Regret is a Sticky Poison
Regret, the feeling of negatively judging yourself for past decisions, is a sticky poison. Sticky because it’s tenacious, it doesn’t lose it’s potency over time, and can creep back up when you’re feeling most vulnerable. And poison, because it saps your ability to live
I have many regrets in my life, from the choice of my undergraduate university to various jobs, relationships, and past-times. Not to mention those regrets too deep to even write about. They all seem to pop up when I’m in a period of self-loathing, little jabs that I know just where to poke to get the most hurt out of. Old bruises and breaks that haven’t healed. This is what regret can be for some, as I sadly know I’m not alone in this.
Regret can also be the first step towards growing and healing. It can be a learning experience, it’s what people allude to when they say “some people learn the hard way.” But this learning never happens if you stop at self-blame. For me, and for many others it has, and yet I know there’s more to it. I know I need to give up this regret, if that means forgiveness or learning a lesson, so be it. More truthfully, giving up regret means giving up a tool for self-harm, self-bullying. When you’re used to criticizing yourself on the regular, giving up weapons in your arsenal is the hardest thing. Old regrets come to be classic ways of beating yourself up, veritable “old chestnuts” of self-loathing. They become tradition, and tradition can be the most tenacious, sticky, vile poison there is.
Moving on from old ways of treating yourself, or more bluntly, old ways of beating yourself up, isn’t easy. If it was we wouldn’t have therapists, priests, or bartenders (pick your poison). Giving up regret takes you through a unique grieving process, it’s grieving the loss of behaviors you’ve had for so long, reliable and morbidly comforting ways of speaking to yourself. It’s possible to grieve your self-hate, because ultimately it’s a part of you, even if you don’t like it. This will pass, and eventually you’ll feel a burden lifted, a newfound ability to forgive, and hopefully a brighter future.