How to Deal with Disappointment

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.
Robert Kiyosaki

 

It comes in so many forms, disappointment – a dinner date cancelled, a job not offered, a friend who lets you down. It may be big and life-changing, like a divorce – tthe loss of something meaningful, something all-encompassing. It can be negligible – a DVR that didn’t record a favorite show, a stain on a shirt you love that won’t come out. However it happens, it never feels very good - partly because, for most of us, we often feel somewhat responsible for whatever disappointment we are experiencing.

There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.
Michael J. Fox

dealing-with-disappointment

I’ve been told on more than one occasion that by keeping my expectations low, I’ll avoid disappointment. That may be true, but I’m not capable of living that way. I expect a lot of myself, and I expect it of others who matter to me. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

So what can we do when we feel disappointed – which, when it’s an important enough issue, is always accompanied by a bit of the blues? How do we get past the feeling that we will never trust/try/talk to/listen to/believe/enjoy/consider someone or something again?

The most important thing to do is just breathe. Sit still for a while – an hour, a week, whatever it takes – and let the disappointment run through you, rather than take root in you. Let your expectations go along with your feeling of being let down or hurt. Realize that whatever the cause for your disappointment, you may feel a sense of responsibility, whether because of outsized expectations or missed clues that things weren’t going to turn out as you’d thought. When you’re in the middle of your disappointment funk, you may believe you’re the only person ever to be disappointed by…(fill in the blank). This is not true. We’re all disappointed in our lives. It’s how we deal with it that differs.

 

The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
Conan O’Brien

The worst kind of disappointment, of course, is disappointment in ourselves. As much as we expect from others, in most cases we expect even more from our own hearts and minds. We beat ourselves up when we make mistakes, we talk ourselves down to others to deflect the disappointment they – or we – may feel in our actions. By expecting little of others – and ourselves – we can keep the icky feeling of disappointment from creeping into our lives.

This is a mistake. As Conan O’Brien says in his quote above, it’s only through disappointment that we can find our way to trying harder, digging deeper, paying closer attention to what works in our lives. Yes, disappointment is the risk we take when we put ourselves out there and expect something back. But it’s a risk worth taking, because when we do get back what we are hoping for, our disappointments are forgotten.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great advice, Sharon. The key in dealing with disappointment is developing coping skills. When one has them, disappointment can be dealt with on a more rational level. When one doesn’t, the disappointment can never be overcome.

  2. says

    When I’m disappointed over little things, I try to apply perspective, which starts off with, “In the grand scheme of things…”
    When I’ve experience a disappointment of larger proportion, it’s certainly rougher water to navigate. I try to ask myself whether I could have done anything to change the outcome. If so, what did I learn? What can I do differently in the future? If not, then I try to be at peace knowing God is in control. That removes a lot of pressure and lessens the emotions for me. I don’t always model this well, but I’m learning.
    Linda D’Ae-Smith recently posted..Julia Child? Not even closeMy Profile

  3. says

    Very well said! Expecting more in others and if they don’t deliver disappoints me most. I am an optimist and I think some may meet my expectations. Finally I realize some can not be expected to go out of their way. Putting people in those categories sometimes takes years for me!
    Haralee recently posted..Snooping in the NeighborhoodMy Profile

  4. says

    I agree with Linda that self-talk is an important skill when it comes to managing disappointments, no matter what size they are. It’s all too easy to get all twisted and bitter and the various bad hands life sometimes deals, but ultimately, it’s pointless. The point is not what you get, but what you do with it.
    Karen recently posted..Awesome Advice Central: Beer and BiddiesMy Profile

  5. says

    Your making me think deeply about disappointment and how I can be a better person. I am thinking that it is unfair to others when I expect something of them they may not be able to deliver in the first place due to who they are or their circumstances.

  6. says

    This is a hot button issue for me right now, so your post was extremely timely. I am trying to learn a few things. One from the book, “The Four Agreements” is to not take it all personally. Each time someone disappoints, it’s more about them than me. Also, the saying (from Jon Kabat Zinn?) “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior” is another one I’m working on. Trying not to allow the disappointments consume us is what matters most. Trying to walk right through it to the other side – into the sunshine – is my goal. Wonderful post, Sharon.
    Cathy recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: With thanks to Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug & Gloria SteinemMy Profile

  7. AnaMaria says

    Thank you for the post- In my younger days, I believed that disappointment was saved for youth. As we all know that is not the case! One thing that is true, it is not the disappointment itself that matters, it is how we respond to it. I am still working on that.
    AnaMaria

  8. Claudia says

    Thank you Sharon, this spoke to me so much! Thank you for the encouragement and for reminding me to go for it and forget the fear of disappointment. Love, Claudia

  9. says

    I liked the way you put the following. “It’s only through disappointment that we can find our way to trying harder, digging deeper, paying closer attention to what works in our lives.” I firmly believe in getting the most benefit out of disappointment.

    1. To learn something from it that’s beneficial and that may even become a tenant in my life.
    2. To have it motivate and empower me.
    3. To try and find a workaround. Have I overlooked a way to change the situation around and make it satisfying? Sometimes all it takes is speaking up, asking and a little thoughtfulness.

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