Dealing with Disappointment

Thinking back to your childhood, would you have considered yourself a good sport or a poor sport? Did you throw the baseball glove on the ground when you missed the fly ball or refuse to high-five the winning team when yours lost? Or were you the kind of kid who could “shake it off” and be happy for the victors knowing that you tried your best? What about now? Has your reaction to disappointment changed with age?

We have all experienced the not-so-positive outcomes of feeling disappointed. Heck, you may even be struggling with disappointment right now! The thing about it is that it can pop up at any time throughout a typical day for minor reasons, or worse, show up in the outcome of something that you have been invested in or worked hard for. Whether that “let down feeling” is directed at yourself, someone else, a specific circumstance, an overall system, or just life in general – the reaction can be intense, self-sabotaging, and non-productive.

Your automatic reaction to disappointment may feel “out of your control,” but that’s not true! It is possible to develop impulse control and emotional regulation skills at any age. With increased awareness and practice, you can find healthier outlets for these negative emotions. And once you make the connection that your feelings and behaviors are a result of your thoughts – change is possible.

Fear (The Culprit)

If your tolerance for negative emotions is low, you may have built “protection” (a defense mechanism) from the feeling of disappointment. This protection involves not taking risks or not letting others into your inner world, for example. After all, if you are living your life in a chronic state of disappointment, then it won’t hurt as much when it comes your way. Right?

When this happens, you let fear take over and guide your decisions. By doing so, you miss out on potential opportunities to challenge yourself, grow, change, and possibly love. Instead of continuing this pattern, embrace how empowering it will feel to face your fears and come out unscathed. And dare I say, with more confidence and resiliency.

 Mindset (The Solution)

You are not living life to its full potential when you are wearing a protective shield. Whether your current pursuit is for happiness, calm, healthy relationships, or success – openness and fearlessness are key factors. Focus on changing your current mindset from “what’s the point” to “what lies ahead?” It also helps to lower your expectations and begin to enjoy the experience of life rather than to judge and compare to others.

Here are some easy tips for beginning to change your automatic negative reaction to the feeling of disappointment. Pick one of these positive coping strategies to incorporate the next time you are dealing with a disappointing situation. Repeat the word or phrase over and over until the automatic reaction passes then practice the action as soon as you can. Try going down the list before you turn on yourself or let the adverse expressions of disappointment take over.

 Positive Coping Strategies:

  • Vent to a friend
  • Lean in to calm and flexible thinking
  • Consider what you have learned
  • Look on the bright side
  • Scream in your car
  • Reach out to a therapist
  • Love on your pet
  • Punch into a pillow
  • Meditate
  • Practice breathing exercises
  • Give yourself a break
  • Give others a break
  • Lower/Release expectations
  • Sit with the pain
  • Try again
  • Cry
  • Exercise

Once you learn to let go of control and practice flexibility, it will become easier to view disappointment as a learning experience. Here, you will find more inner peace and increased self-esteem.

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