The greatest thing I love about my childhood was the mentality my family raised me with – I could have, do and be anything I wanted to be. That clean slate makes it so easy for me to paint a picture of my life and future full of promise and success with little room for failure. As I got older and expectations stopped aligning with reality I began to struggle with feeling disappointed. Life slowly faded from that great mural I had painted in childhood. Disappointment seemed to dull the vibrancy of dreams until I realized that disappointment is a part of life. To properly deal with the disappointment, a few changes in perspective and action were required. It’s a lot like taking out the trash. No one really wants to do it, but the longer you wait, the more involved it becomes. Luckily, there are a few simple yet practical ways to deal with disappointment in your life that makes it easier the next time you are faced with it.
1) Take a moment
I was watching Gilmore Girls the other day (don’t judge me, I’m late to the party), specifically the episode when Rory was dealing when her first breakup and attempted to just move on without “wallowing.” Although I’m not saying eating 10 pounds of ice cream is appropriate…I am saying that when dealing with disappointments, it’s not only important but quite arguably necessary to address the fact that something happened which impacted your life. Another great example happens all the time when little kids get hurt or experience something that goes against the pretty picture of life we painted for them. Rather than allowing them to be sad, scared or frustrated, we attempt to distract them or compel them to overlook their feelings. We teach ourselves at an early age that feelings are negative and it’s best to ignore them when they come, especially in front of people. The next time something disappointing happens in your life, fight the urge to ignore how it makes you feel. If you’re sad, cry; angry, find a healthy way to express that anger; frustrated, vent to a strong person. The first step in dealing with disappointments is to truly take a moment to experience the emotions that come with them.
2) Don’t take the blame.
When life happens and disappointments arise, our first response is to blame ourselves. Thoughts such as “well, if you hadn’t done this” or “ if you hadn’t said that” creep in and eventually the disappointment ends up being a consequence we deserved rather that something that just happened. It seems to be human nature to villainize ourselves and let others off the hook. Do yourself a favor and don’t let others off that easy. The key to getting through disappointment is accepting the fact that, despite how or why, you are now facing a situation that didn’t go as you had planned. Whenever you have the urge to take the blame, remind yourself if you had control over the situation, the outcome would have been different for you. Don’t take the blame for something you did not do.
3) Find Accountability
We owe it to ourselves to take the pressure off of ourselves when it comes to expectations.The only way we can do this is through communication and accountability. If a disappointment came through an individual, we owe it to them to not let them skate off free without knowing how they let us down. Many times small letdowns become monumental issues in relationships because of our unwillingness to communicate how someone disappointed us. We allow letdowns to build up until they cannot be fixed. In marriage, the workplace, ministry, friendships and countless other areas, small disappointments have always been the root of major collapses of establishments. The simple truth is this; you cannot hold someone accountable to change if they don’t know what they did to hurt you or let you down. It’s like yelling at a kid for coloring on the wall, yet you have never told them the walls are not for coloring. Communicating the how and why’s of disappointment opens the door for accountability for the future. When you feel the frustration of repeat disappointment in your relationships, ask yourself – have you communicated effectively with those people? You cannot hold people to the expectation of not letting you down if you haven’t communicated with them on what you want. If you’re realizing your actions are a primary source of disappointment in your life, still find someone to be accountable to. Express the areas of your life you want to see improvement in and allow them to hold you to those goals and help your reach them.
When dealing with people, disappointments are inevitable. Let’s fight the urge to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you find yourself feeling disappointed with life, take some time to determine the source of those issues. If it’s a job, relationship, unfulfilled dreams or a stagnant career, find a way to incorporate these three steps into dealing with that disappointment. You’ll be surprised how addressing the issue can change your life.