7 Steps to Move through Shame, Fear, and Regret

“If you are never scared, embarrassed, or hurt, it means you never take chances.” ~Julia Soul

The moment comes when you are on your knees.

You are filled with a knowing that there is something better. There is a life for you that you are not living and you are ready to live it.

I call this the moment of awakening—the moment when you hear your soul's cry for the next step in its evolution. You are ready to live your fullest expression.

Anais Nin said it best, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

For me this looked like a crazy dysfunctional relationship with food and the feeling that I was spiraling out of control. I was literally stuffing down my truest, most authentic self, and I felt lost and off my path. I was filled with a pain that I didn't understand, that I realized came from the void of not living my purpose.

A whisper that I had been ignoring for far too long finally spoke a little louder and said, “You are here for more than this.” It came as a feeling and awareness all throughout my body.

For you, it may feel like you're stuck in a never-ending cycle, one that keeps you from feeling whole and fulfilled. It's a sense that something is missing, and you are ready to break free. You realize that your deepest desire is to improve your life and fill that greater vision for yourself.

Often this feeling comes with a sense of determination, which can quickly turn into paralysis and feelings of:

  • Fear of the unknown and of judgment
  • Shame for where you're at and for needing help
  • Regret of your past choices

These feelings are natural and normal, and there is absolutely no reason to let them stop you.

The following are seven steps to move you through fear, shame, and regret so you can take the leap of faith into your highest self:

1. Ground yourself in the present.

In other words, start where you are. Until you fully accept where you are, you can't move forward. Get real with yourself and shine a light onto all of those things that are not serving you.

This is the time to fully sit with the reality of the present moment and allow yourself to feel any and all of the feelings that come up for you. Often, our “stuckness” happens because we are trying to avoid these feelings, so it's important to just let yourself feel them. Remember, they are not wrong. They just are what they are.

When you feel them, you can get them up and out, which leaves you with a greater sense of determination and clarity.

2. Create a vision.

Get super clear on the vision you see for yourself. You've sensed there is something better, but what does it look like?

I recommend doing this while meditating so your thoughts are quiet. This lets your intuition fill in all of the spaces and details. Give yourself time and allow the vision to come into light.

Focus on this vision daily and perhaps even create a vision board. (Love those!) Focusing on your vision daily allows you to align your thoughts and actions with that vision so every part of you can work together for your best interest.

3. Make the decision.

Take a look at the path you are currently on. Then, take a look at your vision. Honestly, where do you want to go?

Make the decision to move towards your vision no matter what. It all starts with a decision. Know that you can handle whatever the journey brings you.

4. Get honest.

Here you are, you've made the decision, and you know where you are going. What are you scared of?

Do a free form writing exercise with “Fears” written across the top. Get real honest about what you're afraid of. Seriously, write it all down, as no one will see this.

Now, burn it! I mean it. Release those fears: out through your body, onto the paper, and into nothingness.

A coach of mine recommended that I do this exercise, and it was such a release! It instantly took the power away from my fears, as I realized they were only figments of my mind and not truth.

The physical act of releasing your fears in this way creates room so that your higher self to be your navigator.

5. Make it bigger than yourself.

When you make the decision to live a fully expressed life, you are inspiring others to do the same. What change in the world do you want to embody and inspire? Get clear on this. (Yes, clarity is huge in every step!)

When you have a mission beyond yourself, every choice you make not only affects you, but also affects those around you and closest to you. Each step forward becomes a little bit easier when you think of your bigger mission.

6. Find the silver lining.

Everything that brought you to this moment, all of your past choices, all of the “stuff” that embarrasses you or fills you with regret, molded you to become your best self.

It can be hard to see in the moment, but it's the truth.

When I was on my knees, never in a million years would I ever have imagined I would be helping women heal their relationships with food. If I didn't experience all of the stuff I experienced before that moment, or make the decision to heal myself, I wouldn't be here today. I am of greater service to others because of it—because I understand what they’re going through and what it means to move past it.

Trust your experiences. You don’t need to feel ashamed or regretful because of them.

7. Get support.

Open up to those closest to you about your new direction. Get a coach to support and guide you—someone who has been there and understands. Find others who are going through the same thing.

You don't have to do anything alone! Make this easy for yourself and seek support in every way possible.

We all feel fear, shame, and regret—and we can all move past them to live lives of purpose.

Photo by hang_in_there

About Jackie Vecchio

Jackie Vecchio writes about creating happy. If you want to be a more active participant in the creation of your personal brand of happiness (because it's NOT the same for everyone), then come over to Sign up to receive weekly emails on the how of creating lasting, pervasive happiness - from the practical to the magical.

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  • Clarity and quiet … That’s what I’m always missing.  It’s as though I (on some level) think the noise and distraction will mask the suffering.
    Thanks for pushing that button this morning!

  • Amy

    This is a beautiful post.  I especially appreciate the reminder that ALL of life — even the crappy, painful parts — fuels us for the journey we are on.  I’m thinking of compost here…the decomposition of our experiences turns into a richness we can apply to make whatever we are growing healthier and more beautiful.

  • Dshort2010

    I feel like you are speaking directly to me in this post. I’m there…almost. I get scared and those old stories still keep popping up in my head (they sound like my mother, go figure) telling me it’s a stupid idea, and I don’t have the skills to make it work.

    Trouble is…I do believe I have the skills to make it work. More and more my attention is drawn to affirmations that I am on the right path…

    I might need a coach…interested?? 😉

  • Tracy

    This is a lovely post…but I’m struggling with it from the other side. My ex-husband left me after 13 years because he needed to follow his passion. I honestly believe I was ALWAYS supportive of him in every endeavor, but many of the words you used above were words he used to explain why he couldn’t stay married to me. He even said “I love you, but I love myself more”.
    How do you get past the feelings of rejection and pain when you’re the one who was left behind? And how do you recover when what you thought was YOUR dream is ripped away for someone else’s? At what point does putting your dreams first become just selfishness?

  • Being real with ourselves is often a painful process. It can be much easier to sit back and delude ourselves into thinking everything is okay, just accepting it even though we don’t like it. 

    This moment of awakening, as you describe it, is absolutely essential to living the life we were meant to live. 

    Great tips here, thank you. 🙂

  • footprints

    Sage, inspired thoughts, surely.  I would add, though, on the last point reminding us to seek support, that we also need to be able to define and act alone.  There ARE occasions when one might not find support, and the expectations, hope and waiting for it leads to even more pain.  I imagine it is nearly always there, but I cannot agree that it will *always* be there.  The process of letting go can pertain to this aspect of our journeys; being able to let go of expectations when they are not met.  

  • Nic

    Hi Jackie,

    Thank you for this post. I am at a loss to describe what your words mean to me, but I saw much of myself in what you wrote. The stuffing. The fear and shame. I have even begun working with the bud vs. blossom imagery.

    I have signed up for your newsletter. I am grateful I found you today.


  • Amy – I love the imagery of compost and looking at our experiences in terms of richness. I’ve found the crappy, painful parts to be especially rich. 🙂 Thank you!

  • Nic, I’m so happy that this post found you at a time you needed it most! And, I am grateful to have YOU in my community. 

  • I agree that cultivating an inner support and deep unconditional love for ourselves is extremely necessary and through doing so we are more able to accept the love and support from others. I also agree that we may not receive support from those who we expect support from, and that’s where the pain of expectation comes in. I do think, though, that when we are open to support coming in from other sources, it is always there to find. 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  • Matthew, Exactly! Noise and distraction are a way to mask the suffering. Clarity and quiet give us the opportunity to face our emotions, which seems scary, but is the only way for us to get them up and out so we can move through them. 

  • Tracy, my heart and love goes out to you and what you’re experiencing. I cannot imagine what that is like. I’m going to use Amy’s analogy of compost from her comment. I think what you’re experiencing will turn it into a richness that allows you to nourish and grow a life that is even more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.

    Being present with the here and now is the place to start. I think this article expresses that beautifully:

  • Let those stories pop up!! When you hear them and they sound like your mother you know they are not truth, laugh at them and let them go. Louise Hay recommends putting your hands on your throat (the place of change) and saying I am choosing to release the belief that…. It’s an amazing tool, but if you don’t hear the stories, you can’t change them! Focus on your vision and you can so manifest your ideas into reality. I’d love to talk about your idea, there is a contact form on my site! 🙂

  • Ruud-cuienaer

    I am never afraid nor embarrassed or hurt other than physical. It served me well in the army as an active officer. It serves me well as an development officer for an International organisation. It did serve me well last week in Libya where we were held at gunpoint, and during the bombardments at Bani Wadi. I have visited almost every country in the world (except China main land). Married three times and lost three wife’s due to illness and accident. So why should man be afraid as the outcome will be karma. Why being embarrassed, which can only happen if you are vain even in the slightest of way’s. if others do not like it, they can simple look somewhere else or accept the situation as it is. Hurt is a feeling that either comes from being embarrassed by hurt feelings or from pain by a physical situation or a loss. Hurt from pain is a nerve reaction that can be suppressed partly. Hurt from a loss depends on feelings of sorrow. The learnings of Buddha shows us that a loss can be a gain and a re-birth. So why feel hurt. Life would be better if humans controlled their feelings in a believe that what happens is karma and for that reason there can be no fear, embarrassed or being hurt (feelings). Man can feel sad by a loss but that is karma.

  • I love that you used that Anais Nin quote in this piece.  When I went through a terribly rough period last year, I came across that quote and burst into tears the first time I saw it.  I included it on Facebook and another site I’m on in my profile because it means so much to me.

    I really loved this article.  You eloquently put into words a process that is very difficult to describe and your 7 steps are very helpful.  I agree with Amy that this is a beautiful post!  Thanks for sharing your experience here – it’s so fantastic to hear that you’re in such a good place now after all that you went through.  Best wishes to you!

  • Anonymous

    This is really insightful, amazingly I found myself relating to it all the way. Past experiences especially the bad ones make us who we are, thanks for making me realize this. Need to work on the vision board though. Thanks, this is really helpful.

  • I love the thought of “Until you fully accept where you are, you can’t move forward.” It’s so true. Even with my weight I knew I wasn’t happy with it but I didn’t fully accept where I was (which was pretty heavy), so I couldn’t move forward towards being happy. It wasn’t until I took the blinders off and I admitted exactly where I was that I was able to move forward. It really is the first step!

  • Anu Rajan

    Hi Jackie, this is so insighful. I feel blessed to read this post. I like what you said about creating the vision and making the decision. It resonates with my life right now. Thank you so much.

  • Nikkidown0716

    hello, my name is nicole, i have been living with my boyfriend for
    about 3 years now, we have been together for 3 years. im trying to
    deal with his family excepting me. for some reason they all do say
    they love me, but actions speak louder than words, they kinda brush me
    off and i feel unnoticed, as if their son doesnt have a girlfriend. we
    want to get married, we know we want to spend the rest of our lives
    together, i would feel awkward even telling them were getting married.
    their responce would be just simple. i know i shouldnt even bring this
    up but facebook is a problem. but i feel like im always ingorned from
    them on their. They dont “like” my status or comment for anything. we
    just celebrated our 3 year anniversary and i didnt recieve any kind of
    love from them. my older brother says stop worrying about them
    excepting you and worry about your own family. which i have been
    doing. but now i get a responce of “oh we havnt seen you” “were have
    you been” and i want to say “im hiding from you!” im so lost with
    which way to turn. i read online all the time on how to deal with
    in-laws, but it seems to me everyones story is different, i love your
    website. i just started reading an article about how people really
    arnt thinking about you in the ways that you think..after reading that
    it made sence but now i feel even more lost! PLEASE help to the girl
    who just wants love and respect from the in-laws from hell!!

  • Rml

    Hello Nicole . My name is Rose and just want to say that every action we make has an effect. If you really want your in laws to love you. Then all you can do is love them with no regrets nor limitations, if your feelings are sincere then they will feel it an appreciate it and will reply the same way. Give them your true self and time to what is important to them and in one month you will see the difference. PS. If you don’t see them much then just call to see how they were doing.Remember love is something we feel.if in the past you weren’t so close and it could have been you who set the barrier and don remember. Be nice participative and loving .they will change I assure you.

  • Busterluv3

    I teared up when I read this article, when I got to the part…. Anais Nin said it best, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight
    in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  I was walking through the card isle in the market and spotted this hot pink and white card with that quote on it. It resonated with me and my illness.  I purchased it years ago and it sets in front of me right now, on my bookshelf. Many months later while visiting with my Mother, she took out a card from her purse and said to me. “This reminded me of you.
    I live in fear everyday, some days I have courage and other days fear takes over. Reading this article and others on fear, are very encouraging,heartfelt and has great advice.

  • Bruna

    Thanks for post those words, I was in the edge and I started to read about buddhism and then I finish in your blog and it helped me so much. Be blessed for beeing able to help people all over the world. Btw I’m from Brazil.

  • Emily

    Thank you for this. I was feeling shame and regret for some things I’ve done, this helped me move on a lot. Thank you again 🙂

  • Carrie Kube

    Beautiful post! Your advice is so spot on that I’m sharing it on my blog. Thank you!

  • Symmone Roundtree

    Thank you so much. I’m struggling, with my emotions especially shame and regret. I’m young and in college and I’m still growing and it’s hard for me to find my place when I’m surrounded by so many influences and my choices are not what I usually make. It’s hard. It’s hard to take a step back and forgive myself and I still don’t know how to do it. This post helps. I’ve got a good support system on my back and I don’t want to let it go, so I’m using them to my advantage to find the better me. She’s in here somewhere, I just don’t know where to start looking.

  • Mary Grigalonis

    I have felt lost for so long I can’t even think straight, Long story made short is: Got married young, was beaten for 13 years, stayed single for 19 years with a boyfriend that made me feel safe then found out he cheated on me and his other woman harassed me terribly. Ran from my home town to get away from the pain, met a man got married again and we have nothing in common and he is so self centered. I feel stuck in a place I hate and feel no love or comfort. I want to go back home but so scared to leave 🙁 Your post made sense to me and wish it would guide me, I have no support to rely on so I am just stuck 🙁