Lately I’ve faced quite a few (professional and personal) disappointments, and during these periods of dejection I’ve come to realize it’s really difficult to stay positive and present when you feel disappointed. A lot of emotions challenge positive, present living (sadness, anger, frustration, etc.), but disappointment is one of the most difficult to cope with, at least for me, which is why I find it essential to write about how to handle it.
The literal definition of disappointment is “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations,” but I don’t know if that simple phrasing really captures the way it feels to be let down, to be hurt by something that has changed or that has not lived up to what was expected. It hurts. It feels really rotten to think something is going to happen — and in some cases to have every reason to believe it will happen — and then to be let down.
But it happens. Disappointment is a part of life and if we don’t learn how to cope with it properly, it can cause a lot of extra resentment and hurt, both in our relationships and within ourselves. (Because, let’s face it, we all let ourselves down sometimes.) Avoiding disappointment completely isn’t an option, but learning how to handle it as positively as possible certainly is.
I feel like I’ve become a bit of a disappointment veteran lately, and as a result, I’ve had to cultivate some skills to make the most of letdowns. Here are some of the tactics I’ve found to work best when it comes to facing disappointment in your personal or professional life.
LOOK CLOSELY AT EXPECTATIONS
Disappointment rears its ugly little head when your expectations being met. It might sound like good advice to suggest lowering or letting go of expectations, but expectation is a complex concept. On one hand, it’s important to have expectations — both as something to look forward to and as a way to receive respect and appreciation. But on the other hand, the wrong expectations (or those that are unrealistic) can lead to unnecessary disappointment. The trick, then, isn’t to let go of expectations, but to look closely at them. Earlier this month, I wrote about loving without expectation, which is a great place to start if you need to examine your expectations. Most importantly, it’s useful to look at why you’re expecting what you are and whether or not those expectations are really essential to your happiness. If you find they’re not, it’s a good idea to try to let go of them. If you determine that your expectations are reasonable and valid, proceed on to the next tip.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS
Okay, so you’ve determined that your expectations are completely necessary and vital to your happiness, but that doesn’t exactly solve anything, does it? This tip won’t necessarily solve the problem either, but it’ll certainly help: acknowledge how you feel. This might sound basic, but we’re all so busy with our lives that we often don’t stop to really think about how we feel. How does this disappointment make you feel? (I know it sounds like a cliche therapy question, but it’s a good one!) Do you feel sad? Angry? Frustrated? Do you feel powerless? Wounded? Left out? Depending on the disappointment (personal or professional, big or small), the way you feel may be different. Digging deeper to uncover how you really feel can be super helpful when it comes to coping positively with the dejection or hurt you might be experiencing. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to healing them, but you can’t acknowledge them if you don’t know what they are! When you feel that pang of disappointment, take a deep breath, pause, and look closely at what you’re really feeling.
KEEP THE FEELINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
You are entitled to feel exactly how you feel as a result of being disappointed. There is no right or wrong way to experience the pain of being let down by someone or something. You’re allowed to feel sad or angry or heartbroken. BUT. It’s important to keep these feelings in perspective. The emotions are real, but they don’t need to consume your reality. Yes, you feel hurt, but consider the situation from a big-picture point of view. Is this disappointment something that happens all the time? (For example, did your boyfriend let you down this weekend, but there was a good reason and he’s always there for you, or is this just another example you can add to the long list of ways he’s let you down?) If the disappointment is a repeat offender, it might be time to get rid of the person or get out of the situation. If it’s a one-time deal, it might be time to forgive and move forward. Also, it’s important to ask yourself the question: Will this matter a month from now? A year? Five years? If you think about it that way, you might find that, much as the disappointment hurts, the pain won’t last forever, and just knowing that can really help.
EXPRESS TO OTHERS HOW YOU FEEL
When it comes to speaking my mind about disappointment, I’m really good at doing this professionally and really bad at doing it personally. No professional disappointment will slip by undiscussed, but I have a difficult time speaking up when it comes to personal disappointment (especially in the romantic realm). This is perhaps because the personal stuff is more difficult to discuss and is more likely to ruffle feathers than work-related confrontations. But do as I say, not as I do. Talk it out. I’m not talking about having a screaming match, venting all of your anger and frustration at the one who’s let you down (though that does sound very tempting…). I’m talking about having a calm, reasonable chat about how and why you felt let down so that the other person (or persons) knows how you feel. Your disappointment might be very obvious to you, but others may have no idea. And how are they supposed to avoid disappointing you in the future if they don’t even know they’ve let you down?
ADJUST YOUR THOUGHTS + BEHAVIORS
After you’ve assessed your emotions and discussed your disappointment, it’s time to look at how you might want to adjust your thoughts and behaviors in the future. This is one of the hardest tips because it’s not always easy to change the way you think or behave when it comes to certain people and situations. But if you want to have some control over avoiding future disappointment, it’s important to adjust your thoughts and actions where necessary. You might need to tweak your expectations. Or, if your expectations are perfectly necessary and reasonable, you might need to tweak how you think of someone else (maybe, for example, you might not want to think of your flighty friend as your go-to lunch partner if she’s always canceling lunch dates) or you might need to change your own behavior (for example, cancel your contract with a vender that never follows through). You can’t control people or situations, but you can control the people you interact with and the situations you put yourself in.
TRY TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM IT
As with all not-so-great experiences, I’ve been really trying to learn from the disappointment I’ve experienced recently. It’s sometimes difficult to see the silver lining when things aren’t going well (like when the publication date of my book got pushed back not one but three times!), but I really do believe that there is a reason for every disappointment and setback. As Thoreau so wisely put it in the image above, “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” It might take some time for the disappointing situation to make sense, and that’s okay. Just try to be open to the idea that something good will come out of the bad because, in my experience, it usually does (even if it takes awhile to show itself). At the very least, facing disappointment can make you a stronger person who is honing his or her skills at looking for the positive in even the most difficult of situations — and that really is one of the best lessons you’ll ever learn.
Less than a month until my new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life, debuts and I’m SO excited! The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I’ve turned back to it often this year as I’ve gone through major changes and it’s been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)
First, I would just like to say that I am sorry to hear you are facing these disappointments lately. I read your blog and thoughts and find it so uplifting, that I can’t help to sincerely wish you the same in return, on any level. Whatever it is that might get you down, I would just like to wish you the best with it, and hope some how it all gets better.
I know this might sound odd, but if it helps any, it actually makes me feel relieved that you go through what I do, or any of us does. Meaning, I am feeling the same way lately, and hard motivating myself to prod on, when I feel so let down. But it actually helps to know you are not alone. That in turn can even help another get going again. Not that I would ever wish you bad, of course, but to just not feel alone in something, is helpful.
I have been reading here for some time, as you might know from my posts, and your messages always feel timely to me, like it is very relevant to circumstances in my own life. Yet, I come away most every entry here, and feel lighter or uplifted. You have come to be known to me, as a place of understanding and inspiration. So, it is easy to look up to that. But, to know even someone so positive has setbacks, allows me to feel it is alright to have those same setbacks, and not feel bad at myself for having them. In other words, you make it feel okay. Again, you make people feel not alone. That is truly a gift.
So, aside from just letting you know that I hope things get better, in whatever ways they need be, I wish to offer you something to attempt to offset disappointments. And it isn’t being a diplomat to someone who inspires me, it is truth. For whatever disappointments you might be enduring in both your professional and personal life, I wish you to know what good you do. I hope you also give yourself time to acknowledge enough, the successes and triumphs you have. For me, what you do has an impact. You make a difference. In this crazy, over-stimulated, over-saturated world, that is not easy to do.
I have a set routine each day, even if it isn’t always at the same time. I have a cup of coffee, or tea, sit at my machine, see what new videos my subs have posted on youtube, check email, spend some time on Pinterest (probably way too much time,) and visit my favorite sites. Yours is one of the first favorite blogs I visit each day. It is highest on my bookmark lists for a reason. It starts my day off on a positive note, and perks me up, especially when needed. There are some days, now and then, when I am feeling down, and reading here has literally helped improve my mindset, and given me inspiration enough to do that. That is a wonderful and powerful thing. That is where you have succeeded. It is my hope you can feel proud of that, when something else in life lets you down. Because I know, you do this for more than just me.
Again, I wish things look up for you soon, and I wish you much success on your upcoming book.
Much warmth and best wishes,
Hi Kat – Thank you so much for your comment. It truly made my day to know that I’ve helped you to feel less alone. On this site, I try my best to inspire people not just by sharing uplifting content, but also by sharing my stories and struggles with staying positive and present. To know that they’ve reached readers like you means so much. And thank you for your kind wishes about the book and about things looking up. Already things are moving in a much more positive direction! I wish you all the best too!
Hi, I really like your article. It really hits me since I have some disappointments lately. For me the most important part is to learn something from every disappointment, so we can be a better person in the future. I’ve just started a humble website about happiness and positive thinking related article. Feel free to check it out 🙂 http://www.happymaggy.com
HappyMaggy – Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed this article. Learning from disappointment is so, so important. Looking forward to checking out your site!
Comments are closed.