Disappointments are inevitable and the way we cope with them can be defining moments in our lives. In the past year, the mental health of our country has been under the spotlight. Periods of isolation have increased the sense of loneliness some feel and it is the year that is marked by life’s disappointments.
We’ve all been there. The thing, the moment, the result we’ve been looking forward to. We may have even been visualising and feeling that feeling of joy the anticipated result brings us even before it happens.
And then… …it doesn’t happen!
It might be a small thing like the excitement of getting a carefully wrapped present and the expectation that it will be something lovely, something that you want and then you open it to find it’s not what you expected. We do our best to look happy and grateful but inside we feel just a little disappointed.
Or you might be looking forward to seeing a friend and spending time with them. Then they send you a message saying that something’s come up and they can’t make it. And what’s our reaction? “Oh that’s okay. No problem.” When really it isn’t okay and it is a problem, especially if you have made a special effort for them. It’s that disappointment again creeping in.
Disappointments you may have experienced
Other little disappointments might include:
being on a fitness regime to lose weight then stepping on the scales and seeing you’ve only lost a pound or stayed the same, or worse – put on a pound!
spending ages in the kitchen following a cake recipe that looked amazing and then getting it out of the oven, seeing that it looked nothing like the picture on the website and didn’t taste that great either
And there have been more significant disappointments too.
not getting the job you want (including not even getting a response to your job application),
not getting the sale you’ve put your heart and soul into
getting the contract with a client you’ve been wanting to work with, only to be told that the budget has been pulled, therefore no contract
These are just some of the many disappointments we have to deal with in our lives. And through the pandemic, we’ve had to deal with an additional roller coaster of disappointments such as:
looking forward to Christmas, then finding out we can’t spend Christmas with those we love
cancelled celebrations – weddings and graduations to name just two of these
then there’s 2021 going to be better than 2020. Then actually, we go into another lockdown, and it’s even longer, and the winter is awful.
Anticipation of going on holiday and now we can’t go where we want to go and even the places we can go are either fully booked or horrendously expensive
And then we look forward to summer and the weather’s really rubbish.
People do their best to mask disappointment but dealing with the highs and lows in quick succession are bound to impact mood which leaks out in our behaviour. Sometimes this leakage can give rise to some rather vile actions that we’ve seen recently.
What is disappointment anyway? Well, for me, disappointment is when we have a desired expectation minus the desired outcome or the desired result.
And that can leave you feeling frustrated, angry, annoyed, and basically a lot of feelings that we don’t want to feel.
But it’s more than that. We are whole human beings, sections of our lives don’t work in glorious isolation so a single disappointment felt in one area of our lives can seep into another and magnify so that a seemingly small setback can feel monumental when layered on top of each other. What can you do about it? Well, here are some simple things that you can do.
1. First, just go with the feeling.
Disappointment isn’t a nice feeling. I mean, essentially, I don’t know anybody that felt disappointed and, and has said in an upbeat cheery tone and smiling, “Oh, I feel really disappointed today!” Disappointment is a fact of life. So go with it. Let that feeling work through you, I think the worst thing you can do is stifle it because it will still be there. It will fester and then spill out when you least expect it. So just ‘be’ with it, accept that what you are feeling is normal and let it work through you. You may feel like crying and that’s okay because tears are incredibly cathartic. But take care not to lash out and hurt anybody physically or emotionally.
2. Then the next thing is to ask yourself, ‘’What could be worse?”
Nine times out of 10 there are a million things that could be a hell of a lot worse. So, for example, the last time I felt disappointed was when a friend who I had really been looking forward to seeing said they couldn’t make our date. After quite a tough week, this was something that had energised me through some pretty trying days. Naturally, I was disappointed. So, I said to myself, “If this is the worst thing that could happen to me today then bring it on!” Because there are worse things, such as being ill or someone I love being ill.
Actually, I think I probably stole that one from my Dad because when he was diagnosed with his second cancer, which was incurable, after the initial disappointment when he got his test results (disappointment being a mild word!). He quickly focused on what could be worse. For my Dad, the worst thing that could have happened was for my Mum to have been given that diagnosis.
3. Remind yourself, it’s a moment in time.
Most disappointments are like clouds – they do eventually pass.
4. Believe that something good will come out of it.
Even if you can’t see it at that moment. Once the cloud of disappointment passes there’s often some sunshine that breaks through.
5. And another thing is to do something nice for yourself
And ideally something that doesn’t involve you relying on anybody else, because there might be a chance that they might let you down and then you feel disappointed! So do that. And I don’t mean to partake in excess drugs and alcohol or anything like that!! It might be treating yourself to a nice piece of cake, or a speciality coffee, or cuddle your pet or watch a favourite film on TV. Just something nice for yourself. And ideally, something that you can look forward to.
Having simple tactics up your sleeve can be helpful in minimising the impact of disappointment when it happens.
"Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom." Sir Boyle Roche
Going through the weeks and months ahead, when nothing is certain, we need to be better prepared to handle disappointment more than ever before, not just for ourselves but for others too. If we don’t then there’s a risk that life’s everyday disappointments absorb other disappointments, triggering negative emotional reactions that can damage relationships. Disappointment won’t destroy us. We need to learn to take it in our stride. They are also incredible opportunities for learning, growth and strengthening our resilience if we can reflect on that experience well once the emotions have died down.
And, if you want to explore your emotional resilience more take a look at this fab Ted talk by Susan David.