I believe in the usefulness of regrets.
I don't subscribe to the ever-popular "live your life with no regrets!" slogan. I think regrets serve to keep me accountable of the wrong choices I've made in my life and inspire me to make better ones in the future. If I didn't have any regrets, I'd find myself arrogantly validating all of my life choices and would have no incentive to mature mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And since I believe in the "good" purpose of regrets, I'm sharing 5 regrets in my life I believe have helped propel my personal development forward thus far.
1. I regret every time I've ever apologized for being different. I did this a lot. For having a different opinion on social issues than others; for having a different taste in books, music, movies, etc. than many of my peers; for having a different goal or vision for my life than what fit the desires of family members/loved ones. How unfortunate that I spent much of my life worried that something was wrong with me because I felt too “different”. I’ve learned that I don’t owe anyone to fit into the box they’d prefer to categorize me in – what I’m required to do is live in the realm of creativity that I am gifted in and share that to the service of as many people as I can.
2. I regret many times I’ve said “yes” to things I don’t want or need to do. Sometimes, I need to say yes to things that I don’t feel like doing in a given moment for a greater long-term good. Many times, however, I’ve said “yes” to things that I should have said “no” to and the results were unsavory – resentful feelings towards others, work overload, reduced productivity, etc. I know I need to say more “no’s” in my life. The better I get at saying “no”, the more efficient I will be at the things I do decide to say “yes” to. I’d like to think I've already made headway with this.
3. I regret not volunteering my time, energy, and resources to others sooner. In 2014, I made a conscious decision to start volunteering a few hours of my time each week at a local food bank in New Orleans packaging after-school lunches for low-income children. I also started visiting and speaking weekly at a female group home for abandoned and/or abused teens. Two of the best choices I ever made. They were such fulfilling experiences. If only I hadn’t taken so long to begin. I could have started volunteering many years earlier in a myriad of ways but didn’t. I was more ME-focused; my academic journey, my career growth, my family’s well-being, my personal happiness, etc. I’d like to think I’m better at this now. I’d like to think I volunteer through the writing/stories I share that awaken passion/purpose in people and build connections. I’d like to think there are other things of impact I do but at the risk of sounding like a braggart, I think it’s best not to list them.
4. I regret having great expectations of others I was unable to fulfill myself. I’ve expected friends not to lie to me – but I’ve lied to friends in the past. I’ve expected people to be patient and considerate of me, but I’ve been impatient and inconsiderate of others. I’ve expected others to forgive my transgressions easily but I’ve been known to hold world-class grudges. Imagine the irony. I have cut back greatly on the expectations I have of others – I realize now that I am not qualified to have great expectations of others that I have not mastered. Any characteristic or quality I want to experience/receive more of in my life, I need to develop and project more of from myself to others and the world at large.
5. I regret every time I’ve ridiculed someone. It’s petty, fueled from insecurity, and deeply unattractive. I gain nothing by spotlighting and shaming another for something they did, said, or messed up in. We’re humans and we’re prone to screwing things up. It’s more beneficial for myself and others that I either find ways I can be of help or remain silent -- rather than sit on the sidelines pointing fingers and snickering like a venomous being. I'd like to think I've made great strides in this area.
And there goes my list of 5 regrets that have changed my life. Just to clarify, I’m not advocating that you remain “stuck” in your past choices or operate from a place of guilt and shame; I am simply saying that regrets can be used as fuel for positive change -- which has proven to be the case in my life. But, enough about me.
Do you believe in regrets or subscribe to the “no regrets” philosophy? If you do believe in regrets, which ones have inspired you to make a change in the right direction for your life?