Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be. – Marsha Petrie Sue
I am far from being a perfect person. I’ve made mistakes; mistakes that hurt myself and others. I’ve had dysfunctional relationships, said plenty of unkind things… I was disrespectful and unloving to people I was close to. I have stumbled, blundered, tripped and fallen. I have failed to meet my high expectations and let myself down.
I’m not proud of my mistakes, but I don’t regret any of it.
Those events are in the past, and there’s no point in wishing them away and turning these situations into regrets.
Regret is utterly deconstructive because it makes us focus on the past, which in the present is just a thought. Thinking about the past and how we could have acted differently isn’t going to help us in the future. Like a disease, regret takes us hostages to uncontrollable circumstances: our memories of the past.
I used to regret plenty of things… I would lay in bed at night, thinking of what I have done wrong and how I could have done better. These thoughts ate away my internal peace and caused me to resent my past self. I hated the Avery who hurt herself and others, and, by extension, I didn’t fully loved myself in the present.
The thing about our past selves is that they cannot change their behaviour. Our past selves are only figments of our imagination. They don’t exist in the here and now. Getting angry at the previous version of Avery doesn’t make me a better person today, it just puts me at odds with the person I currently am.
But why do we sometimes make such harmful mistakes in the first place? Why do we hurt others with our actions? Aren’t humans inherently good?
Yes. People are good, but that doesn’t mean we are known to react well to all situations. We must learn through experience to channel our inner goodness into positive action – and this cannot be done without making some mistakes along the way. I can’t go back in time and fix my mistakes, but I can use them to my advantage now.
Turning Regrets into Positive Change
A few months ago, I decided I would turn my feelings of regret into a positive change. I took my previous failures and sought out to ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes again.
I cannot change my past, but I can change myself and my actions in the here and now.
All of us, from all walks of life, are in the process of learning how to be kind and loving to ourselves and the world. This is a lifelong process that takes trial and error, and we should embrace the fact that we are bound to make mistakes in order to learn from them so we can evolve.
Next time you find yourself in the depths of regrets, reminiscing over mistakes you’ve made in the past, remember: you are still here. You are still alive, and you are not the person you were ten years ago, ten days ago, ten minutes ago!
You have the power to determine your own course of actions tomorrow, and don’t have to punish yourself for yesterday. You are trying your best to be a good person and do what’s right, but sometimes it’s hard at the moment to tell right from wrong, and that’s okay.
The beauty of failure is that it’s not permanent; there’s always a future to make it up. We can all be a little better tomorrow, but only because we know how to, thanks to our mistakes yesterday. The future is wide open for us to make it all up if we can stop living in the shadow of our past.
Remember, you wouldn’t be the person you are today if you had never failed to meet your own expectations. You wouldn’t have the knowledge, capacity for kindness or love you have now without having learned to achieve it. Do not regret the past you, because he or she helped you get to where you are today – a place that you can only make better tomorrow.
My mistakes, while they hurt me in the past, have made me able to achieve greater heights in the present –and for that, I do not regret any of them.