I doubt not one of us can say we don’t have a single regret.
I spent many of the later years in my 20s feeling full of regret – for the things I hadn’t done (finished a novel, traveled the world, built a business, figured it all out) and the things I had done (studied the ‘wrong’ thing at university, lost friendships, hurt people, spent too much money, continually lost and gained weight).
It wasn’t a conscious choice to feel regretful about decisions I’d made, but if I let myself think about it for too long, I noticed an undercurrent of unease.
But the truth is, we don’t have it all figured out (newsflash: nobody really does), so we will make mistakes. We will do dumb things, miss opportunities and basically wish things could have gone differently. That’s life.
What matters is what you do with this. You can let these regrets continue to pile up as you go through life, creating a laundry list of reasons to feel bad, or you can shift your perspective.
Recognise that at any given point in life, you are only doing the best you can.
When I look back at my 20 year old self making foolish mistakes, instead of letting that familiar feeling of regret well up inside me, I look at her with compassion. Sure, she drank too much, didn’t try all that hard at university, couldn’t quite keep the weight off, and never finished writing her novel, but she was having a hard time. Being young and out in the world for the first time is hard. She was doing her best.
It took a long journaling session to unpack these feelings, but slowly I came to see myself this way – not some idiot who had made a string of mistakes and missed a bunch of opportunities, but a young person finding her way in the world.
If you look back on your past and feel you’ve made a lot of mistakes, try to be as compassionate as possible. Recognise that you were doing your best, and that it is never too late for what might have been.
What are some of your regrets, mistakes, missed opportunities? What do you need to forgive yourself for?
How is not forgiving yourself serving you? How might you feel different if you forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made?
Complete this sentence: If I was to look at my mistakes through the eyes of compassion, I would…
Write a letter to your younger self. Offer wisdom, compassion and gentleness from your older self. Forgive your younger self.
Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.