Most people have a fear of disappointing others, but the trickiest situation of all is when we disappoint ourselves.
Disappointing yourself can make you question your ambitions, your self-worth, and your abilities. It can make you feel both queasy and uneasy, like being stuck at the top of a roller coaster or eating that leftover sushi you definitely should have thrown out days ago.
Maybe it’s because only we know our true potential—and not living up to it invites unpleasant emotions like shame and fear and guilt to the party. Or, maybe it's because we know we're the only ones who can free ourselves from the sinking feeling—and it's a daunting task. Disappointing yourself can make you question your ambitions, your self-worth, and your abilities.
The good news: There’s a tool that can help us when we’re clinging to disappointment. It’s called self-compassion.
Research shows that “people who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better—they have less of a physical stress response when they are stuck in traffic, have an argument with their spouse, or don’t get that job offer—and they spend less time reactivating stressful events by dwelling on them,” writes Carrie Dennett in The Washington Post.
It’s part of grief, a part of life, and yes, a part of disappointment. The first step to getting over your self-shame is to simply accept what went wrong. Avoiding or glossing over it won’t help you move on.
The first step to getting over your self-shame is to simply accept what went wrong. If you need a good long cry, go for it. If you want to wallow for a few hours, you’re entitled. But then it’s time to brush yourself off and declare exactly where things went off the rails.
Simply saying out loud to yourself, “I’m disappointed because I didn't meet the goal I set for myself,” might make you see that this big issue actually isn’t the overwhelming monster you believe it to be—it’s actually a series of events that you can learn from.
It’s easy to judge yourself in these situations, but let’s take one or two steps back and find a new perspective. If your friend came to you with the same issue—she was disappointed in herself for not having a stellar quarterly review, or bombing her open-mic night—what would you say to her?
Probably not, “I’m so disappointed in you. You can do better.”
Rather, you’d be supportive and kind and listen to exactly what went wrong. Treating yourself and your disappointment like a close friend can help ease the blame and help you exercise more self-compassion.
Disappointment is directly tied to the expectations we place on ourselves. It’s a tale as old as time—you can even trace it back to your childhood.
I’m going to sell 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies today!
I’m going to win the Spelling Bee!
I’m going to take first place in the 400-meter dash!
It’s not that high expectations are a bad thing—by all means, reach for the stars! Sell the cookies! Ask for the definition to that noun! Run until your lungs burn!
But making sure you’re prepared is an important way to protect yourself from future disappointment. Consider whether your expectations were aligned with how ready you felt for that moment.
If you’re feeling disappointed, it’s only natural to want to reach for something to cheer you up. Hello, full weekends binge-watching Killing Eve. There’s nothing wrong with either of these tactics, but when you engage in them mindlessly to soothe your nerves or a troubled mind, it can often only lead to a negative feedback loop.
Experiencing the world around you will make you remember that this, in fact, isn’t the end of the world. Instead, distract yourself by treating yourself to something different. Carve out an extra hour to crack open that book you’ve been dying to read, or call an old friend and catch up, or go for a walk to the nearby botanic garden.
Do something that stimulates your mind. Experiencing the world around you will make you remember that this, in fact, isn’t the end of the world.
There are so many lessons to learn from major and minor failures or little blips of disappointment. The first major lesson? You know what not to do next time. When you've passed the "acceptance" stage, start to figure out where things went wrong by asking yourself the following questions:
●︎ Did you give yourself enough time?
●︎ Did you do the necessary prep work?
●︎ Did you set clear boundaries?
●︎ Did you ask for help?
Digging in to these questions will expose any of the flaws in your plan. Instead of saying, “Oh well, I guess it didn’t work out the way I wanted to,” or beating yourself up, you’ll be armed with knowledge and be able to pivot.
This oft-quoted statement might give you some comfort: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” But see, now you’re not going to do the same thing over and over again! You’ve learned from this disappointing experience!
Asking the right questions and understanding where your plans went off the rails is crucial to plotting your next big endeavor.
Instead of vaguely saying, “I’ll do better next time,” find the next similar deadline or event on your calendar right now. (Go on, we’ll wait!) Then ask yourself, “Am I fully prepared for this?” Chances are, you can use what you learned to dig a little deeper, research a little more, or ask for help if you need it.
Ah, yes, the most important lesson of all: The thing about being disappointed is that it reveals what you actually care about. You wouldn’t be feeling so upset if you weren’t invested in the outcome, and that in itself is a great thing. Disappointment can act like a radar system, pinpointing exactly where you are—and where you want to be.
The thing about being disappointed is that it reveals what you actually care about. While you might feel like shying away from it if things aren’t turning out your way, listen to your instincts. You’re disappointed because you care, and that passion is what will keep you moving forward.
When you take the time to learn from your disappointment, you’ll be more prepared than ever before the next time that presentation or conversation or dance battle comes up.
Learning to Identify the Source of Disappointment
Your reaction to disappointment and the way you choose to overcome it is often influenced by the source of the disappointment.
For example, if you applied for a promotion at work but did not receive it, you may feel disappointment and wonder at how things in your life may have been better had you been promoted. In instances like this, you must make a decision. You must decide if you want to stay at your current job with the employer who did not choose you or if you want to pursue employment elsewhere.
On the other hand, if your disappointment is related to the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one, you may find yourself questioning why things had to end. The disappointment associated with the loss of a loved one often leaves individuals feeling overwhelmed.Because there is no way to "undo" the circumstance, it may feel hopeless.
Denial Does Not Remove Disappointment
Many people have the mindset that if you don't talk about something it didn't happen. This is not true. This way of thinking can have negative consequences, which may compound the disappointment.
Long-term effects of unresolved disappointment may impact personal and/or romantic relationships. This often happens because someone who has been disappointed finds it difficult to trust others for fear of facing rejection or more disappointment.
Dealing with Disappointment
Feeling disappointment is not necessarily an issue to be concerned about. The inability to deal with the emotion and to let go of the pain can become an issue, though. Dealing with disappointment takes a conscious effort. There are some steps you can take to best handle disappointment so that you can let it go and move on.
One of the best ways to be emotionally aware is to acknowledge your feelings about the situation(s) that disappoint you. Being honest with yourself first will allow you to talk to and to be honest with others. If you have a friend or confidant that you can discuss these feelings with, they may be able to offer some perspective about the issue.
Additionally, seeking the advice of a therapist or counselor for unresolved emotional responses could be very beneficial. An experienced counselor will be able to offer you support and insight into why some feelings are easier to deal with than others. They can teach you healthy coping mechanisms to help you learn to let go of disappointment and move forward.
Disappointment has a way of leaving the person affected feeling anxious, as if in a constant state of turmoil. This is not conducive to emotional well-being.
Some days may be a little easier than others, but it is very important to learn to identify things that make you feel happy and at peace and to embrace them. Letting go of disappointment and of any anger or bitterness associated with it will free your mind of the turmoil and will help you to live a life of peace.
Look for Reality, Not Illusion
It is human nature to hope and dream. It's healthy to do so. However, when reality becomes mixed with illusion it is very easy to feel disappointed. When you are trying to decipher what is real, journaling or making lists may be helpful. Write down facts and how they impact your life. Journaling and writing your feelings are a great way to express your feelings while maintaining privacy.
Experience is a Great Teacher
Disappointment is inevitable. While it may not feel good at the time, experiencing disappointment and learning to overcome it can help prepare you for difficult situations later in life. Whether disappointment occurred because of a mistake you made, a missed goal, or poor personal choices, there is an opportunity to learn and move forward.
Give Yourself Some Credit!
Just because you experience disappointment, that doesn't mean that you have to beat yourself up. If you take the time to honestly weigh the positive and negative experiences you've had, chances are you have much more to be proud of than disappointed about.
Think about yourcharacter strengths. Are you a good friend or a hard worker? Do you like to do good for others? When you begin to view yourself in terms of successes rather than failures or disappointments, you may be surprised how much better you begin to feel.
We All Need Someone
No matter what disappointment you are experiencing, it's important to realize that we all have times when we need the help of others. Reaching out to family and friends who are encouraging can help you begin to overcome disappointments and let those negative emotions go.
When you need more help than just a friendly conversation, seeking the advice of a counselor or therapist is never a bad idea. Most towns have mental health and wellness clinics. Your primary care physician can also provide you with a list of counselors that they recommend. If you are interested in counseling, but not sure about the commitment to appointments or the financial obligation, online counseling may be an option for you.
How does disappointment feel?
Dealing with disappointment can feel overwhelming, uncomfortable, and scary. Disappointment hurts just like feeling pain from a physical injury. This is why many people will do whatever they can to avoid disappointment at all costs.
Why do we get disappointed?
Feeling disappointed is inevitable in life. We get disappointed for many reasons, but most of all when things don't go the way we expect them to. Or, an unexpected circumstance arises throws a wrench in our plans.
How do you deal with disappointment?
The best way to deal with feelings of disappointment is to acknowledge the pain and discomfort that you're feeling and give yourself time to heal and fully process your emotions. Talking to a counselor or therapist and the licensed professionals is a good way to learn how to overcome bouts of serious disappointment.
How do you recover from major disappointment?
Overcoming disappointment is possible if you allow yourself the time to experience your true emotions and heal from the disappointment. Talking to a licensed therapist is a good way to learn coping skills for how to respond to disappointment without getting bogged down by the negative feelings associated with this emotion.
What emotion is disappointment?
Disappointment is an emotion that we can feel like fear, anxiety, anger, even loss – all in one. Disappointment can be a mixed emotion where you feel the pain and distress of a loss while understanding that the disappointing situation happened for a reason. A psychologist or therapist can help you get to the bottom of what's causing your disappointment.
How do you express disappointment without anger?
Disappointment and anger often go hand-in-hand. While it is normal to feel anger when feeling disappointment, how you express and respond to that anger is a choice. Sessions with a licensed therapy provider can teach you new ways to respond to disappointment without reacting in anger.
What to say to someone who disappointed you?
If you have the opportunity to address someone who disappointed you, it's okay to simply say "I am disappointed." Making simple statements paves the way for your healing without getting into a long-drawn-out conversation about how they disappointed you. Talk to a mental health professional to learn how to have healthy conversations about your emotions.
How do I stop being disappointed in others?
The best way to learn how to manage disappointment with others is to understand that the experience of disappointment is a normal part of life. No two people will always agree, and people will disappoint you from timetotime (even in the best relationships). Learning how to manage your emotions and responses to disappointment from a licensed therapist is the best way to go.
Is disappointment a feeling?
You can look at disappointment as a feeling, or you can look at it as a circumstance that caused other feelings that you’re experiencing. Sometimes, disappointment can be enough to sum up your feelings, but sometimes you might want to use it as a jumping off point.
How do you heal from disappointment?
Healing from disappointment has two main components. The first is allowing yourself to accept that sometimes life is hard and that’s okay. The second is remembering that this isn’t the end of your life, and you can pick yourself up and turn things around.
Why is disappointment a good thing?
Disappointment is a difficult emotion, but it isn’t a bad thing. Disappointment can even be seen as a good thing.
For one, disappointment means that you once had hope or joy – otherwise, you wouldn’t be feeling disappointment now. Instead of using disappointment as an excuse to feel bad for yourself, use it as an opportunity to count your blessings.
Further, disappointment can be a source of inspiration. When we feel down, it makes us want to feel good again, which can encourage us to put in the work that it takes to improve ourselves and our lot in life.
What is the root cause of disappointment?
Most therapists and counselors will tell you that expectations are the cause of disappointment. Most of the time, when we’re disappointed, it’s because we feel that the universe owes us something – which is unrealistic.
Is every disappointment a blessing?
Whether disappointment is a blessing or not depends on how you look at disappointment. As mentioned above, you can look at disappointment as a transition period to count your blessings and rally your spirits before moving on to your next stage in life.
Is disappointment worse than anger?
Emotions like anger and disappointment aren’t inherently good or bad – all emotions are natural and healthy. What can be “bad” is how we let more difficult emotions like disappointment impact us and how long we hold onto them.
You may find that you have an easier time dealing with one emotion or the other, but one is not inherently “worse” than the other.
While disappointment is something that we all experience from time to time, it does not have to control your life. Learning to address disappointment and the negative effects it can have on your life is a crucial step toward mental health and well-being.