Reframing regret.

Reframing regret.

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Up until about a week ago, I used to say that I didn’t believe in Regret. Regret is a useless emotion, I’d scoff when people would ask me What’s my One Biggest Regret or the One Thing I Wish I Could Do Over. You can’t do anything about the past, I’d say, feeling all enlightened and shit. But you do something about the future.

But all along, here was my secret: Regret was the tagalong I couldn’t quite shake. The third wheel on all my friend dates, all my work meetings, all my nights alone scrolling on my phone. Regret liked to follow me whenever I did an interview, or went on a date (yes, with my husband, who I’m certain will love me no-matter-what-within-reason, no Regret necessary), or walked out of a subway station and noticed the people around me walking slower or faster or asking for spare change and I realized I had none. Regret was always popping by, “just to say hi.” And I am an introvert. I don’t DO casual drop-ins where people pop by “just to say hi.” I’m allergic to them.

Regret and I know each other so well, I laugh and bury my head in my hands when I think about all the times I’ve denied her existence. (See? Head-in-hands. Regret’s even there when I speak about regret. Meta.) NO REGRETS! We’re told to shout it from the rooftops. Regret means weakness. Regret means failure.

About a week ago, I got hit on the head with a major paradigm shift. I wish I could remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but as I was sitting in silence and reading through whatever my nighttime reading was, I came across this:

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time.

Woah. So wait a second. You mean all this time, when I was cringing at that lame thing I said or ignorant thing I did or that time when I felt so awkward that I think I might have changed the climate zone with my beet-red cheeks….you mean all those times, my Regret was there to HELP me??

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time. Click To Tweet

Just like any form of negative self-talk, Regret isn’t good or bad – it’s information. What usually happens is we sense a pang of remorse or embarrassment and since it FEELS uncomfortable and maybe even aches a bit, we give it a name. We use our self-talk muscles to warp and translate FEELS BAD to IS BAD.

But is Regret really all that horrible? Well, maybe, if we push it down. We can’t blame her for acting out, though, if we keep shoving her into the back of our emotional refrigerator and letting her grow mold. Eventually, she’s gonna stink up the whole damn fridge. Like, obviously.

If you subscribe to the scientific theory that energy is neither created nor destroyed, then where does all that intense energy from Regret go when we push it down? It doesn’t go away, that’s for sure. Rather, it starts to morph. Into anger. Rage. Hate. Narcissism. Regret is an expert shape shifter under duress; she’ll come back out and sneak-attack using something else as her cover-up.

What if we used all that intense energy that’s brought up when we Regret, to fuel enlightenment or understanding instead? Regret would shape-shift into a Lesson, which then morphs into hindsight, which then translates into a deeper, more meaningful understanding as we experience things over for the first time. That insensitive comment you made to an acquaintance then becomes a deeper sensitivity to experiences that are unlike your own. That huge blow-out you had with a family member that’s now beyond the point of repair becomes a more thoughtful way you interact with the loved ones you’re still lucky enough to have by your side.

Regret can actually be the most useful tool you have in your belt to help you grow and evolve into the you you know you’re meant to be.

This shifted perspective has, as an HSP, completely changed me. Instead of rehashing certain conversations or interactions out over and over again in my brain (and this is a daily occurrence for me if not hourly; I’ve started to tell Jeremy that my vocation is actually Professional Noticer) and CRINGING to near-mental-paralysis over what I SHOULDNT have said or SHOULDNT have done, I now halt the Regret track and ask myself:

What can I take from this?

It takes a LOT of determination to do this. Bravery? Ladyballs? I dunno. Doesn’t feel so brave to me. What it does feel is uncomfortable, and I have to muster up all the determination and follow-through I have within myself to NOT slink away and push that Regret to the back of the refrigerator shelf to gather up mold somewhere. That’s would be what’s fast and easy, not what’s necessary and right. I’ve got to stick with it and see if there are lessons and hindsight and greater understanding at the end of the tunnel. And every time I do this, I realize those things are always there.

~

There are certain questions you get asked a lot in questionnaire-y, quickfire-y type interviews. They’re open ended questions that attach themselves to universal experiences, like wishes or secrets or pet peeves. And one of the most common ones is – you guessed it – What’s Your Biggest Regret?

So here’s my new thing. If I get asked that question again, I’m going to answer this way. I don’t have a Biggest Regret because most all my Regrets have morphed into lessons and hindsight and understanding. And because of those Regrets, I’m able to be a more present, more empathetic, more inclusive and more aware woman that I was before. Sure, I might still have some Regrets, but they just haven’t revealed their true nature to me yet. They’re both inconsequential and paramount at the same time; both everything and nothing.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned are to NEVER underestimate my own power, and that the only person who is the expert on me, is me. My instrincts are never wrong, and if I can differentiate the objective guidance from the emotionally loaded suggestions, I’ll get to where I need to go. The biggest lessons I’ve learned have to do with timing – with truth – with living in a world as someone who is unquestionably herself and questionably questioning everything – with being proactive, not reactive.

The Regrets that got me there? I don’t even remember them.

 


WANT Yourself:
When do you find Regret pops up most in your life? Is it triggered by certain actions or interactions, or is it random? What’s one thing that a recent mini-Regret could teach you?

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The WANTcast Episode 016, Your Vulva Is A Snowflake: On Hang-Ups, Trauma, + Screwing The Shame w/ Sex Educator Anne Hodder

The WANTcast Episode 016, Your Vulva Is A Snowflake: On Hang-Ups, Trauma, + Screwing The Shame w/ Sex Educator Anne Hodder

Body Love the WANTcast

So, you’re probably wondering about that title, “your vulva is a snowflake,” and the fact that today’s episode has the word “sex” front and center

You might even be thinking, oh this episode isn’t for me, I’m not in a relationship or having sex – or, I AM in a relationship and it’s a healthy relationship – or, I’m not looking for sex advice right now – or whatever might be coming into your brain because this episode has “sex” in the title.

I want to make this clear – yes, we talk about the act of sex a little, but this episode is not about intercourse or partnership. Like, at all.

This is one of the most all-inclusive, body-positive conversations I know I’ve ever had. And probably, you too.

Anne Hodder 5-13-691
Sexuality doesn’t have a start date and an expiration date. - @theannehodder Click To Tweet

Anne Hodder is a certified sex educator, sex toy expert, and sex-positive PR & marketing pro at Hodder Media. I originally met her at the gym, in a spin class, and since then she has been such a thoughtful, wise, and supportive presence in my life. I knew that when the time was right, I needed to have her on the pod. And today, more than ever, seems like the moment to talk as candidly, honestly, graphically, and altruistically about sex, sexuality, trauma, consent, desire, and body positivity as we do here in Episode 16.

So when you hear “sex educator,” if you’re like me, you probably think about your health teacher in middle school and that one unit they did on the “how-tos” of sex and our bodies.

Talking to Anne, I learned it’s, so, SO much more than that. And while most of us get the birds and the bees talk or maybe get that year or two of classes in school, it’s NOT enough. What Anne does isn’t just talking about intercourse – it’s about owning your body, your decisions, your emotions, and making empowered choices. Yes, sometimes in the bedroom – but a lot of what she talks about doesn’t even have to do with going between the sheets.

Live your truth no matter how loud other people might get w/ their definitions. - @theannehodder Click To Tweet

In this episode, we talk about shame, what we get wrong about sexual trauma – or at least what I did – and how MUCH that explains when it comes to the way we navigate our relationships and sexuality, her experiences with talking to high schoolers vs. adults, Anne’s journey into the sex journalism and then sex education world, judgement, dealing with embarrassment, body hangups, sex positivity, body positivity, and why no emotion is mutually exclusive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I especially love Anne’s take on the ideas surrounding “normal,” how clickbait pseudo-science articles on the web screw us up, and how we can all be WAY more accepting of who we are and how we desire.

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I came to a realization while listening back to this recording: Ann says “There are things we can and cannot say to people under 18. The thing we need to remember when talking with high school kids is that developmentally they’re in a totally different place.” And it donned on me that most of our FORMAL, ACTUAL SEX ED ends in high school health class. Which means that, for most of us, the education ends before we’re actually experiencing the majority of our mature sexual life. The education ends – and the speculation begins. No wonder sex, sexuality, and everything even closely related seems like such a mystery – the information we have was given to us based on what we were actually able to process at the time!

I had “human development class” every single year from kindergarten to sixth grade, talking about everything from dating to kissing to drugs to, yes, how babies are made. And then I got to middle school, and I distinctly remember we talked about sex in 7th grade. And then nothing in 8th, then barely anything in 9th, and that was it. In 9th grade, I was 14 years old.

I was really lucky to have incredibly open-minded and candid parents, especially a mom I could talk to or ask anything. But I know some young women aren’t as lucky growing up. Even with her guidance, I was still being handed a set of experiences and opinions – nothing from anyone actually trained to guide me through things from an educational non-parental perspective. So it makes sense to me that sex and sexuality are most commonly surrounded by shame, mystery, rebellion, etc. And moreOVER!, we only see sex portrayed a certain way in the media – USUALLY heterosexual, usually cisgender, and USUALLY two really young, really pretty people. Very little body diversity, age diversity, gender diversity. We’ve got to see more in order to normalize our own normal.

This should go without saying, but this episode IS for mature audiences – we swear a bit, we talk not GRAPHICALLY in a vulgar way but in an anatomical way, and while Anne was cracking me up throughout the entire episode, it’s definitely not a set of subjects to be taken lightly. And hey, if that’s not your thing, cool – or if you’re, I don’t know, my grandma listening (and she DOES listen) and you don’t really want to hear your granddaughter talking about this, that’s cool too! But on the huge flipside, I would say that this is an episode that should DEFINITELY be shared with anyone in your life who is open to listening, because as we discuss on the episode, we live in a culture that dodges these important topics way too often and to our detriment.

 

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Normal, just like gender, is self-defined. - @theannehodder Click To Tweet

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