Friday, March 24, 2017

The Fear of Regret

to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened, especially a loss or missed opportunity  

Regret is an interesting thing, isn't it?

Life is full of different forks in the road where decisions are made. Sometimes we choose correctly. And other times we regret our choice and wish we could have a re-do. It's a part of life that doesn't seem to be avoidable.

In my last blog post I talked about the concept of "Stupid Tax" and how there could be feelings of regret associated with buying things that we later realize were stupid purchases.  After feeling regret and realizing that stupidity occurred, it's time to get rid of the stupid item, right? Instead of letting it take over our spaces, it's time to face reality and let it go.

Today I want to talk about The Fear of Regret and the ways that fear hold us back from things like letting our possessions go.

When I have helped others dejunk, one of the biggest stumbling blocks I have found in them being willing to get rid of things they no longer like, use, want or need is the fear that some day those things will become something they like, use, want or need. They worry that they will regret letting it go.

I am actually quite fascinated by the concept of the Fear of Regret and it's ability to hold us back, in all different aspects of our lives.  We all try to make wise and healthy decisions as we journey along in life and when we don't it usually brings some kind of pain--including regret. As the definition above says, we feel "sad" or "disappointed" in something that happened or was lost.  But sometimes, in fact a lot of times, the fear of regret keeps us from something more. In my faith, one of the basic concepts we believe in is the principle that pain, heartache, and regret are actually good for us because they help us see, appreciate, look for and work for the GOOD.  In simple terms, if we didn't know the pain of regret, for example, we would never know the joy of a good decision. 

What I am trying to point out is that oftentimes we allow the "Fear of Regret" to stifle us. We are so afraid of pain, when in reality, pain is good for us and is an important part of life. So instead of living with the fear of regret, we should expect and even appreciate regret and learn from it.

Let me share a simple example from my own life: 

As you've probably already noted from previous posts, I have a passion for cute clothes. So I tend to buy a lot, wear a lot and change them out a lot. And periodically I get rid of a clothing item that later becomes a serious regret. 
Behold....the much loved, super cute and for-some-reason-dejunked navy blue and white blouse.

I bought this navy blouse with tiny what stars at The Gap a few years ago. I saw it, refused to pay that much for a blouse, waited for it to go on sale, and then pounced. It had all of the different aspects I liked in a blouse. It fit well, washed up well, went with lots of different things and could be casual or dressy. It was a great blouse.

But, last summer I was getting ready to have a yard sale and went a little crazy. I had a lot of things in my closet and knew I should get rid of some. As I reached for this blouse and put it in the pile to go I thought "I might should keep this." On the night before the yard sale, as I was pricing things, I put a "high" price on this blouse ("high price" is a relative thing right? high relative to other yard sale prices is actually still super cheap relative to prices at the stores.) I thought to myself "I'm only going to sell this shirt IF I can get this much money for it." And even then I wondered if I should change my mind getting rid of it.

On the morning of the yard sale I opened the garage doors early and people started coming in. And what do you know, but about the third person that came along snatched up that blouse and paid me my "top dollar" for it. 
And it was gone.

Just like that.
And almost immediately the regret set in.
I'm still not sure why I thought I should let the blouse go.
 It was a good blouse! 
But I did.

And someone came along, loved it, bought it and hopefully wears it every week.

When I see a picture of me wearing this blouse, I cringe with regret.
When I think about an outfit or wonder what I could wear with these pants or this skirt, I sometimes think of this blouse and say "What was I thinking?!"

and here is my point

I'm still alive.
In fact, I am more than alive, I am loving life.
I still have other cute blouses to wear.
I still have other cute outfits to put together.

My navy blue with white starts blouse is gone but I'm going to survive.

One of the perils of having too much,
of the Curse of Affluence (that we talked about here), that we are currently all enduring,

is that we have SO much stuff and yet still have an amazing fear of getting rid of things. A huge part of that fear comes from The Fear of Regret. We don't like to feel regret and so, instead of letting things go, we hold on and hold on and hold on and fill up our lives, closets, spaces, drawers and garages with more and more stuff. 

The Fear of Regret stifles us and ends up, I think, providing us with an even more profound regret. 
The regret that comes from living for years with:
* the frustration over not being able to find things around your home
* the embarrassment over people seeing your chaotic messes
* the irritation at not being able to park your cars in your garage
* the aggravation at good money wasted on storage units to hold your junk
* the worry of what to do with ALL of this stuff!

Oftentimes, when I think about the different items I have dejunked and then felt regret over getting rid of, I try to think instead of how happy I am to have cleaned out and organized spaces. I think about how freeing it feels to know where things are and to even have a few empty spaces in my cupboards or drawers I could use if I wanted to. I try to remember how distracting for kids and frustrating for parents it is to have a home and garage so full to the brim that people are constantly stumbling over, climbing around or arguing about their piles of things. 

The bottom line is that regret is a part of life. But we can't let the fear of regret keep us from being smart about things. We can't let the fear of regret dictate so much in what we choose to keep or get rid of. There will probably be things you choose to get rid of and then later regret, just like there are forks in your road of choices that you regret making. But you will live. And your family will too. We have plenty of whatever to make up for the loss of that one item here or there. And life, as a whole, will be better because while regretting a few of the little things you didn't regret the really big stuff.

1 comment:

  1. This is so timely for me! Lately I have been regretting getting rid of clothes that I let go of 10 years ago because I can't find anything now that I like as much as I liked those clothes. The sad thing is (5 kids later), those clothes wouldn't fit me now anyway! Thanks for your awesome perspective Kim!