I remember reading a quote from Gloria Steinem (and I’ve since searched high & low and can’t find it) – but it stuck with me. It was an essay about women and self-confidence. Our inability to make decisions. The paralysis that can engulf us when trying to do “the right thing” or make “the right choice”. She wrote something about being an adult grown-up woman and wishing she could go back and embrace her younger self and say: “It’s ok. You did the best you could.” I remember reading that and feeling a rush of empathy. For myself.
This runs counter to the general belief that as women we should constantly be berating ourselves and beating ourselves up for this or that screw-up. Being hard on yourself is just what you do.
As a single parent to a pre-teen boy, I’ve begun to realize how my each & every comment towards & about myself impacts him. My “negative self-talk” isn’t only hurting me. No one likes a show-off, but when I come home from a bad day at work or from a race or long hard training run and he says “How was it mom??”, I am careful with my words. My internal answer at that moment might be “it sucked bigtime and I cannot believe I even signed up for that stupid 100 mile race, i am a totally insane & should just quit right now” – But i usually say “it was good/great/so fun!”
And sometimes, it truly was. But the point is: playing small & diminishing my self-worth serves no one.
Same with regret.
from my wedding album, Japan 1996
If we were to spend our days reliving our so-called mistakes and missteps, we would literally miss out on living. I look back on my 26-year-old self and want to give her a hug – not smack her and say “WTF Erin! – you are completely delusional to think this is an appropriate person/time to marry!!” I was doing the best I could at the time.
In turn, I was blessed with the most gentle, sweet, strong, brave & incredible son that I could have ever possibly dreamed up in my wildest imagination. He makes my life whole. No regrets.
me & my bean, 2000
I think a lot about the distinction between “mistake” and “opportunity for learning”. I’ve decided it’s all learning. And when we, as women and people, decide to open our mouths or put pen to paper and share that learning, it is almost revolutionary. Blame & shame dissolve in the face of honesty and self-reflection. Compassion is a powerful thing, especially towards oneself.
my sakura tattoo, 2005
One of the things I did upon accepting the knowledge that my marriage was over & that filing for divorce was a decision I had to make and honor was to gather up my close friends & get the tattoo I had been dreaming of for years. (and we all know that acquiring a tattoo is an arena ripe with potential for regret….not mine, whew!)
Sakura = cherry blossom = new life & the fleeting impermanence of perfection and beauty. Those seemingly “perfect” moments, choices & decisions —> guess what? They pass. To respect each one as a learning moment in itself is to ultimately respect yourself.
No guarantees, no perfect choices or solid gold 100% perfect outcomes. Just learning. Running has only solidified my beliefs with regards to regret and learning. Respecting the process. One step at a time.