There are a lot of things I regret in my life and in my work. Papers that I promised to help write and never got down to editing or finish analyzing data for, experiments that I should have done that could have expanded my PhD into more areas, projects and papers. Not being a good enough girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend, even), not being a good enough friend, not being a good enough cousin, sister, granddaughter, daughter. Seriously, I have a list so long I can't even see the end of it. And that list plagues me every day. Every other hour, every other minute.
My regrets always make me feel like I'm not good enough, that I could have done better (if only by a little bit), that I could have spent a little bit more effort and time on this thing or that thing, that I could have been a nicer person, a more enthusiastic and energetic woman, etc. My regrets make me feel like I'm being judged all the time, that people are always whispering, 'look at her, who does she think she is? she doesn't deserve to be here. she can't be trusted with tasks' etc. Most of all, my regrets make me judge myself. That I can never be loved for who I am, that I am never enough and that I'll eventually be exposed for the imposter that I am. Heck, on some (or is it most?) days I feel like I should just quit my job or leave the country and start life anew so that I can escape from all the wrongs that I've done.
I was going through another bad episode today about my work. And then I thought, why? Why all this judgement? Why all this expectation? Who am I trying to be and what am I trying to achieve? What was the truth about the situation?
You know what the truth is? The truth is, I was doing my best at that moment. It might not be someone else's best or my absolute all-time best. But at that moment, it was my best given the circumstances and my emotional and mental state. It was my best given my level of experience. But I judged myself based on an expectation set by myself or others based on some standard that I couldn't meet at the time. Was I not trying hard enough? Maybe. Was I being lazy? Maybe. Did I feel a lack of motivation because I wasn't excited about it enough? Quite likely. But should those reasons be enough for me to beat myself up for years after the fact, cause me to lose confidence in my abilities and worth, and cause me to waste precious time and energy on guilt and regrets? I don't think so, at least not now, not anymore. Because I know, deep down, and even though I often forget, that I'm in essence a good person. I care and I try and I keep trying. I know that I do what I do to try to make the world a better place. I also know that I'm still looking for my path, and I feel quite lost at times. I know that I have regrets because I care so much, though maybe sometimes for the wrong reasons.
I'm learning to remember that sometimes, it's just really hard to focus when I'm really down and when I'm feeling so lost I don't remember why I'm here in this world. Sometimes it's just hard to get up in the morning because all I want to do is hide under the covers and make it all go away. But eventually I do get up and show up and put up a strong front and I do my best that day. Sometimes I just get lazy, which makes me human I suppose. Or I decide to take care of myself instead so that I can show up better the next day, because I believe it to be my responsibility. Sometimes I just don't know how or where to try. Or, I just make stupid mistakes. Hindsight can be such a bitch in bringing in the 'if only' or 'why didn't I know this earlier' regrets when one is not careful.
Will I continue being judged by others and made to feel like I'm not good enough? You bet they will. Even if it's well-intentioned, people will always judge you based on their own standards, expectations and needs. But that's OK. I think I'm finally learning to handle that. It's all a matter of choice, I think. I choose to not judge myself based on your judgement. I choose to think of it as evaluation and room for improvement, as opportunities to evaluate my priorities. I choose to look at things from all sides of the story and remember my own side of the story. I choose to remember that my life is my own, and to work for my own purpose, while remembering that all things considered, I have always been trying my best. Finally, I choose to remember that life can't really be compartmentalized into work and 'life', but is a complicated web that links everything that is happening right now into each other. Life is all about relationships, and the health of each relationship that you choose to have.
Somehow, it's now easier to breathe. And strangely, I feel more energized and focused, ready to carve the life that I want. I guess regrets do have their purpose sometimes. =)