For every person who has no trouble admitting that they have regrets in life, there is at least one other individual who doesn’t even care to entertain the concept. What’s the point, they argue, in fixating on something that can’t be changed, other than to poison your confidence or prevent you from continuously moving forward?
Even researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown used to hope that it was possible to live authentically without regret. But, as she tells Oprah in an interview for “SuperSoul Sunday,” Brené has experienced enough failure and vulnerability to understand that there can be incredible power in harboring this complicated emotion.
“I didn’t want to believe this, but I have come to learn that regret is a fair — but tough — teacher,” Brené says.
While some view regret as a hindrance to productivity, Brené actually sees it as something quite different. “Regret, I think, is a function of empathy,” she says.
Empathy is something Brené has spoken about quite often in her career, calling it the “antidote to shame” in her powerful TED Talks. Empathy brings people together in true connection; shame drives us apart in isolation. Failure is the starting point of it all, breeding both shame and then regret. But must that mean that regret is intrinsically bad? Looking at the link between regret and empathy, as Brené points out, empathy can open the door to vulnerability and allow us to find the courage to fully acknowledge our mistakes as mistakes, as things we now know we would change.
This why Brené believes in the teaching power of regret and also why she finds it so worrisome when people dismiss regret with a wave of the hand.
“When people say, ‘I have no regrets,’ I think, ‘That seems dangerous to me. Do you not look back, ever, and say, ‘If I had this to do over again, I wish I would have done it another way,'” she says.
Brené discusses more of her eye-opening research — specifically about the three phases of overcoming struggles — in her full interview on this weekend’s “SuperSoul Sunday,” airing Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on OWN.
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