How to deal with regret

It’s a belief held by many that to be human is to make errors, to fall, stumble and make a total arse of yourself from time to time. So why does it feel so uncomfortable to look back on those times?

Some of the most interesting people I know are interesting because of their mistakes, because they showed their weaknesses, stripped back the layers and let me see that other side of them.


You know when someone really trusts you when they can tell you their biggest regrets, when they can lay themselves bare and know that you’ll still respect them for it.

I am very wary of someone who never does wrong, never admits a mistake and is seemingly always a gold-plated individual…it smells suspicious to me and I sense that someone is being false. A smile which hides a thousand thoughts, always leaves me feeling uneasy.

To deny our past and pretend it didn’t happen is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves, for obvious reasons we find it hard to look at our past and be honest when things slipped off the tracks and we didn’t take the right path…but if ALL of us do it then why is it so hard to swallow?

The Dictionary definition of regret:

“A feeling of sadness about something sad or wrong or about a mistake that you have made, and a wish that it could have been different and better.”

The word I take from this definition is ‘better’, we find it hard to talk about our regrets because we feel we should have done better, should have treated people better, should have known better, considered the outcome better and generally made a better choice.

However….what if we could think of regret like this?


Torroni is right, at that very moment when we said or did those things, we felt for whatever reason that it was the right thing to do in that moment – even if it was only for a split second. Sometimes its hard to believe this when we look back on our past ‘wonderings’ (especially the total stinkers)- but its no less true.

Looking at my personal ‘wonderings’ they are mostly about the value I placed on myself and others around me – and no doubt the quantity of alcohol I used to consume too:

  • Not having appreciation for the special people in my life and taking them for granted
  • Allowing my loyalty to be degraded by people I thought I could trust
  • Being scared to strive for fear of failure
  • Chasing after boys/men who weren’t worth my time
  • Being too honest and expecting honesty in return
  • Worrying about my looks in comparison to others (wayyy too much)
  • Never feeling good enough
  • Needing appreciation and validation

Not only that, but I’ve allowed the above regrets to have a knock on effect and lead me to more regret, such as:

  • Letting my hurt get the better of me
  • Failing to filter my thoughts (gob over brain)
  • Being unable to hide my true feelings
  • Undermining people who didn’t deserve it
  • Being cold and spiteful
  • Being jealous and insecure
  • Being unforgiving

In recent years I’ve learnt a lot about myself, which is why I like to think of the above as ‘wonderings’ rather than ‘regrets’, really it’s just a PR spin on the same old feeling, but none the less it frames the situation in a slightly more positive light.

I’ve done and said things to people I’m not proud of and yes if I could take them back I would…but should I feel bad about all of it? After all at the time, for whatever reason – be it loyalty, be it protectiveness, be it friendship, be it worry, instinct or stupidity – for those split seconds I felt I was in the right.

I don’t forgive myself easily for the above, I don’t take my mistakes lightly or brush them off with ease. Writing about them doesn’t mean I’m proud of any of them, I just want to be open about the existence of my regrets – regardless of that fact I cannot change them.

All we can do is use the ‘wonderings’ we have in our past to try to be better people tomorrow:

  • To move on
  • To heal our wounds or those of others
  • To be kinder people
  • To judge less
  • To consider others more and also ourselves
  • To accept ourselves and our faults
  • To know that each person is on their own journey
  • To let go of hatred and jealousy

We only get one shot at life, which in turn leads to all of the above – the impulsiveness, the weakness, the fire and the fury which leads to the ‘wonderings’ I’ve spoken about above. But equally that relates to the good moments too, the moments when we made that stranger smile, picked up that friend who was feeling low, took that job, went in for that kiss or opened up about our problems.

It’s easy to focus on the bad moments of our past and not reflect on all the good we do too, but equally if we can stare our own mistakes in the face – we can learn to be more accepting of other’s mistakes too, seeing them for what they really are – human. 


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