Post-decision Regret and Acceptance: Life as an Art Project

They say once you trust your own decisions, that others’ opinions won’t matter. They say you need to tune in to your intuition, and then you’ll know. I’ve found both of these things to be true, but sometimes it’s really hard to tell what you like. Sometimes, you’ll change your mind, and sometimes, you’ll really just make a mistake. What then??


I remember sitting on the kitchen floor of a new apartment with my mom. She was freaking out. She hated the new apartment that her friend had found for her. We’d just moved in from out of state and my mom had rented the place site-unseen. I don’t remember how bad it was or wasn’t. My mom has good taste, so it probably wasn’t the best. I’m glad she found a new, better place for us. However, what I remember so poignantly about that night was the distress it caused her and how unsafe I felt because of it. I remember hoping I wouldn’t act that way as an adult – that I wouldn’t feel so torn up over seemingly small things (or so they seemed to me at the time). My mom ended the relationship with the friend who found her the apartment. There were just too many bad feelings.

Although I’d like to say I never have my own freak out moments when something goes wrong, it’s not true. I feel things more strongly than I’d like to at times, and things can seem unbearable when they don’t turn out the way I expected or hoped. However, I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped me enormously:

WHEN FEELING REGRETFUL

1.) Evaluate the problem separately from the emotions and think through options/solutions fully
2.) Don’t judge the emotions that come up: validate them and accept them
3.) Preserve relationships whenever possible

1.) Evaluate the problem separately from the emotions and think through options/solutions fully
2.) Don’t judge the emotions that come up: validate them and accept them
3.) Preserve relationships whenever possible

Things can seem so much worse, and so unsolvable, when we are wrapped up in an emotional moment. Oftentimes they are more solvable than we think. I like to write down the possible options for “fixing” a problem, even when it feels weighty or horrific. I am often surprised by how many solutions there are! I might have to be very patient, or save/spend money, but thinking that things might be able to change someday brings a lot of relief.

I usually judge myself so harshly when I make a decision I don’t like. I wonder why I asked so many peoples’ opinions, or why I didn’t ask enough people what they thought, why I didn’t meditate more, and why I didn’t research more. Sometimes, though, all the thinking and stressing in the world won’t ensure a “perfect” decision. I’m not omnipotent. I’m starting to accept that I make mistakes and I won’t always like the things I choose. It’s okay! I’m trying to look at my life as an art project: sometimes we need to erase or paint over a part we don’t like. It’s just part of the process.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to “act crazy” or beat myself up in order to change my circumstances. I can have strong emotions about a situation and calmly express what I want to do about it. I don’t need to blame other people for not protecting me from a mistake, either.

Recently, during my home renovation project, I made a decision and didn’t like the way it turned out. I had gone back and forth about the detail, and thought I made the right call. I went against some expert advice and did what I thought I liked better. I had polled a lot of people and they agreed with me. I felt semi-confident in my choice. Then, when I saw the result, I regretted it. It was a beast to change, but it was possible and I decided to go ahead and change it. Some people may judge me for that, and think I’m crazy or spoiled or ungrateful, and that’s okay. In this case, I can rest in the idea that because I trust my own opinion, other peoples’ opinions matter less.

It’s a funny road, learning to know and trust oneself. At times it feels like I take one step forward and two steps back. I feel thankful for those along the way who accept my process without judging me for it, because they know that these small decisions are about more than home design or anything else … they are bigger steps on the ladder of personal growth. There was a time when I had a lot of difficulty ordering a sandwich or buying a shirt. It took a lot of baby steps and trial and error to feel like a person who generally knows who I am and what I like. Little by little, I come farther along. I’m finally learning to forgive myself for the bigger mistakes and blunders, too.

Can you relate to post-decision regret and panic? Please share your thoughts!

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