Like all emotion, regret can be used constructively and destructively, but the wholesale dismissal of regret is wrongheaded and dangerous. "No regrets" doesn't mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.
-Brene Brown, from Rising Strong
Are there any statements in your life that somehow solidified a place in your mind, like each of these simple statements have their very own shelf where they sit on display inside of your head?
My first ever moment of body shaming, that I can recall, that meant anything to me at all was when I was sitting in the front seat of my parent's car. I must have been wearing shorts or a skirt and my dad was sitting in the drivers seat when he said to me, "woah, your legs are hairy!" He may have said something like, "gross," or "you should shave." I could not have been older then ten. I've had very dark hair for most of my life but still I know that it was little girl peach fuzz type hair that I had on my legs at the time. There was NOTHING about the hair on my legs that I should have been embarrassed or ashamed of but I was mortified in that moment.
My dad is definitely an antagonist and I'm certain he must have made the comment in a mean joking way but that one comment has shaped my life. Actually, I hate to admit it but as long as I can remember I have been ashamed of my legs. There have been years worth of time when I've gone without wearing shorts or skirts shorter then ankle length and I wonder if that one comment that has stuck with me for so long has anything to do with it. It's not the comment itself that hurts but the intense feeling of shame and ugliness that overcame me when he said it.
There are things my mom has said to that always come back in certain moments. Not necessarily negative things just random little statements. The funny thing about some of my mom's comments, certain ones that have their very own shelf in my mind, I've repeated a few to her in the past several years and she's actually said, "I never said that." Then this absolute truth, truth enough to be solidified on it's very own shelf in my brain is suddenly null and void? Gee mom, thanks for randomly telling your young daughter something so important that you never actually meant!
A friend of mine once told me that he, "never regrets anything!" He's a pastor of a church now and while we're not close friends and I don't remember why he was so adamantly not regretting anything there was shame in his statement. Every single time I find myself feeling regretful I think of him having said that and I feel bad, like I need to do away with my moment of regret. For some reason his No Regrets comment has had a very prominent place on display in my mind for a long time.
Having just read the above quote I am filled with delight. I have tried for close to fifteen years to "have no regrets," but I completely agree with Brene Brown. Do you know that after losing our cat a little while back I started to feel regrets. I think regret is an emotion felt by almost every single person after a death. It's completely normal. But as I was feeling this horrible loss and thinking, "I wish I would have snuggled her more. I wish I would have spent more time with her. I wish I would have responded every single time she meowed," (she really only meowed when she was talking to one of us about something) I just tried to bury the regret, ignore it, push it away. I kept thinking that I needed to use that regret constructively to spend more time with my puppies or be a little more attentive to little Abe but then I was scared of the regret and felt shamed thinking, "oh she's gone now, I can't give her what I should have, how dare I feel that I should use this horrible feeling to love my dogs and son more." No, I should use it to do just that. "To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life."
Same exact thing goes for the financial situation we are in. I regret having used credit cards like toys before my husband and I were together and then with our "excellent" credit both of us having used credit cards like we were living some sort of monopoly game for several years when we were first married. I totally regret that. But I do not let that regret shame me. It is fuel. It is motivation. It is absolutely constructive in helping me to say "no!" to non-necessities and try my darnedest to follow the strict budgets I draw up.
No regrets? Nope, I have regrets and I am using them to fuel gorgeous blazing fires!
If I say, "My foot slips," Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.