Here’s Why It’s Okay To Feel Sad After Making The Right Decision

By Reniel

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Last Updated: August 31, 2021

You already know this.

From the small to the big things, life is full of decisions – it is cliché, but it is true, and a very persistent truth at that.

If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be. - Epictetus, philosopher

The truth of this statement is without question, but what isn’t usually considered when looking at quotes like these is that right (or beautiful) choices don’t always feel good.

In fact, they can feel quite contrary – they can leave you feeling worse than you felt before you made the decision...but there’s a catch (read to the end to find out).    

 

We Are Set Up to Make Unhappy Decisions

There are a lot of situations and circumstances that set us up for unhappy decisions that are nonetheless right choices.

Some of those instances include but not limited to the following: 

When we have to make a choice related to another person’s mistakes, or wrongdoings.

Maybe you decided to forgive someone who had hurt you deeply. You may have to plead and spend a lot of money paying for damages caused by your kids, or someone you are responsible for.    

When we (ourselves) made a terrible decision or mistake in the past and are trying to fix it.

It could be deciding to end an abusive relationship, quit a terrible job, break a bad habit or an addiction, hand over ourselves to the cops, or some other “seemingly self-sabotaging” decision.       

When the right decision demands that we undermine/go against our deeply held beliefs, values, and self-image.

It could be making an impossible decision for a very sick loved one who is in pain. Or denying a kid something tasty or fun because you know it’s good for their health.     

When the decision is immediate and mandatory.

Like when you absolutely have to make a life and death situation - or someone will get hurt or even lose their lives. 

In all of these circumstances, you are bound to choose, and sometimes a decision not to choose is already a choice on its own because you are not in total control of the situation. 

So, it makes sense that you don’t feel thrilled after these decisions; in fact, it is okay to feel sad, horrible, mortified, or angry after making such decisions. The fact that they are good decisions (and sometimes even beautiful decisions) doesn’t mean that they won’t make you feel sad.

 

Why Do We Feel Sad After Making Tough Choices? 

Depending on the situation, you could feel all kinds of emotions, ranging from sadness to guilt and regret, even anger. 

You worry about yourself.

You worry about all the things that you are going to stop enjoying as a result of making that decision.

Maybe you would no longer be able to get the validation or money you once got from that abusive partner. Maybe you would have to stay single for a while, and have no one to help with the bills and responsibilities.

But it doesn’t negate the fact that ending a toxic/abusive relationship was an excellent choice.        

You worry about others.

Maybe you worry that when you stop supporting that deadbeat brother or sister, they would have no one to care for them anymore. They would suffer hardship and may resent you for making the decision (to stop supporting their irresponsible lifestyle).

But your choice is right nonetheless. And…      

You think that there is nothing to gain from making the right decision.

Maybe the right decision comes with some discomfort, but no obvious added benefit. Maybe it is a decision to not cheat on exams. All you get is stress, and no promise of getting better grades – if anything, you become scared of failing.

And what if you then failed? Won’t you truly be sad about making that right decision?

All these are legit reasons to feel sad even after making an excellent choice. But there is a catch:

 

Sometimes Making a Tough Decision Now Will Save You in the Future 

The thing about good or right decisions isn’t that they always lead to instant and pleasant rewards, but that they eliminate future troubles.         

The decision to quit the abusive relationship might have just saved your life (literally). Quitting smoking may be the only reason you don’t die from cancer (5 years later). Deciding to stop helping the deadbeat sibling may be the only reason they would finally decide to change their ways.

And, deciding not to cheat in the exams may be the only reason you would properly understand a concept that would help you later in life.     

The thing with good decisions is that they care for your future and that of others. They are not selfish or shortsighted.

So, if after careful observation, questioning, and thought, you figure out what is the right thing to do – for you and everyone else in the long term – understand that it is okay to feel sad about the temporary discomfort.          

Always have it in mind that how you feel is only an indication of temporary and immediate circumstances that your mind and body can sense – it is not a condemnation of your right decision.

If truly everything in life boils down to decisions; then it is paramount that those decisions be made despite our fast-fleeting feelings. Today you may be sad, but console yourself with a vision of the future. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that your beautiful choices will lead to a beautiful life.         

 

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

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One comment on “Here’s Why It’s Okay To Feel Sad After Making The Right Decision”

  1. Sometimes doing the right thing is the only reward. I have made decisions a few times that others would benefit from. And in the fight for others, I was left in a bad light. I knew the result would not better my life but I also knew that no one else would make that giant sacrifice without personal gain. I believe in doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. I also believe in doing the right thing even when those looking don't understand. I'm not sad about my sacrifices, I only hope one day someone fights for me, if I need them to.

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