writing

How 13 Going on 30 taught me to let go of regrets

Learning to let go of regrets through 13 going on 30

Practicing self-love in the face of mistakes

When I’m anxious, I’ll find something to worry about. Even if it means digging up the dusty relics of regrets gone by. I lay awake at night. I trace and retrace my missteps. I relive every awkward encounter, every embarrassment, every bad decision, every over- or under-reaction. I replay all the times I wasn’t the person I want to be.

It’s not great, beating yourself up for every little mistake. It’s self-destructive. And when a part of you is left wandering the annals of the past, there’s not much room for growth.

If you can’t forgive yourself, how can you learn from your mistakes? I know I don’t take well to being put on blast. Like, what if your boss just really laid into you about your mistakes. How would you feel? Would you be motivated to change?

Pretty doubtful.

I’ve spent a lot of time belabouring the mistakes I’ve made in the last decade, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. I’ve certainly grown as a person, but it’s not been because of my self-doubt. That self-flagellation doesn’t do diddly-squat.

I’m slowly learning to see my regrets as learning opportunities. When you flip your perspective like that, it’s easier to accept mistakes and move on. Because you’re not a bad human being.

You’re just a human being.

Maybe the best example of this attitude comes from 13 Going on 30, that Jennifer Garner-Mark Ruffalo classic. In the film, Jennifer goes from 13 to 30 overnight. Hence the title! It’s all fun and games and ’80s music — ’til she discovers she doesn’t much like the person she’s become.

Throughout the movie, she learns from her mistakes and grows from them. [Spoilers!] She even travels back in time and gets a do-over, to become the person she wants to be.

Now, I still haven’t figured out the whole time travel thing. But you don’t need time travel to change your behaviour. Own your regrets, and learn from them. (Then go marry Mark Ruffalo, because really that’s the happy ending we all want.)

Own your mistakes. Stay humble. Apologize if you need to, if you have wronged someone. Grow and strive to do better.

For me, the first step is seeing “missteps” as learning opportunities. Not a reflection on you as a person. Ditch the hate, and practice some self-love and acceptance.

It’s a journey — I’m still working on my attitude. But we can all get there, eventually.

I know all this is a lot easier said than done. I know that little voice that says you can’t recover is incredibly hard to drown out. If you can’t work past and accept your mistakes, counselling might be a great way to get some perspective. If you’re in the Lower Mainland, Willow Tree Counselling has a fantastic list of resources to free or accessible counselling services. A therapist can help give you the tools you need to work through how you’re feeling.

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