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May 28, 2021

What Strong Women Do With Regret

Regret. That six-letter word can immediately garner up images long pressed down and forgotten.

There are two types of regrets. Big R regrets and little R regrets. The little regrets can be habitual regrets that eat at your self-esteem, like eating a bag of chips just when you’ve gotten a good start on your new eating plan. Or losing your cool with your kids when you have resolved to stay calm.

But the big R regrets- this takes a little more dealing with. Sometimes we screw up royally and that affects us and the people we love. We can’t sweep that under a rug and pretend that it’s all okay and try to reframe it and tie it up with a bow.  Sometimes we have to call a mistake a mistake. And honor that. that’s why I share my wins and fails every post.

I have many regrets about my parenting, the way I have shown up in relationships at times, and really poor choices I have made that have affected my life. I chronicle some of them in my memoir that I’m working on getting published. 

Regret is a natural human feeling. We are all doing this current aspect of our life for the very first time. Even if you have ten kids and you feel like you’re messing up with your last one, the reality is that you have never parented this human at this point in their life. You’re still doing it for the first time. And who gets all of life right all the time? The answer is no one. We all have Big R’s and little R’s.

The problem is that the effect of dwelling on regret is a loss of self-confidence- not just that you feel bad about yourself, but you also lose trust in yourself. And when you stop trusting in yourself, you begin to avoid and shut down. When you don’t trust yourself to walk forward safely, you stutter step and you are actually more likely to trip and fall, creating the very thing about which you were worried.

Strong women accept their imperfections. Perfectionism may sound like a lofty characteristic to aspire to, but it is actually one of the greatest roadblocks to accomplishments. True perfectionists have an extremely hard time completing goals because their fear of regret impedes them.

Strong women don’t overthink things they can’t change.

Regret is always about the past and you can never change it.

There is some value in spending a little brain time in the past so that we can learn the lessons and move on. But hanging out there is always wasted time. It’s actually a little trick your mind does to distract you from the pain of dealing with the present emotions. Sometimes you don’t really want to put in the effort or deal with something that you can change in the present. It’s easier to wallow in regret, but it is completely uncaring and unfair to yourself.

You may think- Well, isn’t that what you do in therapy? You dredge up all the past stuff and ruminate on your childhood, etc? My answer is no. I’m not really into that. I want to know and more importantly, I want YOU to know what aspects of your history are influencing your present and how. But only as information to serve your growth.

What’s more important to me and should be to you is:

What can you do about it now? What can you do now and in the future to mitigate the effect of a not so great choice or to move forward in the life that you want for yourself?

If you regret not finishing school, figure out how to go back OR make peace with the reality that it wasn’t important enough to you then and it still isn’t important enough to you now. If you don’t feel okay about it, then whatever narrative you are making about up is false. 

It’s okay to grieve lost things as you move forward into making a better life for you. It’s also completely possible that the life you make is way better than what you ever could have imagined- despite not getting what you wanted.

If you regret something you can’t change, like a divorce or the way you treated your best friend before she died, then you need to honor it. Try writing down the regret. Write what different choices you would make in the present and make a pact to yourself to apply these behaviors to future opportunities in your life.

Strong women address the behavior not the person. As you grapple with regret, make sure you are careful not to make yourself synonymous with the choice. Make sure your self-talk looks like-  “ I made a bad choice,” not “I’m a bad person.” Good people can make bad choices. When you chalk it up to who you are as a person, it leaves little room for change. When you address it as a choice, you are free to make a better one next time.

Strong women look at the situation that they regret as a whole– what DID you do right? This matters because your thinking can become easily skewed when you are only looking through the lens of failure. We’ve got to honor wins always!

The very best thing we can do with regret is to figure out how to make our life choices work in the most outstanding way for us here and now in the present and the future. When your focus isn’t on the fear of failure, but on how you can make your choices, good or bad, work, then you take more risks and you acquire more wins!

You’ve probably heard this before, but Babe Ruth did not just have more home runs than the other players, he also had more strikeouts.

When you are struggling with regret. Emily P Freeman said it best. This is how you speak to it:

,,Regret, you have no place here. If you want to speak your peace, take it to God. He will deal with you.”

You’ve got this!! 


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