Mental Health A-Z: R is for Regrets

In Italy we have this saying, ‘meglio vivere di rimorsi che di rimpianti’. The problem is that English commonly uses the same word for both the Italian “rimorso” and “rimpianto”, which is regret. Therefore, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, regret is ‘sore, remorse, or repentance due to reflection on something one has done or omitted to do’. In other words: feeling bad for something you’ve done or for not having done it.

So, that’s my point: I strongly believe that it’s much better to risk doing something and be prepared to deal with the consequences than to sit and do nothing.

I know exactly what it’s like to spend your life over thinking a certain moment, playing with it trying to picture the perfect thing to say or to do. It seems so easy when everything is in your head, when it’s not real. What you do is real, but if you miss an opportunity to make memories then you’ll just be left thinking “if only”.

I’ve always been a shy person.  I don’t like risks very much, and I certainly don’t like losing. That’s why I used to play safe, always choosing the less dangerous option, because I didn’t want to be hurt or to let someone else get hurt. Or at least, that’s what I used to tell myself.

But then I grew up and realised that looking back on all those lost chances isn’t that satisfying. The fact is that at some point in your life, you can’t help thinking that it is not how it was supposed to be, and then you start regretting. So you have two possibilities: you can either regret the things that you’ve done which didn’t end well, or regret the things you didn’t do for fear of the outcome.

If I’ve learnt anything in the past twenty years, it’s that you can never close a door that you were never brave enough to open in the first place. You’ll just keep staring at it, instead of getting on with your life. And my life was kinda like that: the past I hadn’t lived was bringing me back, and it was only my fault. I’ve said ‘was’ and I’m quite proud of it, because I’ve changed and now I’m more willing to risk a little bit to pursue my happiness.

Of course, it takes a lot of strength to jump, but it’s a risk worth taking. Trust me. Maybe I have more bruises than before, but I have more memories too. And I have to admit it, it feels pretty good.

You are still wondering why having regrets should be considered some kind of mental illness, aren’t you? I can tell you this is one of those things you can only see clearly when it’s over, since we all tend to be quite indulgent when judging ourselves. The ugly truth is that sometimes you need to play the ‘bad cop’ with yourself to be able to improve.

So here’s my advice: give it a go, you’ll thank yourselves later.

Martina Mastromarino

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