A (Way Too) Comprehensive Guide on How to Deal With Regret

Regret is one of those things that we all experience at one time or another. In a moment of stomach-dropping regret you feel like your world is collapsing (or you’re not as dramatic as me and the plates of your world are only slightly vibrating). But, fear not! Regret is temporary and I’m going to share with you how I deal with and overcome my regret.

Due to my type-A-ness, I have categorized regret into two main sources – the regret of doing and the regret of not doing. I have then further sub-categorized each source into sub-genres – the regret of change, the regret of harm, the regret of FOMO, and the regret of fear.

Regret of Doing

Often times, regret is a direct result of an unfortunate action you take due to lack of judgment or clouded judgment. Sometimes, these actions negatively affect ourselves; I call those “regrets of change”. Sometimes, these actions negatively affect others; I call those “regrets of harm”. While both of these scenarios share the same debilitating feeling of regret, they can each be dealt with by targeted problem-solving.

The Regret of Change

At the time we make decisions, they seem well thought-out and infallible. It is crazy, then, how these decisions can crumble around us as quickly as they were hatched.

For example, in 7th grade, I decided that curling my chin-length side-bangs (it was 2011, it was a different time) in a circular brush would give me an effortless Farrah Fawcett vibe. It did not. My hair got stuck in the brush’s vortex-of-doom and I had to live with a less-than-attractive 1-inch hair tuft where my glorious side-bangs had once been. You can bet that the second I tried to uncurl that first gel-covered strand from the bristles, a harsh rush of regret swept over me.

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I wasn’t going to let an ugly tuft stop me from enjoying a baguette in a Parisian garden

In that situation, I was feeling the “regret of change”. I had taken an action I thought would better my life (who didn’t want perfectly curled side-bangs) but, instead, had the opposite effect, leaving me yearning for the glorious extra 4-inches of hair that used to hang from my mid-forehead.

My 7th-grade hair example, though tragic to tween Jordyn, wasn’t that hard to overcome. I bought some butterfly clips and funky hats and worked the heck out of that tuft.

In real-life, however, some of our actions leave us with more serious regret. Regrets that cannot be stifled by cheap clips and fuzzy bérets.

Perhaps you’ve just made a cross-country move, or you just quit your job, or you’ve switched your major, and are now left with a sense of regret for having left a good situation in favour of a bad one.

When you are dealing with the regret of change, it is easy to focus only on the negatives of your current situation and the positives of your previous situation. You might find yourself questioning why you would uproot your perfectly happy life in favour of this squalor in which you now live (there goes dramatic Jordyn again. Sorry, I can’t help it).

In these situations, it is important to remember why you made the change in the first place.  At one point, this decision was sound and infallible. No situation you leave is perfectly perfect, and no situation in which you arrive is without flaw. It is being able to focus on the positives of your current situation that is key.

To get over your regret of change, you must be ok with not being ok until you are ok again (I was going to thesaurus two other ways to say “ok”, but I’m lazy and this is my blog so deal with my repetition).

Live in the now and believe that your new and scary future will soon become your old and monotonous present (plus you can read this article all about how to deal with change!).

The Regret of Harm

We are the stars in the movies of our lives. As such, we often make decisions in pursuit of self-advancement and self-happiness. While this is not inherently wrong (in fact, I totally advocate for self-love and self-preservation), sometimes our self-serving actions have unintended harmful consequences. Consequences that leave us with a heavy burden of regret for our actions.

This is one of the hardest types of regret to overcome because you are not seeking self-forgiveness for your actions, but rather, you are seeking forgiveness from another human for your action’s effect.

The first step in overcoming your regret of harm is to admit what you have done. When we hurt someone, it is common to recoil and justify our actions. This does nothing to diminish our regret. Instead, it buries the regret until we can’t push it down any further and it eventually bubbles and boils into a giant beast of regret.

We often hear the saying “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission”. To this I say, literally, wtf…when was asking for forgiveness ever easy? But, nonetheless, you must deal with this regret head on. Apologize to the person you hurt, explain your rationale for doing what you did and work with them to see if you can mend the situation.

Granted, in some cases, this is easier said than done.

If the harm you caused was truly incidental and an unintended by-product of your actions, just breathe and know that you’ve done all you can to remedy the situation. Take time to think about other things and work on how you can avoid similar situations in the future.

If the harm you caused was intentional and caused by a lack of judgment, it is necessary to have a frank conversation with the person you hurt. Be honest and apologize. Once you have apologized, a true and sincere apology, the blame is lifted from your shoulder. Regardless of the reaction of the harmed, the weight of your actions is lessened.

In both situations, assuming your actions did not cause irreparable harm (like death…I can’t really help you with that one), these moments are important for growing our interpersonal skills and useful for becoming more mindful and less selfish people.

Regret of Not Doing

I’ve covered the regret we feel when we do something with regretful consequences, but what about the instances in which it is the act of not doing that leads to regret. You didn’t go to that Thursday night rager and are now feeling regret due to the severe amount of FOMO you’re experiencing. Or, you never ran for that leadership position for fear of rejection and now face the regret of not being able to contribute and perform at your max capacity. In both situations, the opportunity has passed and we now have to deal with the regret of not doing.

The Regret of FOMO

To all my over-30 readers (not you mom or dad, I know you’re cool enough to know the hip slang), FOMO is an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out” and is most often used to describe the feeling felt by a person who is not currently at a social event, but is hearing about/seeing the event through social media and/or through friends.

I don’t often wallow in FOMO, and prefer to indulge in JOMO – the joy of missing out.

The next time you feel regret over having chosen not to attend an event, know that nothing is ever as fun as it seems on social media. Posting about a party means that actual human beings at the party are standing against a wall with their phones 2-inches from their faces as they take photos of other people having fun.

This is not to say that no parties are ever fun. But rather, to remind you that the ones you’re missing, probably aren’t. Because, after all, you bring the party and you bring the fun.

So, if you are dealing with the regret of FOMO, I challenge you to embrace the wonders of JOMO and focus on ATLAOYWI (all the Law and Order you watched instead).

The Regret of Fear

The final sub-genre of regret, is the regret of not doing something because you fear the possibility of rejection. Maybe you didn’t apply for that job for which you were actually super qualified, or you didn’t run for a leadership position, or you didn’t talk to the cute boy in your class even though you guys always look at each other and ~ clearly ~ are mutually in love.

Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. It takes courage to be vulnerable and a willingness to try. In many cases, it is easier to never go after what you want because it ensures you will never experience rejection.

But, as mentioned above, we are creatures who strive for self-advancement and who constantly search for bigger and better opportunities. It is that drive for self-betterment that leads us down the scary road of rejection. When we don’t live up to our potential and remain cruising in the comfortable lane, we will soon come to regret our failure to try.

If you are currently dealing with the regret of fear – a fear to try – use that feeling to light a passion fire and inspire you to try, try, and never stop trying.

Forget about the missed opportunity and look forward to the millions of opportunities you will embrace and face without the fear of rejection.

It is the regret of never having tried that is far worse than the initial sting of rejection.

Congratulations!

You’ve made it to the end of my way too comprehensive guide on how to deal with regret. I hope you find your fuzzy bérets to adapt to a change, that you gain the forgiveness from others that is necessary to gain forgiveness from yourself, that you learn to embrace the JOMO, and that you try new things without the fear of rejection. We can grow from our regrets and learn how not to make the same mistakes twice (or thrice).

xoxo,

J

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