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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

New research reveals 9 in 10 feel they’ve held themselves back

Frank Sinatra Regrets I’ve had a few

ON AVERAGE, we pass up on an opportunity we later regret an average of eight times a week – or more than 400 times a year – from failing to take a call from family or friends, to the bigger opportunities that can be life changing, according to a new poll.

In line with the latest ONS data showing that the average life expectancy is 79 years for men and 82.9 years for women – that’s a massive 32,864 regrets in the male lifespan, and an even more alarming 34,486 for women.

The younger generation of 18-24s hold even more regrets at 11 times a week (a staggering 572 times per year).

It seems, however, that the saying holds true: As you get older, you really do get wiser, with the regrets slipping away to almost half at 6 times per week, or 312 a year.

According to new research commissioned by Fisherman’s Friend, the iconic lozenge brand that encourages Brits to battle on #whateverthedaythrowsatyou, whether it’s failing to take a new job opportunity, letting ‘the one’ true love get away, or passing up on travel opportunities, we all have a regret or two.

In fact, almost nine in 10 of the UK population feel like they have held themselves back, limited by a lack of confidence (38%), lack of self-belief (31%) and fear of failure (26%)... Alarmingly, over one in 10 (12%) ALWAYS feel like they hold themselves back.

What’s more, over six in 10 (62%) wish they’d said yes more in the past than they have at this point in their life. 

On a more positive note, almost three out of 10 of those surveyed (29%) feel they have actually  said ‘yes’ more in 2023 than in previous years. Of those, almost a quarter are consciously making more of an effort to embrace the power of saying it (24%). 

However, to many, ‘yes’ sounds more like a chore, as almost three in five (58%) agree that they are more likely to say yes to things they feel obligated to do than things they actually want to do.

Psychologist Donna Dawson, who has partnered with Fisherman’s Friend, comments:

“The ability to say ‘yes’ can be affected by many things; one of them being the attitude of those around us.

“If we pick up messages that tell us not to take chances, stick our necks out, or make ourselves vulnerable, we will play it safe and back away. If the negative little voice that lives in the back of all our minds says ‘better not’, it can become the main voice that we automatically tune in to. Better to challenge that voice with ‘Why not?’, tackle challenges head-on, and find out what we are truly capable of.

“Facing up to whatever the day throws at you will increase self-confidence, not diminish it.”


Meanwhile, 33 is the magic age when we begin to cast off our inhibitions and pluck up the courage to start saying ‘yes’ more often.

And the emotions expressed by men and women when facing a challenge head on are worlds apart.

Women embrace being out of their comfort zone citing feelings of excitement, optimism and bravery whilst their male counterparts highlight more negative emotions such as being scared, overwhelmed and vulnerable. Because of this, a third of men (33%) feel they have frequently held themselves back – versus 23% of women. 

Thinking back over the course of their life to date, the top 10 things that people wish they had said ‘yes’ more often are: 

Travel opportunities (23%) 

Learning new skills (21%) 

Accepting help (18%) 

Going on adventures (17%) 

Making time to catch up with friends (17%) 

Spending time with loved ones (17%) 

Spending more time with your family (17%) 

Starting a healthier diet (16%) 

Ending a relationship (14%) 

A new job (14%) 

There are, of course, hundreds of things that could put us outside of our comfort zone, from everyday tasks in our personal and professional lives, to social expectations and commitments. Brits cite making a speech (31%), attending an event where you don’t know anyone (26%), doing karaoke (25%) and wearing something that draws attention to yourself (19%) among them.

Others are simply afraid to put themselves out there, with worrying about receiving a ‘no’ when asking someone out on a date (17%), allowing themselves to be vulnerable (17%), and asking for help when they need it (16%), preventing us from taking a chance.


Census wide study of 2003 UK adults, 3-7 November 2023.


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