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Ep #245: Why We Regret & How to Stop

Feminist Wellness with Victoria Albina | Why We Regret & How to Stop

The main driver of my work is to help those of us who identify with codependent, perfectionist, and people-pleasing tendencies move past blame, shame, guilt, and the stigma of having these ways of being in the world. It’s normal and natural to beat ourselves up for having these thought habits. However, it’s a painful path to stay stuck on.

That’s why this week, I’m re-sharing one of my favorite episodes from the podcast archive all about how regret is self-abandonment. The regret cycle is one we lean on and keep choosing for understandable reasons, but it’s time to understand why and how we can drop it because the truth is regret is not the solution to the future you want.

Hear why living in regret is a form of self-abandonment, and how it doesn’t save us from repeating old patterns. I’m highlighting why we think regret is protective, how regret prevents from you seeing the power you have in your own life, and of course, the remedies for healing and dropping regret so you can get to the other side.


Are you interested in learning more about somatics? Check out my free webinar all about it here!

What You’ll Learn:

How we are demanded to disconnect from our bodies in our everyday lives.

Why we regret our past choices, and how it doesn’t save us from repeating old patterns.

How regret is a form of self-abandonment.

The ways in which regret prevents you from seeing the changes you can make in your life.

How we can use the self-blame of regret to distract ourselves from deeper feelings.

4 steps to healing from and dropping the regret cycle.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Ep #18: Negative Self-Talk

Ep #134: Catastrophizing and Reparenting

Ep #164: Healing the Self-Abandonment Cycle

Ep #167: Emotionally Immature Parents

Ep #244: Polyvagal Theory: The Secret to Understanding Yourself

Full Episode Transcript:

This is Feminist Wellness, and I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Functional Medicine expert, and life coach, Victoria Albina. I’ll show you how to get unstuck, drop the anxiety, perfectionism, and codependency so you can live from your beautiful heart. Welcome, my love, let’s get started.

Hello, hello, my love. I hope this finds you doing so well. Last week we talked all about Polyvagal Theory. I gave you a little lay of the land on Polyvagal 101, because a young girl loves some science.

In sharing that episode, I talked about how the deepest, deepest driver for my work is to help release those of us who identify with the habit of codependent, perfectionist, and people-pleasing thinking, what we call here “emotional outsourcing,” to help us release and live past blame, shame, guilt, stigma for having these ways of thinking, feeling, acting, being in the world. Because, as we learned when we talked about Polyvagal Theory, these habits are survival skills from our childhood.

To be clear, I'm not saying we condone them. I'm not saying we celebrate them. I'm not saying we're like, “Oh my God, it was so amazing that I did X-Y-Z, whatever, super codependent, whatever.” Like, come on, baby, come on. But what I am saying for suresies, is not to beat yourself, or anyone else in your life, up for having these thought habits.

Because it is a natural, normal thing that humans do to survive our family of origin, our ancestral trauma, our specific individual stress, distress, and trauma, and to survive growing up in the patriarchy, white settler colonialism, and late-stage capitalism/neo-feudalism, right? All of those forces demand that we act in emotional outsourcing ways, to a greater or lesser degree.

They definitely all demand that we leave somatic engagement with ourselves. We leave somatic or bodily presence. That we go into disconnection from our bodies via diet culture, judging our bodies, overworking our bodies, a focus on productivity versus presence, and on and on and on. In order for the survival and thriving of those systems that care more about those systems than about the humans living in those systems.

So, that's what we talk about here. That's my jam. That's my work. It is both my jam and my jelly. I'm so cheesy, and I love it now. I used to be like, “Oh, I'm so cheesy,” and I would feel embarrassed when I said stuff like that. But now I'm just like, “You're ridiculous, and I love you.” What a gift, right? Anyway, I digress, which is normal. I usually don't digress this hard in the first three minutes, but you know what? Here we are.

My loves, last week I promised you that I would reshare one of my favorite episodes, and from download rates, one of your favorite episodes, which is "Regret Is Self-Abandonment." That is our theme. It’s like a light bulb went off in my head one day, and I was like, “Oh, snap! When we're beating up past us, we're self-abandoning.” For understandable reasons we always honor the survival skill reason, but damn, that hurts. That is a painful path.

And so, we're going to look at it, we're going to dissect it, we're going to talk about it and think about it and feel into it. And of course, because it's moi, your girl is, at the end of the day, a nurse practitioner, we’ll talk remedies. We'll talk about how to begin to make your life more better on the other side of those habits. All right, my darlings. Thanks for listening.

If you've got 14 seconds, I'd so appreciate it if you went over to Apple Podcast, Spotify, wherever you get your show, follow or subscribe to the show, leave a five-star rating and a written review. That written review can be like, "Oh my God, I love the show. I just love this show." It really doesn't have to be deep.

But every rating and review helps make the show more findable in search, which means more people can get all of this education, love, care, and support for F-R-double E. And that's my goal, to share the goodness. So, thank you for taking two seconds to help with that project of sharing love. Thank you for listening and take it away past me.

Hello, hello my love. I hope this finds you doing so well. I was on a call today with a woman who had applied to my Anchored program, my six‑month program for overcoming codependency, perfectionism, and people‑pleasing. It's really a program about finding your self‑worth and self‑love. Woah, it's powerful.

So, I was on the phone with this woman, or on Zoom, and she was talking about how much she regrets not applying to and joining Anchored two years ago, and how all these things have happened in her life. She married her then‑boyfriend and has now divorced him, and all these things have happened.

She was telling this story, "If I had just joined Anchored then, I wouldn't be regretting the last two years." Oof, my goodness, that felt so heavy. She was telling this story about how her life has been regrettable.

I have a lot of thoughts about this. But first, let's start with a definition, because my nerds love a definition. The dictionary tells me: Regret is to feel sorry, disappointed, distressed or remorseful about the past. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow. To mourn. Well jeez, that's dire. Regret is some heavy business. It's all Shakespearian in its very definition; to remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow. To mourn.

I want to talk about regret today because of this conversation, and because I hear my clients talk about their past and their choices with so much of this heaviness. So much regret, so much blame, shame, and guilt towards themselves and others.

What I want to say from jump is this, when we are living in regret we are abandoning ourselves. We are abandoning and exiling the version of us that made those decisions. I'm going to pause to let that land. Because that too, is some heaviness and I stand by it.

Because when we play the old "could’ve, should’ve, would’ve" with our past choices, we are leaving that version of us, that inner you… whether it was 20 years ago, two years ago, or last week, like an inner child but sometimes a more recent you… we are leaving that part of our Self out to dry.

We are disavowing them, saying, "They made a terrible decision," and that they, thus you, should feel really bad about yourself. Baby, baby, baby, that doesn't serve you. It never has and it never will. So, why would you choose that? Yet, we do it over and over and over again.

So, let's answer this question: Why do we regret? The answer, my nerds, is evolutionary: Because we think it will protect us. We think it will keep us safe. Because we think regret will keep us from doing that same thing we judged ourselves for again.

But rolling around in regret about it is not going to do what you subconsciously think it's going to. It's not going to save you from repeating your old patterns. It's just re‑enacting the old pattern of beating yourself up, under the guise of thinking you're going to create change this time if you're just cruel enough to “you” now.

My sweet kitten-mittens, if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: You can't heal hurt with more hurt. That's just not how it works; because science. Because while you're sitting around filled up with regret, you're slamming your foot on the gas of your nervous system.

Spinning and ruminating and filling your perfect bloodstream with those sympathetic fight‑or‑flight chemicals: Adrenaline, cortisol. You're creating stress in your body hormonally, chemically, about something you cannot change.

Berating yourself about how dumb and terrible you are, and likely telling everyone who will listen all about how much you suck because you dated a jerk again, or you fell off whatever wagon you put yourself on, or you made a work or a business decision that didn't work out exactly how you dreamt it would.

Once you've spun and spun and spun on it in your own mind, in your own world, all full up with stress and chemicals, you collapse into dorsal, into freeze. Into that checked‑out, foot‑off‑the‑gas, isolating, self‑flagellating place where you say, "This will never change. I'm the worst. I make terrible decisions. I can't trust myself."

That's the rub with regret; you strengthen the neural groove in your mind that says, "I cannot be trusted." From there, what do you think is going to happen the next time you try to make a decision or change your life? You're not going to trust yourself, your intuition, or your discernment.

You're going to look outside of yourself for someone else to make your life happen, to decide for you, to tell you what to do and how to do it. All the while, strengthening that ‘I'm not to be trusted’ story more, and the codependent story that says that someone else, everyone else, knows better for you and your life than you.

Which of course, is a huge hit on your self-concept, on your sense of self, and your authenticity. Right? Because authentic, real you, well, that person messed up real bad. Which leads you to want to people‑please those people who know better about your life even more.

Which strengthens your perfectionist story even more, and makes you want to shapeshift and chameleon to keep them happy, because after all, they know best about your life.

What a quagmire. What a hot friggin' mess, my darling squash blossom. And it all starts with believing that there is a “right and wrong” way to do things, to live, to be. Believing, again from our codependent conditioning, that you don't know the best way for you to be because you're inherently unworthy.

My tender, little cupcake, oh, how painful. How painful that you've been living this way. Of course, I get it. I used to roll around in regret, too. Until it hit me one day that I was rejecting the parts of me that made those decisions.

We'll come back to that in just a moment, but first, to be clear, I'm not telling you not to have your feelings. Always and forever, the opposite. I encourage you to safely feel it all, without judgment or criticism, so you can process your feelings somatically, meaning through your body.

I'm never telling you not to grieve or be angry the patriarchy told you to trust a man's opinion more than your own. I'm never telling you not to be pissed off, sad, or disappointed that you spent years wrapped up in diet culture. Or that you grew up in the family conditions that you did. Or that you learned to take others’ opinions and advice instead of following your own.

Have all the feels about it, but just don't get mired in regret again. Because it doesn't change a darn thing except your story about who you are, how trustworthy you are, and what you are capable of now. In this new and precious moment, now.

I can hear your brain saying, "But wait, if I don't regret, how will I learn? How will I change? How will I grow? How will I hold myself accountable and take personal responsibility? Won't I just be a jerk forever if I stop regretting?”

This is vital, my love: It is only when we drop the regret that we can truly bring in personal responsibility and accountability. Because your vision is clouded when you're in regret. You can't see the ways you can make change now, and for the future, when you're focused on beating your past self up.

Living in regret is, in fact, a self‑centered, short‑sighted state of being. We think if we beat ourselves up now, then we're not being selfish and self‑absorbed. But the truth is, you are. Because all you can think about when you're regretting, is how terrible you are. So, how, exactly, are you to take accountability and responsibility when you're focused on you and beating you up?

Furthermore, when you are rolling around in all that regret, you can't see much beyond blaming you. You can't see all of your conditioning, socialization, and family teaching, that led you to make the choices you made.

You can't see the systems at play, like the patriarchy and white settler colonialism. You can't see interpersonal systems like codependent family blueprints that taught you to be exactly who and how you are, and led you to make the choices you did because of outside pressure, influence, or from the lessons you carry in your body as your childhood survival skills.

And if harm was done to you from regret, you often dismiss it and take all the blame, shame, and guilt onto your own little shoulders. Which is something we chronically do from our codependent thinking that says, "I'm inherently unworthy."

I know I, myself, did this for quite a while about being in an emotionally abusive relationship for years. My brain went to stories like, “I regret being with that person. I regret staying once they started screaming at me, gaslighting me, belittling me, and constantly disregarding my boundary.”

All that thinking did was strengthen the neural groove in my mind that said, "You are responsible for other people and their choices. You are wholly to blame for staying." Instead of what I now know to be true, I am not responsible for their unacceptable behavior. I can and do take responsibility for staying, and what happened is not my fault.

But I couldn't see that truth while I was in regret. I sure can now, from a place of self‑compassion and self‑love. My ex's choices were not my responsibility. Getting myself out, was. I did that for myself, and I'm so darn proud of me.

I recognize that the me that stayed did so because she didn't yet know how to get out. Because she kept believing and wishing and hoping things would change. And because she was being gaslit, manipulated, and lied to.

That's all super‑duper real. Regretting her choices, after seeing, pulling back, and really zooming out and seeing the full picture, the whole context, regretting her choices would only be abandoning her once again. Babies, I'm not here for that.

It's important that we recognize that, inherent in these stories, the "I should've known better" stories, is you rejecting the you that could not possibly have known anything different. Frankly, self‑rejection, staying mired there instead of taking responsibility and owning your part, is buffering.

Buffering is anything we do to detach from our feelings, to push our feelings aside. I think we can use the self‑blame of regret, the beating ourselves up, to buffer or distract ourselves from the deeper feelings.

For example, the disappointment of being raised in the homes we were raised in. Being raised with emotionally immature parents, like we talked about last week. Being raised to believe other people's voices matter more than ours. Being raised in the patriarchy, and having learned that one should defer to men, to white‑bodied people, to thin people. And that there's something wrong with you if you are not all of those kinds of person.

Of course, you want to buffer and push your feelings away if you do not know how to do thought work and somatics, if you don't know how to manage your mind and be in real and deep conversation with your body and your nervous system, your inner children.

Because systems, from family systems to larger systems of oppression, taught us to buffer so that we don't have to feel those feelings. Remember, those systems, both co‑dependent family systems and the larger systems of power and inequity, oppressive systems, taught us not to feel our feelings, taught us to buffer.

In so doing, it keeps us from questioning systems that keep us locked in those boxes, prevent us from speaking truth to power, and keep us from changing our lives.

Once you can recognize that your personal choices are both your personal responsibility, and are shaped deeply by the systems you grew up in, that taught you who and how to be, then you can tap into and can recognize that you do in fact have significant power in your own life, in your own mind, in your own body.

Which, admittedly, can feel scary when you've never tapped into or felt your own power. So, it's no wonder we buffer against all of those feelings, and we go instead to regret and self‑blame. Of course, you did, baby, of course you did.

Furthermore, we beat ourselves up instead of realizing when we've been operating from our childhood survival skills. And codependent, perfectionist, and people‑pleasing thoughts and habits are 100%, once brilliant, childhood survival skills. Of course, they are.

So, if you made a decision and you did a thing you maybe didn't want to do, but you did it to keep someone else happy, perhaps you were doing that because you realized in childhood that people‑pleasing was a brilliant way to feel safe, loved, worthy, cared about.

Frankly, the fact that child you realized that and came up with this brilliant strategy, that is something to be celebrated, because it got you through. It's not something to beat yourself up about.

Now, I'm not saying to keep making your decisions from that place. I'm not saying it serves adult you now to act from those childhood scripts. You get to grow and change. It's what we talk about every week here on Feminist Wellness. It's what we do in Anchored each and every day. You get to learn who you want and need to be for you now, so you can do it differently now.

But you didn't know how to do that then, did you? Did you even realize you were operating from survival skills? I sure didn't, until I did. Listen, come on, of course I beat myself up for being a human with amazing survival skills.

Before I learned about somatics, and how to be in touch with my inner children and the exiled parts of me… Before I learned how to regulate my nervous system and repair it myself, I would get mad at myself for being anxious or worried.

I would get mad at myself for having a nervous system response, because I didn't know I was having a nervous system response. I would get mad at myself if I snapped at someone. I would get mad at myself, and I would regret doing it, because I didn't know to give myself the context I have now.

For example, if my nervous system just got activated, perhaps even triggered, I'm responding from that bodily, somatic energy of sympathetic activation. I'm responding from fight or flight. I'm not a bad person who does regrettable things, I'm a human mammal filled up with cortisol.

I get to both give myself the grace, and I get to take responsibility for, when I act outside of my integrity. I get to apologize, and to do so earnestly, which isn't possible when I'm filled up with regret because all I'm thinking about is how terrible I am.

And likely, you are too. When you get mad at yourself, judge yourself, are mean to yourself, and stay in that energy, you take away your own ability to get curious. To ask questions that help you to move your life forward. To behave differently next time.

Like, "Why did my body create that response? Why is my mind telling that story? What story is my mind even telling? What self‑love or self‑care do I need right now? Have I been self‑abandoning again? Am I trapped in a self‑abandonment cycle?” Like we talked about a few weeks ago. “How can I show myself kindness and care right now? Am I hungry or thirsty? Do I need to pee or take a nap? Do I need to come correct a situation and apologize?"

Listen, you know I love a good metáfora, my sweetcakes. Regretting your choices now is like being mad at the sweater you wore as a newborn because it doesn't fit you now. It's being like, "You dumb sweater, how dare you not fit me?" But it's not a bad sweater or the wrong sweater. There's nothing at all wrong with that sweater, it just doesn't fit your adult body now.

But that's what we do, right? When we spin around in regret, it's like being mad at the sweater for being baby‑sized while you grew and changed and got longer arms. That's not loving. It fit the “you” you were then, like all your choices fit the “you” you were when you made them.

You see what I'm saying? Don't be mean to a sweater, my love. That's not kind. Don't be mean to past you either, because we choose kindness around here, right? Regretting your choices is only possible when you know what the future will bring, and you don't. I don't.

Regretting what you currently see as the outcome of your choices now, is frankly like playing goddess. It's saying you know what is right and best and good, and that this outcome isn't that. When you actually don't know the eventual outcome of your decision down the road.

By staying in that regret cycle, you're cutting yourself off from seeing the possible good that may come from whatever decision you've made in the past, which you can't possibly know now because it's not the future. You have no clue what the universe, or whatever you believe in, has in store for you based on the decision you made when you were wearing the sweater you were wearing when you made it. Way to mix your metaphors, Vic.

Finally, before we move on to remedies, and yes, remedies are coming, you know they always are, let me answer the question I know you've been asking: How will I iterate if I don't regret? Won't I stay stagnant? How will I grow?

To that I say, when our focus is on what we regret, we are focused on the Self that made those decisions. "She should have known better. She should have been a better person. She should have known things she couldn't have known when she couldn't have known them."

Inherent in the story of regret is the idea that there is something wrong with you, and that's the part I take the most umbrage with. Because, my beauty, you are perfect and amazing and worthy of love and good things right now, as you are. You were then too, when you made the decision that you now don't love.

It's only by accepting and honoring past you that you can build the self‑trust that will guide you to make the most aligned next‑right‑choice in the future. So, yeah, review your choices. Contemplate them. Take responsibility for what's yours and nothing more, and make a plan using thought work to slow your roll when you make the next decision.

Make a plan, using somatics, to get more embodied and present in yourself and with your intuition and discernment so you can make different decisions in the future. Not better decisions, oh, no, no, just different.

Okay. Now let's talk remedies. When you find yourself flipping to regret, and your foot is squarely on that gas pedal shunting you right up into fight or flight, the invitation is to move to compassion and curiosity.

Step 1: Return to your body. Whenever you're spinning in your brain, return to your body, to your breath, to your feet on the floor. Clasp your hands together tight. Get present, and whatever you find there in your body, even if you just feel numb, promise yourself you will meet you with the three C’s: Compassion, Curiosity, and Care.

Ask your body, curiously, what it wants and needs from you in this moment. A slow breath, hand on your heart or your belly, a walk in nature, a nap, a cup of tea, a hug to coregulate with a human, a plant, with Mother Nature herself, with a pet?

Pause. Check in. Get present with your body when your brain is spinning out, and make sure you've taken care of your mammalian self. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, feeling isolated, all of these things keeping the spinning thought spinning, so run a mammal check and give your body what it needs.

Step 2: Check yourself for catastrophizing. We make things bigger problems than they actually are from our fears that we’re actually insignificant. So, ask yourself, "Am I making this bigger than I need to?" Remember, Episode 134 is all about catastrophizing, if you need a refresher on that theme.

Step 3: One of the first things that thought‑work teaches us in an empowering way is to ask yourself: "Do I believe my thoughts?" This question… I love this question because it reminds us that so many of our thoughts are not ours in origin. We are often monkey‑seeing and monkey‑doing what we saw our parents, caregivers, community members doing.

From there, ask yourself, "Do I believe my own thought that this choice was regrettable? Am I regretting this because I regret it, or because I was taught it was a regrettable choice?" Remember, we only have shame about something when we are taught that what we are doing is shameful.

So, you can ask yourself, “Is this even my own story of regret?” You may ask yourself, "Whose story of regret or shame is this?" Be thoughtful not to get mired in that, because that's a rabbit hole we can slide right on down and get lost in. We don't want to make this work about someone else.

We can simply name it, "This is not my thinking. This is my dad's regret," or, "My religion taught me to regret this. Society taught me to regret this." Remember that there is something so moralistic about regret, so we have to take a step back and to look at the system without moralism, and instead with some distance and some objectivity.

Once you've gotten some clarity on that, you can remind yourself that regret is a feeling caused by the thought, "This is a regrettable choice," and you can remind yourself that that's not a choice you have to continue to make.

Step 4: Knowing the root of regret is the story, "I should have done this better or differently." Get real with it. If you actually think you should have done something different, what's that something different? I really want you to answer the question. Put pen to paper about it because maybe there's an answer there.

Or maybe your brain is just telling you, you should have done something different because you don't like the outcome, when your decision was the best one you could have made in that past moment and with the skills you had then.

Which brings us to this question: Did I actually have the capacity to have done it differently? We ask that not with the energy of self‑judgment, but truly with one of self‑love and self‑reflection. Do you currently, or did you then, have the nervous system regulation to have responded to that coworker differently or to a sibling differently, to your partner differently? To have made a different choice in that moment?

Did you have the somatic skills to have remained embodied, to stay present in your body in that moment of stress? Is it realistic that you could have done it differently in that moment? Or is it just some perfectionist fantasy that says, "I should have done it differently?"

That takes us way on back to Episode 18, about negative self‑talk. We tell stories about ourselves that we have some kind of fixed identity. But you're human, you can only do what you can do with the skills you have. “Mistakes" just point out places for more growth.

So, you get to ask yourself, "When I put the regret aside, what can I learn from this? How can I grow from this while being compassionate, curious, caring?"

When that old regret monster pops up its head to blame, shame, and guilt you, remind it that it's not welcome here. That you're choosing now, in this moment, to not listen to those old self‑flagellating thoughts anymore because you know a kinder, more loving way now.

A way that centers the truth of who you were then; honors it, respects it, praises it even. Honors the “you” you are now, and the future self that you're growing into being, each and every beautiful day when you choose to be kind with yourself instead of choosing the buffer and self‑abandonment that is regret.

Thanks for listening, my love. I hope this show has been helpful for you. If you enjoyed it, I want to invite you to head on over to Apple Podcast or Spotify, wherever you get your shows, rate and review the show there. It really helps get this free resource into more ears, to help more people step out of regret and into more self‑love.

Thank you again for listening, and for loving yourself up.

Let’s do what we do. Put a gentle hand on your heart, if you feel so moved. Remember, you are safe, you are held, and you are loved. And, when one of us heals, we help heal the world. Be well, my beauty. I’ll talk to you soon.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Feminist Wellness. If you want to learn more all about somatics, what the heck that word means, and why it matters for your life, head on over to for a free webinar all about it. Have a beautiful day my darling and I'll see you next week. Ciao.

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