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Having an affair and not trying hard enough at school count among women's biggest regrets in life

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 "Je ne regrette rien" sang Edith Piaf in her plaintive 1956 ballad. 

But it turns out that we women do, in actual fact, regret rather a lot of things in life.

A new survey has revealed the leading misgivings of UK women aged 25-39 years old, with not trying hard enough at school topping the list.

Rather disappointingly, not losing weight on a diet lands second place (life's too short for that, surely?), followed by choosing the wrong career path.

Tellingly, given the age group and the difficulties facing first-time buyers right now, not getting on the property ladder is next on the round-up of top 20 regrets, compiled from a questionnaire of 1,000 women. 

Relationships and sex feature strongly, with having an affair, getting married and "spending the night with someone I shouldn't" all landing a place on the shortlist of disappointments. 

The survey also casts an illuminating light on the pressure we put upon ourselves as women in a multitude of roles, with many of us wishing we were a better daughter, friend or mum. 

Not trying hard enough at school

Not trying hard enough at school; the top regret of UK women

The ambivalent nature of regret means the list is riddled with contradictions.

We regret not having the perfect wedding - but we also regret getting married. We regret having children, but some of us also wish we hadn't settled down. We regret choosing the wrong career path, but also focusing too much on our careers. 

Interestingly, a free-spirit desire comes through loud and clear from the list; we regret not being spontaneous or impulsive enough, and not having travelled before we had children.

This compares to a famous study of top regrets of the dying, which include "I wish I'd let myself be happier" and "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings".

Many of us wish we'd gone travelling before having children

Many of us wish we'd gone travelling before having children

But most of all looking at the list, we're struck by the idea that we should just stop having so many regrets; although experts say it can be a galvanising emotion for younger people. 

"For young people, regret, although painful to experience, can be a helpful emotion," says psychologist Melanie Greenberg. "The pain of regret can result in refocusing and taking corrective action or pursuing a new path. However, the less opportunity one has to change the situation, the more likely it is that regret can turn into rumination and chronic stress that damages mind and body."

The study was commissioned by Diet Coke as part of their new Regret Nothing campaign. 

"The research findings suggest women are harbouring their regrets and not living life in the now," they say.

"Through our new campaign, we want to inspire women to act on their impulses to create positive experiences, adventures and opportunities for success."

See the full list of regrets, below. 

Women’s biggest regrets 

1. Not trying hard enough at school

2. Not losing weight on a diet

3. Choosing the wrong career path

4. Not getting on the property ladder

5. Spending a night with someone I shouldn’t

6. Not being spontaneous enough

7. Not being a good enough friend

8. Not being a better daughter

9. Not being impulsive enough

10. Not travelling before starting a family

11. Not having children

12. Not being a better mum

13. Texting someone I shouldn’t after a night out

14. Not having my dream wedding

15. Having an affair

16. Getting married / settling down

17. Focussing too much on my career

Photos: Rex Features

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