My Biggest Regret I Have in My 20s

Utrecht, Netherlands

If there’s anything that I regret in life, it’s not listening to my heart. It is a reoccurring feeling of mixed guilt, regret, and failure that haunts me nearly everyday.

My favorite line from the film, Little Miss Sunshine, depicts a life lesson we should all live by:

A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.

Especially in my early 20s, I became desperate for approval from anyone, believing anything they told me to be true. I wanted to go to school for photography, but had dismissed this dream after several people had convinced me that it wouldn’t make me any money and that I would essentially be an unsuccessful career-less outcast. I settled on a degree in business and marketing, which taught me a lot about grit, hard work, and staying on your toes – plenty of lessons I am beyond grateful for. Still, I find myself to this day observing the beautiful works of photographers, like the wonderful Lynsey Addario, and becoming instantly uncomfortable by the fact that I never had the guts to chase my dreams like them. I had convinced myself that the opinion of other people was worth more than own, letting go of every imaginative aspiration I had if I thought they would find it stupid. It costed me sense of purpose and belonging – that feeling of satisfaction knowing that you’re going for exactly what you want in life.

I also found that the negative words of nonbelievers paired quite nicely with my tendency to compare myself to others – a brutal companionship between ignorance and self-doubt. Even when I found I could muster up some confidence in my ability to chase my dreams, I would find myself comparing my lack of skills and knowledge to the never-ending internet database of talented photographers and their notable work. I would see all of the praise they would receive from viewers, awards they had received, and accomplishments they had made, and feel that those things were unattainable for me. I felt discouraged and lazy even. What would be the point in trying if I could never be as good as them? If I was just going to fail?

I realize now after five years that self-doubt, comparing yourself, and the opinions of others is essentially a pile of crap. If you know what you truly want and you’re passionate about it, screw everything and everyone else. Your desire to follow what you love to do will drive you. It will motivate you to work hard and take the steps necessary to make it happen and success will follow where success is due. If you believe in something, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Find your inner voice and charge on.