Experts Explain Why It's Totally Okay to Have Regrets
If you've ever felt ashamed to say you regret something, you're not alone.
Whether it's on a large scale like hooking up with a friend's ex or choosing the wrong college—or on a smaller scale like not trying out for the soccer team—society instills this notion that if we harp on something we wish we'd done differently, there's something wrong with us. While it's often true that "when one door closes, another one opens," or that "everything happens for a reason," it's totally okay to wonder "what if…?" or rethink your decision-making. It's only human nature, after all.
To better understand the psychology behind regrets and how they actually help us grow, we reached out two experts who've experienced their fair share of mishaps during the course of their successful careers: Jules Schroeder, musician and Inc. magazine's No. 1 Female Entrepreneur Changing the World in 2017; and Nicole Moore, Celebrity Relationship Expert and entrepreneur. Keep reading for what they had to say.
Sweety High: Why do you think society instills this idea that we should live with no regrets?
Jules Schroeder: I think society is inherently progressive. It wants to keep us forward. A draw to evolution, a fixation on the future. That there is always more, better—in some ways the idea of what was once the "American Dream." Inside of that, it keeps us as consumers and active participators in the system. I think if we dwell on regrets then we stall, we freeze, we question, and that can threaten the ecosystem and cause a more independent rather than unified way of being.
Nicole Moore: Society instills this idea that we should live with no regrets because quite honestly, it's an [appealing] idea to think that we could live in a way where we don't feel the negative emotion of regret. It's also highly unrealistic. A better view would be to understand that we will feel regret from time to time but that we don't have to let the regret consume us or make us feel like a failure. We can use a healthy sense of regret to propel us forward to manifest even bigger dreams and goals and also provide us with the wisdom to do things differently in the future.
SH: What's something you've regretted in your personal or professional life, and what would you have done differently?
JS: One thing I regret was waiting nine years to make my first music album. My dad worked on Wall Street in N.Y.C. and told me that pursuing my art was a risky and pointless thing, that only one in a million "make it" and if I wanted to have a successful life, I needed to choose something safer. For many years I believed him, I started companies, became an authority, got recognition yet I still felt empty.
Something, no matter how much "success" I got, was always missing. It was my art. In the last four years, I've now recorded three albums. My third album, Restless Soul is about to release this fall. It's the first time in my life that that hole finally feels complete.
NM: One thing I regret in my personal life is being so harshly judgmental of myself when I was a new mom to my now 3-year-old son. I pushed myself too hard to adhere to this standard of the mom who is breastfeeding, up all night with her baby and somehow effortlessly able to run her company at the same time. I beat myself up when I had to re-record the same training for my clients three times over because my brain was fried from the newborn haze, instead of congratulating myself that I was so dedicated to both my baby and my business.
Looking back, I would've given myself more grace, patted myself on the back more and also just expected that there'd be some mistakes made but it would all be okay. Working moms deserve a medal, truly, for everything they balance on a daily basis and it's pretty impossible to not do something you regret when you're holding so many balls in the air all at once. Looking back, I just want to give that former version of myself a hug and say "you really were doing such an amazing job and you didn't even realize it."
SH: How can having regrets be beneficial?
JS: They can be mile markers for introspection; opportunities for growth and pattern recognition. In my own life, I've found that a regret comes from an expectation that wasn't met, and if the regret is consistent then it can point to a series of expectations that never feel like they get met. I find when you can recognize what that thing is that the regret comes from then you can satisfy the "pain" from the regret more effectively and efficiently and ultimately get your deeper desire or need met.
NM: Regrets, when processed correctly, can encourage us to act and respond differently in the future to better be able to create what we want. While ruminating on bad decisions or painful events is never helpful, a healthy amount of regret can be used in a positive way to show us what changes we need to make to treat ourselves or others with more respect, as well as make better choices in the future. Regret is a teacher showing us what we do want by showing us first what we don't want.
Regretting a decision, you made, for instance, hurts, but that pain can force you to make a different choice in the future. Regrets can also help us to dream bigger and better. Once we realize that we may have missed out on certain life experiences or time with loved ones, for instance, this regret can motivate us in the present moment to connect more deeply with those in our lives.
Speaking of regrets (or lack thereof), HERE's why one of our writers had zero regrets when she failed math class in high school.