to cheat, which ended up causing a lot more emotionally turbulence for myself. In the future, I have agreed that I will actively address issues in my relationships, instead of letting them fall to the wayside. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
#4 Regret can teach you to forgive yourself
Regret teaches us very clearly that people make mistakes. Regardless of the expectations and standards we create for ourselves, we are only human, and it is impossible to “get it right” every single time.
By making mistakes we learn lessons, and by learning lessons, we grow as individuals. And the biggest lesson to be learned from regret is how to finally forgive yourself for the choices you’ve made.
I quickly realized that the reason I could not let go of what had happened, and continued to cycle through regret *even after what I had learned*, was because I hadn’t truly forgiven myself for my choice to cheat.
In order to fully move on from the situation, and let go of the regret I was harboring, I had to allow myself to be excused for what I had done. It was the most difficult part of dealing with my regret, but definitely the most important. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and face the truth instead]
#5 Regret can be many things
As I did begin to forgive myself for cheating I realized that regret is all about what you take from the emotion. It can be a purely negative experience where you plummet to very low lows. But it can also be an uplifting experience that teaches you about yourself, forces you to grow as an individual, take responsibility and action for what happens in your life, and learn to let things go.
Most people feel regret at some point in their lives, but if you can get through the initial difficulty and intensity of the emotion and embrace the value in what regret forces you to see, it can be an enlightening experience.