It is part of our human nature to look back on our past and question our choices. I can think of any number of times in my life and remember wondering, “What was I thinking??” I have asked myself this question about many of my decisions, from questionable fashion choices and hairstyles, to weightier scenarios dealing with relationships and life choices.
Perhaps you’ve questioned yourself too. Maybe you have wistfully visited that saying, ” I wish I knew then what I know now.” our self-talk may have gone like this:
“What would I have done then, if I took more time to think it out?”
“Maybe I could have tried harder to make our marriage work.”
“I should have taken that job offer.”
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda… these three words can haunt us and keep us stuck in regret. Our critical voice can insistently harp on judging our mistakes as bad, stupid or thoughtless. This negative self-talk is a place of guilt, shame and blame.
But what if we didn’t know then what we know now? Looking back in hindsight, without really being able to see where we were at during a particular time, doesn’t help us understand how and why we made the choices that we did.
I had different needs and a different outlook when I was 25, 35 or 50. I am guessing you did too. It is all a part of our growing, changing and expanding in maturity and insights.
The very choices that we regret today, hold the possibility for learning, finding new meanings and following paths we never would have thought of if it weren’t for our mistakes!
Wishing we can change our past or do it over again is a dead end! There is no place to go except to that hole of regret. It doesn’t feel very good and it doesn’t help us understand why we did make this choices. Consider these possibilities instead…
1. Own It
Whatever our questionable choice was, we made it. Out mistake lives not in how our choice didn’t work out, but in how we were hoping that choice would fit our need at the time. Maybe we needed connection, validation or safety and that’s what fueled our decision. Maybe we needed those things because of our insecurity and fragile belief in ourselves.
2. Learn From It
Take a step back and observe your younger self. What didn’t you know or have experience in that you do have today? How did your mistake shape you and point you in a different direction? Can you summon compassion for your younger self and the struggles that you might have been dealing with? You may have a different understanding of those struggles today that you didn’t have then.
3. Grow From It
From that same observation point, see how you have grown from your younger self to today. Consider that your journey may have led you to a much more fulfilling and meaningful place than you ever imagined! It might not have happened had you not wandered down the path that didn’t fit.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…three words we use all too often to express our regrets of the past. I felt trapped in these words for a long time until I discovered different words that offered me self-compassion, understanding and a path forward. Whatever your circumstance may have been…Own It, Learn From It and Grow From It. This is the way toward finding healing and your going forward!