Real + Raw: Why Regret Is Valuable

While on the road Monday I was finishing up my "Rising Strong" book which I have been trying to savour slowly... because that is exactly what you do with an incredible book with a wealth of knowledge.

We were passing through Drumhellar as I was reading the chapter about 'rumbling with regret,' I think Landon knows when something hits me hard when I unconsciously go, "mm" and nod my head thinking I am in my own little world. I loved this quote so much that I highlighted it and read it aloud to Landon as he was driving. 


"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."
- Brené Brown, Rising Strong, pg. 211



Regret Doesn't Necessarily Mean A Pity-Party

Regret is incredibly valuable. I think we often think regret is a strong-hold or a vice-grip on the past; meaning that IF we regret we never move forward or let go. But the 'live with no regrets' bumper-sticker way of being is an easy way to brush off the discomfort of emotions we rather not deal with when a situation or event didn't go the way we anticipated; often where we felt like a fool, embarrassed, found-out (aka feeling like a fraud,) or rejected. 'No regrets' then becomes a cloak, a defence, a way to diffuse what we truly feel and need to move through. It's easier to hide rather than to rumble with the feelings of shame, y'know those familiar stories of: I'm not good enough. I suck. I'm a fraud. I'm a bad person. I'm a loser. Our reflexes are to protect and look a lot like, "I don't care what they think," "It is what it is, no regrets," etc. 


I originally thought living with no regrets meant leaving the past behind and moving forward. But I agree with Brené Brown as I look back and realized it doesn't really hold you accountable to being brave or owning your story or experiences. Looking back on certain events I didn’t really come to acknowledge, I realized I was only running away from the ghosts of my past that still haunted me. I wasn't ready to really see that part of me that was flawed, that didn't fit my idealistic version of who I was or worse- the image that people created of me. I wasn’t ready to rumble with shame because being flawed is a painful realization for someone who strives to never mess up and be perfect. Never being allowed to make a mistake is a hard way to live and love. We will fall down and it will hurt. It's part of life but I thought in some-way I could maybe side-step that essential ingredient to life. But, and this may seem obvious- it’s impossible. In fact this way of living is pure self-sabotage and deeply harmful and I see that now. I now see that the only thing that happens when we armour-up is that we grow ignorant of our own pain, we get emotionally and spiritually stagnant, and repeat the same habitual patterns of our deepest fears, mine being: never good enough.

These habitual patterns are played out every day in our reactions. Reactions ARE re-actions, where you unconsciously re-act a similar situation over and over. We all do this, and it is so painful to see when you look back at it all. How does that quote go? The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? I honestly think this is the definition of human suffering- reliving our pain over and over unconsciously while hurting so many people in the process.  If we are unaware of the patterns we are stuck in, how can we ever move forward? We need to step in to our own courage and allow our self the opportunity for growth by our willingness to be mindful, to self-reflect on our emotional behaviours and dig deep in the muddy waters of shame.This is why I love yoga, writing and meditation so much, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on present events (which tend to reflect reactions from past events and stories) while fact-checking the realities, and really noticing how it affects our body and state of mind. This means be willing to get clear on why you feel the way you do, when you do, and how you react accordingly.

Transparency and Honesty: Writing Unfiltered 

I personally love writing these experiences down unfiltered and raw which Brené Brown calls "shitty first drafts" or SFD for short. I'm grateful that I've already had this practice since I was really young. I was a deeply emotional kid (I’m still very sensitive) and had a hard time expressing my emotions, confusion, anger, and hurt so I would write in my journal of the events happening around me. It wasn't until I was in early adult-hood that I started to ask myself questions on paper. "Why am I feeling this way? What actually happened? They said this and you felt that, why? etc.” Recently, my counsellor who is also a huge fan of Brené Brown, has added the two gems of "evidence for thought" and "evidence against thought" to my practice which I seriously love and coincides with Brené Browns idea of 'fact-checking." 

When we are ready to grow, or what I like to say ”when you become sick of your own BS," we need to be courageous, get curious about our experiences and emotions and allow them to shape our values and actions for the future. My values have shape-shifted, stretched, and have left me more available to love, connection, and accountability with my actions or words simply because I have become more aware. Now, it doesn't mean that I am resilient to screwing up, to not always being brave,  to never being not mindful, from never blaming or being a bit of a jerk... I still do but with practice, compassion, and a strong support system I am getting better, I am growing, and I feel like I am showing up and being the best that I can be every day no matter what that looks like. 

Vulnerability is the key to all of this and I am so grateful for Dr. Brené Brown and all the work she has done. It is seriously changing my life and no doubt so many others! If you haven’t heard of her, please go see her TEDtalk here, and then go to amazon and buy all her books. For reals. 

Call To Action!

1. What do you think about regret? Do you think it helps us or hurts us? Or is it both?
2. Comment below and share your thoughts! :) 
3. If you have a self-reflective practice, what is it and what do you love about it?

To courage, to being in the arena, and to life-altering books,