Unlocking The Pros & Cons Of Regretting The Past

Pros & Cons Of Regretting The Past

Regrets are an unavoidable part of the human experience. Explore whether your regrets is actually helpful or harmful.

Do you regret anything in your life? If so, what is it? And is that regret a positive or negative force in your life? In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of regretting the past – both how regrets can help us grow as individuals and how they can hold us back. So read on to learn more about this important topic.

“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” – Victoria Holt

Why regretting the past bad?

No one enjoys feeling regretful. However, there are some people who seem to wallow in regret more than others. 

Unfortunately, this type of mindset can be very harmful both mentally and emotionally. Let’s explore the cons of regrets.

  • Stress and unhappiness
  • Low self-esteem and poor outlook
  • Anger, hostility and relationship issues

Read also: 5 Rules to live a more meaningful life

1. Regretting the past causes stress and unhappiness

It is often said that one of the biggest mental problems people have is living in the past, constantly thinking about how things could have been different or should have happened differently. 

Unfortunately, this behavior can lead to bouts of crying, more stress, anxiety and unhappiness. So if you’re constantly thinking about the past, try to change this by concentrating more on what your future holds.

The pros and cons of regretting the past
“We don’t have to be defined by the things we did or didn’t do in our past. Some people allow themselves to be controlled by regret. Maybe it’s a regret, maybe it’s not. It’s merely something that happened. Get over it.” – Pittacus Lore

2. Regretting the past affects your self-esteem and outlook

It’s normal to have regrets about the past. However, dwelling on your regrets can have a negative impact on your self-esteem and outlook on life.

In fact, when you focus on your past mistakes, you’re more likely to see yourself as a failure. 

Unfortunately, this low opinion of yourself can lead to a poor outlook on life, and make it hard to take risks or pursue your goals. 

If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of regret, it’s important to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let your past define you

3. Regretting the past causes anger, hostility and affect current relationships

Not only can regrets cause anger and hostility, but it can also affect current relationships – even with our families.

Have you ever noticed that people who regret their past romantic relationships may be more likely to have strained relationships in the future?

This is likely because people who regret past relationships may be more likely to withdraw physically and emotionally from others.

“A moment in life – followed by an eternity of situations to grow from or regret – is the reality that love is not about winning or losing, but simply to survive.” – William E. Lewis
“A moment in life – followed by an eternity of situations to grow from or regret – is the reality that love is not about winning or losing, but simply to survive.” – William E. Lewis

What are the benefits of regretting the past?

Regret is a powerful emotion that can prevent people from moving on with their lives. However, there are still lots of benefits of regrets.

According to research by Saffrey et al. (2008), regret was found to be the most positive of all 12 negative emotions. 

Notably, the negative emotions analyzed included anger, anxiety, disappointment, boredom, disgust, fear, frustration, guilt, jealousy, sadness, and shame. 

The reasons why regret was found to be more positive include to:

  • Analyze past experiences 
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors
  • Learn more about yourself
  • Preserve social harmony
  • Facilitate approach behaviors

1. Regretting the past helps you analyze past experiences

Regrets are useful because they encourage people to learn from mistakes and be inspired to take better actions in the future. 

Regret allows us to think of alternate realities – things that could have happened but did not, which can help us understand what we like and don’t like about our lives more generally. This is fundamental for self-growth. 

“The longer our trail of regrets, the more we tend to value the importance of making wise decisions.” – Bob Santos
“The longer our trail of regrets, the more we tend to value the importance of making wise decisions.” – Bob Santos

2. Regretting the past helps you avoid unhealthy behaviors

Research found that people who regret unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking may be less likely to engage in these activities. 

Regret helps you determine whether a behavior was good or bad for you, which can allow you to avoid similar behaviors in the future.

However, to prevent regret from becoming toxic, you need to realize that there is no need to suffer because of the things you cannot change.  It’s a distraction and it keeps you stuck. 

3. Regretting the past helps you learn more about yourself

The third benefit of overcoming regret is knowing that everything in your past has shaped who you are today, whether good or bad.

Remembering this can be a very powerful thing because it will help you see how strong and resilient you are. 

If someone has wronged you in the past, take a look at yourself and think about what you have been through up to this point.

You can get through anything if that is what it takes, which only makes you stronger in the end.

Regrets can help you understand who you are and what is important to you.

For example, a woman might regret a relationship if she realizes that her most important value in a partner was loyalty, but her partner cheated on her. 

This regret may motivate the woman to look for partners with similar values in the future, or it might lead her to realize that having a partner who has similar values is more important than she realized.

4. Regretting the past helps you to preserve social harmony

Feeling regret over a choice you made may prevent you from doing the same to others to protect them from experiencing the negative emotions that you did

Additionally, sharing negative experiences helps build and maintain social bonds with other people.

5. Regretting the past helps facilitate approach behaviors

Regrets can motivate people to take actions that will help them achieve their goals, avoid negative outcomes or prevent future regrets. 

For example, people might strive harder in school so they won’t regret not working hard enough to graduate. 

Read also: 23 Toxic behavioral traits you should quit to change your life.

Discover the pros and cons of regretting the past
“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.” – Katherine Mansfield

Final words on the pros and cons of regretting the past

Regret is an interesting emotion because they can be both positive and negative. 

In fact, regrets can spur us into action, motivating us to do better in the future. 

However, regrets can also keep us stuck in the past, preventing us from moving on with our lives. In this blog post, we’ve explored the pros and cons of regrets and looked at how they can be beneficial or harmful depending on your perspective. 

What have you learned about regret from reading this post? Do you think that regrets are helpful or harmful? Let me know in the comments below. 

“Don’t live your life regretting yesterday. Live your life so tomorrow you won’t regret today.” – Catherine Pulsifer

Related topics

How can I overcome regret?

We’ve all been there. That sinking feeling in your gut when you realize you made a mistake. Whether it’s something small, like forgetting to respond to someone, or something more significant, like making a bad investment, regret can be crippling. 

But, is there anything we can do to overcome it?  Click here to explore some strategies for dealing with regret and moving on.

What are the most common regrets people experience?

The older we get, the more we seem to regret the things we’ve done in life. In a survey of over 1,000 people aged 18 and up, researchers found that the most common regrets revolved around relationships, career choices, and health decisions. Let’s take a look.


Saffrey C, Summerville A, Roese NJ. Praise for regret: People value regret above other negative emotions. Motiv Emot. 2008 Mar;32(1):46-54.

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