9 Life Lessons From 'OUAT's Regina Mills

Sometimes in fiction, a character comes along that's so complex, so frustrating, and so downright fierce that she captivates audiences immediately. That's most definitely the case with Once Upon A Time's Regina Mills, the once Evil Queen turned — dare I say it — redeemed hero over the span of the series' first four seasons. Not that the journey was easy, mind; Regina might have stopped tearing out hearts and throwing fireballs at anyone who looked at her the wrong way, but the road to redemption is long and paved with thorns, and no one knows this better than her. The amazing thing is, at this point, she's not going to give up trying because of it.

To fully appreciate Regina, you first have to understand the life she's led, to walk a mile in her shoes, so to speak. She was the daughter of a manipulative and abusive mother who destroyed her chance at happiness by killing the man Regina loved and pushing her into a forced marriage with King Leopold. Then Rumple got his hands on her and, recognizing the desperation and pain that governed her, decided to use Regina as his own personal plaything, turning her into a monster so that she could function as a means to his own end. When you consider the lack of control Regina has had over everything in her life, is it any wonder she turned dark? Not particularly.

But all is not lost. Through the love of her son, Henry, and her strong and steady bond with Storybrooke's favorite Savior, Emma Swan, Regina finally managed to reconnect with the light within herself. It's a work in progress, but thankfully, it means she's got plenty of life lessons to share with all of us.

What's Done Can Never Be Undone

Regina at her worst was impulsive and thoughtless, acting before thinking, and hurting (or, you know, killing) people within split seconds. However, she learned over the years that her recklessness not only didn't get her what she wanted, but also, some things you can never fix once they're broken, so she needs to tread a bit more carefully.

The Path Back From Darkness Is Hard

This was perhaps one of the most important breakthroughs Regina has had, and one that she was able to use to help Emma in one of her darker moments. It's always tempting to take the easy way, but it rarely turns out the way you want in the long run. Sometimes the hard way is also the best — you just have to be strong enough to take it.

Sometimes You're Your Own Worst Enemy

The one useful thing Regina's terrible mother Cora ever told her was that Regina was the one that would always be the one standing in the way of her own happiness. For as long as she continued to self-destruct, the very thing she wanted most, to be truly happy, would evade her. It took a while, but it seems she finally got the message.

No One Can Work Alone

Regina, being the Evil Queen and all, thought for a long time that she didn't need anyone else to help her get what she wanted. She soon discovered that wasn't the case, of course, and it wasn't until she decided to become allies with Emma instead of actively working against her that things started going a bit better for her. No matter how much magic you can do on your own, combining powers will pretty much always yield a better result.

Forgiveness Is The Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself

Regina's life has been controlled by her hate for Snow White and the secret she spilled to Cora all those years ago, and that grudge nearly killed them all. Sure, Snow and Regina will never be best friends, but they've finally managed to find common ground, proving that forgiveness isn't just a gift for those it's bestowed upon, but those that grant it, too.

True Love Is The Most Powerful Emotion Of All

Regina once thought she had lost all chances at true love when Daniel died, but it wasn't until she found Henry that she realized that wasn't the case at all. It was her love for Henry that helped save her, that motivated her to rise above the darkness in her heart and be truly good. I'd say that's pretty powerful stuff.

You Can't Let Fear Control You

This is a lesson that Regina lost sight of for many years, instead allowing her anxieties turn her into someone she surely didn't recognize, the Evil Queen who did everything in her power to ensure that the world around her was as miserable as she felt inside. Thankfully, she's managed to conquer those fears, finally, and the payoff in Regina's life has been astounding.

Happy Endings Are Complicated

You may think you want something, but it turns out to be something entirely different once you get it. And just because you've received your heart's desire doesn't mean things won't be messy and complicated, that there won't be bumps in the road. You just have to be brave enough to weather them, and I think Regina finally is.

Images: ABC (1); regina-obsession/Tumblr (1); swan-queen-is-magic/Tumblr (1); soligblamma/Tumblr (1); coalitiongirl/Tumblr (1); regina-mills/Tumblr (1); faithandfearcollide/Tumblr (1)