Hindsight Is Not Really 20/20

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I’d like to think of myself as someone who is introspective. I grew up in a household where the spoken rule was, “Children should be seen and not heard” This bound me and stifled my voice for years. As a side note, it is interesting that Louise Hay says in her book that throat issues are connected to the inability to speak for one’s self. She says thyroid issues (your thyroid is near your throat, in your neck) stem from the idea of, “I never get to do what I want to do. When is it going to be my turn?” This is so interesting to me because I suffer from these physical ailments and can relate to the emotional statements attached to them.

Since I couldn’t speak outwardly about my thoughts and feelings, I turned within. I didn’t speak out loud of my dreams and hopes for the future. I didn’t talk about my growing interest in the criminology field. I didn’t have people in my life who would teach me how to make decisions–good ones– about what my future could be and how to put one foot in front of the other while I was trying to figure it out. So, let’s just say that once I was really on my own, I made A LOT. OF. SUPER-BAD. DECISIONS. My Present Self has forgiven my Past Self for the bad decisions I made. By the way, I thank God that cell phones and internet did not exist back then. Whew!

If you read my post on what it’s like for me to be heading into middle age, you’ll know that I don’t have a strong track record for being a do-er, but I’ve definitely been a thinker. Although I’m now a bit more comfortable speaking my mind, I still like thinking about things. This tells me that even if I had had a unicorn and rainbow childhood, I would still be an introvert. Maybe I’ll make a future post about that. For now, let’s get back to the title of the article and why I don’t feel that Hindsight is always 20/20.

The bottom line is that there are just to many variables. How many times have you said to yourself, “If I only knew…”. What if you did?? What if you knew your first marriage was going to fail and that your child would forever suffer on some level from it? What if you knew that the career path you chose so many years ago was not going to pan out two decades later? You could change those things and then find a whole new plethora of other things that your Future Self would one day look at and think, “If I only knew…”.

These are some of the reasons why I don’t think hindsight is truly 20/20:

It only looks at one perspective: yours. We can say to ourselves that we should have done this or that, but we can’t truly predict how it would have affected those around us.

It’s not always helpful. I have been in situations where I thought, “If I only knew to stay home that night…”. This is so NOT helpful. I don’t want to become an agoraphobic so this kind of thinking puts us in a useless loop.

Even if it benefits you, what happens to the people around you? If you could turn back time and change things, would you? More times than I can count, I’ve thought about how I know myself so much better now than I did when I was 20. If I had known then that I wanted to be a forensic psychologist, I would have pursued school over the next decade, delving into the disturbing underbelly of humanity. But then I would not be the person I am today, I think–the person who wants to laugh and joke and love. Most importantly, I would not have had my children. I know this in my core. For my children to not be here…that’s just not something I can fathom.

It can lead to regret if we let it. We don’t need to spill our guts to each other about all the bad decisions we made. Sometimes it’s good to talk about it and clear it out of your system. But I think that mostly, using hindsight to look back on your life and the decisions you made can lead to regret, depression and the inability to be present in the here and now.

Hindsight is not the enemy, I just don’t think that it’s honest, perfect vision. I’d rather use some foresight and figure out what the possibilities of my future can be. That feels a lot more fun and exciting. Hindsight has a small role to play in decision-making–we can use it to be wiser. But we can’t let it trump our vision and excitement of our future!

Writer Bio:  CJ Heath


CJ does sometimes wish she had 9 lives so that she could try different life paths every couple of decades. But she’s content to be here in the NOW and work with the fun-loving side of Foresight.

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