It’s hard not to get through life without a sense of regret: something you did which you shouldn’t have done; something you didn’t do which you should have. We’ve all had those moments. And of course sometimes there are consequences which could not be foreseen and for which we chastise ourselves nevertheless.
The repercussions can be subtle or profound. But, internally, guilt or shame can be uncomfortable consequences. And it can really impact your stress levels.
What do you regret?
- Not putting enough effort in
- Not thinking through possible consequences of a decision
- Not planning contingencies in case things don’t go well
- Not being honest enough
- Not being diplomatic enough
- Not being good enough
- Something else?
The list goes on. But, what’s important to know is that the past is irretrievable. The present is all there is because the future hasn’t happened yet.
So, what to do? First of all, understand the difference between guilt and shame.
The difference between guilt and shame
Guilt is the concept that you did something bad; shame is the concept that you are bad. One is about behaviour, the other is about identity. Too often we let shame be our judge and shame is a destructive emotion which belittles, dishonours and disconnects. It certainly skews perspective and can paralyse.
Where possible to take remedial action:
- Correct the mistake.
- Make a sincere apology. Never underestimate the effect of this. An apology takes humility and courage. Done well, it can build bridges and restore – and even create – trust. Certainly for me, if I have experienced very bad customer service, my faith is not only restored if I have received a heartfelt apology but actually I can become fiercely loyal to someone who has had the integrity to apologise: it is such a rare trait.
- Learn from your mistake. I like to think of not letting anything be wasted: the problem is wasted if you do not learn and grow from it. What is the lesson in this? How can you avoid this happening again, without shrinking into obscurity? Remember that the only way you don’t make mistakes is if you don’t achieve anything. And that’s a whole different level of mistake: opportunities lost, potential unfulfilled and even more stress.
Yes, regret can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to define you.
If you are stuck in regret and need additional help, do call me on 0345 130 0854. You don’t have to do this alone.
© Tricia Woolfrey