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Facing Disappointment

Although we plan and dream, life may fail to meet our expectations. A dwindling bank account balance, a serious illness, or an unexpected responsibility may cause cherished goals to be shelved, scrapped, or revised. A lie, betrayal, or argument may ruin a relationship. “If there is one predictable thing in this life, it’s that you will be disappointed somehow,” writes Beverly D. Flaxington in this article on the Psychology Today blog. Whether self-inflicted, caused by others, or brought on by unfortunate circumstances, we will need to learn how to face disappointment.

Sometimes we disappoint ourselves.

Disappointment shows up alongside squandered opportunities, abandoned resolutions, and failed projects. In spite of high aspirations, earnest prayers, and painstaking preparation, sometimes execution fails. A late payment notice arrives, an anniversary is forgotten, a bad habit resurfaces. We can be our own worst enemies. (I wrote about some of my personal disappointments here and here.) If we don’t work through these issues, we could easily become discouraged and sink into unhealthy behaviors.

Sometimes others let us down.

Our hopes may be dashed when people behave in unexpected ways. Perhaps promises are not kept, unkind words are spoken, or opportunities to heal, help, support, and love are missed.

If there is one predictable thing in this life, it’s that you will be disappointed somehow. It can start young – your parents don’t parent well, your teachers are bullies in school, your friends turn on you for no reason – or it can happen later in life; someone you care about betrays you, you lose a job you love, or you are let go after many loyal years.

Beverly D. Flaxington, “Dealing with Disappointment in Life”
Psychology Today (blog) May 8, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201705/dealing-disappointment-in-life/.

Sometimes we don’t get what we expect.

Circumstances may shatter our expectations: not winning that game, getting that promotion, landing on the bestseller list, or beating that disease. The outcome is NOT the planned, anticipated, or assumed result. We suffer the pain of unfulfilled potential. Should pessimism and discouragement be a surprise? I don’t think so. I think that’s called being human.

Remember, feelings are fleeting.

Emotions constantly chase each other across the canvas of our faces. One appears, another fades. Love, hate, sympathy, empathy, surprise, disgust, excitement, anticipation, all rise and fall, wax and wane, heighten and then retreat. You’ll never avoid disappointment, but it won’t last forever. It’s okay to feel the letdown, the loss, the grief. It will pass. Sometimes things don’t happen the way we want them to, but sometimes they do. Are we wrong to try? No. Are we wrong when we expect everything to turn out perfectly all the time? Yes.

For helpful tips see 21 Ways to Overcome Disappointment by Therese J. Borchard on PsychCentral.

Embrace the lessons.

Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes we make mistakes, or our dreams exceed our abilities. (For instance, I’ll never be a Victoria Secret model or a professional football player.) People lie. Pets die. Material belongings break, wear out, or become obsolete. Careers end. Prejudice exists. You WILL experience disappointment. The question is, how will you respond? Wallow or start over? Quit or re-focus?

But the choice of just staying in disappointment isn’t a good one. Think about the scenario – the event has happened. It’s past. You can’t influence it. You can’t change it. You can certainly ruminate over it and replay the many, many things you should’ve, could’ve and would’ve done differently if circumstances were different. However, the reality is that if you are reading this, it’s likely that the disappointment is in your rear view mirror.

Beverly D. Flaxington, “Dealing with Disappointment in Life”
Psychology Today (blog) May 8, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201705/dealing-disappointment-in-life/.

Flaxington also suggests taking back your personal power by practicing these four steps: accept it happened, re-frame the experience, manage your self-talk and make a plan. Even though I’ve dealt with disappointment in my life, I can only share my personal experience. If you need help dealing with this issue, you may wish to speak with a qualified counselor or mental health professional. For further reading, you can also check out Adam Sicinski’s post on IQ Matrix. He suggests trying mind mapping to help refocus your goals. Whatever choices you make, you won’t avoid disappointment, but you can face it, deal with it, and find a way to move forward.

How do you deal with disappointment? I’d love to read your story. Share in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Facing Disappointment”

  1. One of the hardest thing to prepare new writers for is the disappointment that is part of the industry. We have ideas about what being a writer is all about, and often those ideas are frighteningly unrealistic. When I teach new writers, I try to give them realistic numbers. People think I’m being a pessimist. I’m not. Those who know me, know I have a pretty bright outlook. But real numbers are…real numbers. I have watched more than one promising writer destroy their career because they saw the initial numbers and decided that they’d failed.
    Living with disappointment, conquering it, moving on…that’s key.
    I see it in web development, too. Someone launches a site and they’re met with crickets. Well…of course they are! No one knows they exist! But many people see sites that are successful and they don’t understand why they aren’t instantly successful! Because it takes years of hard work, showing up, doing the thing…over and over and over before a site becomes successful.
    Getting past that initial disappointment and continuing to show up, that’s a huge challenge. And it makes the difference between the newbie and the professional.
    Hint: I follow the professionals. (grin)

    1. Thank you for your wise words! It’s so easy to get lost in the emotion and forget how many of those supposedly overnight sensations put in years and years of work!

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