Disappointment is a fact of life. It happens to every single one of us. People let us down. Things go wrong. Plans change. So why is it still so damn frustrating when it happens?
I should have been on a plane to Cancun, Mexico right now. I was supposed to be meeting other influential travel bloggers and making connections all over the world. I was supposed to be networking and learning how to grow my brand. Things were supposed to be happening for me. This was supposed to be MY TIME.
Ever been here? Where things are just NOT going according to plan?
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” – Allen Saunders
Instead, due to a series of circumstances, life has brought me to Pickles Gap Road in Conway, Arkansas (yes, really). And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been in a slump since I got here.
Disappointment is a tricky sort of feeling. It masks itself in emotions like hurt, sadness, anger, or depression. One of the reasons for this is that we don’t like to acknowledge disappointment when it occurs.
Because when you’re living boldly, chasing adventure, claiming your right to live a life of freedom & joy, everything is just supposed to be great, right? And when it’s not, you should be able to just brush it off and move on? RIGHT?
The problem with trying to barrel through disappointment like Mario is that even when you’re trying to pretend something doesn’t bother you, it eats away, niggling in the back of your mind like a parasite, casting a gray cloud over your eyes.
So how do we genuinely move past disappointment and back into a state of happiness?
1. Allow yourself to be where you are.
In a world that moves at the speed of technology, where we’re constantly looking ahead, planning, taking action – one of the hardest things to do is just allow yourself to experience an emotion.
Human beings are impatient. We want to speed up the recovery process and get back out there as soon as possible. We tell ourselves that we are strong, capable people who should be able to get over it and move on.
The messages we get from society reinforce this. Broke up with your boyfriend? Get back out there; plenty of fish in the sea. Lost your job? Start pounding the pavement. Even during the extremely tough times like losing a loved one we might take a week or two off but then we’re expected to get back to normal.
Now I’m not saying we should lock ourselves away for weeks on end every time we experience disappointment, but we do need to let ourselves feel what we feel without any agenda to “just get over it.”
Sometimes the only way through an emotion is just that – through it. There’s no detour around or shortcut over. Take some time to just sit with your emotion and experience it without trying to change it or fix it. The simple act of letting yourself feel something allows you to release it and move forward.
“Life is available only in the present moment.” – Thích Nhat Hanh, Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions
When I finally sat down and said “You know what? I’m really bummed out right now.” I immediately felt lighter.
2. Stop with the ‘should.’
I should have gotten that promotion. I should be the one dating her. I SHOULD be on a plane to Cancun right now. Sound familiar?
There’s a major problem with the word should.
When we use the words should or shouldn’t in relation to ourselves or others, we’re not living in the here and now; we’re not accepting reality. We’re dwelling on what we wish was or wasn’t. The word ‘should’ perpetuates a lack of self-acceptance.
When I say I should be doing something, what I’m really doing is reinforcing the negative – the fact that I’m NOT doing it.
“I should have gotten that promotion…but I got passed over again.”
“I should be the one dating her…but I blew it.”
“I should be on a plane to Cancun…but I’m not.”
When we try to tell ourselves that we shouldn’t be feeling a so-called “negative” emotion like hurt, anger, or disappointment, we’re really telling ourselves that there is something wrong with us. That we made a bad decision. That we are failing.
Being negative with ourselves does nothing to improve upon the situation.
“Shit on should.” – Maha Valerie Christensen
When you find yourself speaking in shoulds, try to re-frame the statement to accept reality, acknowledge your feelings about it, and focus on the opportunity for growth.
Check out these 3 empowering alternatives to ‘should’ on Tiny Buddha.
3. Remember who you are.
Last week I talked about identifying your core reason for doing what you’re doing, and how this can keep you going through the tough times. The same goes for getting through a disappointment.
Disappointment can crash over you like a wave and if you don’t have a strong concept of who you are and what your core values are, it’s easy to get swept away.
One of my core values is living my life with passion & using my unique gifts help people. Above all I want to inspire people to break through whatever is holding them back and realize that freedom is a state of mind.
Do I need to post pictures on Facebook of myself drinking margaritas with friends on a beach in Cancun in order to do this? Or can I inspire people just as much (maybe even more) by being exactly who I am, where I am, in this moment?
(I really hope I can, otherwise…well, there’s Photoshop.)
Another core value of mine – more of a mantra, really, is “adventure is an attitude.” This means living every day with an open heart. Whether I’m deep sea diving in Bali or being my sister’s horse model (yep, apparently that’s a thing) I choose to embrace the adventure in each opportunity.
Is holding onto my disappointment helping me live closer to these values? Uhhh, nope!
4. Let it out.
It’s pretty tough to have perspective when you keep everything buzzing around in your head. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we’re feeling and get stuck in a cycle of negativity. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own minds & clear our mental browser cache.
Maybe that means writing it down. Maybe it means talking to a friend or just out loud to yourself. Practice expressing your frustration without casting blame, wallowing in self-pity, or reinforcing a defeatist attitude.
If you need to, scream, curse, stomp around like a 3 year old for a minute (preferably not in public). Do whatever you need to do to let it out and let it go.
(I totally just got the Frozen song stuck in your head, didn’t I?)
“You can’t hold that many thoughts in your head at once. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to use your for mind for remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Having it all written down gives you an overview and makes it easier to find new connections that can help you solve the problem.” – Henrik Edberg, The Positivity Blog
5. Get some perspective.
Giving yourself the freedom to feel what you need to feel is telling yourself “It’s okay, take your time. I’m not going to rush you.” This gives you the space you need to regain some perspective.
If you’ve been disappointed by another person, chances are that person never intended to let you down, and in fact, probably doesn’t even realize that they have. Maybe they’re stressed out and just weren’t thinking. Maybe they’re going through something you’re not aware of. Maybe they’re not allowing themselves to experience their own emotions so it’s causing them to react badly.
Sometimes new information can help you gain perspective on a situation. I remember one time where I hadn’t seen my significant other in two weeks and we had a date night planned. Dinner, wine, candles, the whole shebang. I even shaved my legs.
On my way over, I got a phone call. “I’m really sorry, babe, but I have to go out with the guys tonight.”
I was pissed, I was hurt, and suffice to say, I was pretty disappointed. Then he went on to tell me that his best friend’s mom had just died and some guys from work were taking him out so he wouldn’t be alone.
Was I still disappointed? Sure, but having a new perspective helped me accept and move through it much more easily.
The important point here is that you can’t force a new perspective on yourself. If you try to rush this before you’ve allowed yourself to just be in moment and let it out, it won’t be genuine and it won’t last. We don’t always get the additional information we need to process disappointment quickly, so we just have to work through it.
“Trying to force yourself into a positive state of mind is like trying to chase all the darkness out of the room before you turn on the light.” – Me
6. Use your support system.
I’m certainly not the only person to experience disappointment, and neither are you. I’m willing to bet that you have people in your life who have gone through something similar and can help you get back in the right state of mind.
If you’re serious about living a life of freedom, passion & adventure, you should be surrounding yourself with people who support, inspire & motivate you to become the best person you can be.
Once you have those people in your life, use them (I mean that in the best possible way).
Newsflash: you do not have to do it all by yourself, nor is it even possible. But guess what? No one can support you if you don’t let them. We all like to put our best face forward, but the truth is that being vulnerable is far, far more powerful than having all the answers.
Hello, would Rocky have spawned 5 sequels if the guy had never lost a fight?
Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re struggling with something, or feeling frustrated. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you brave.
7. Remember the power of choice.
We know bad things happen. We know that people are going to let us down. We know that life is not smooth sailing all the time. We know this in our head, but that doesn’t mean we’re always willing to accept it.
I’ve been wallowing in disappointment all week. I’m not proud of this, but it’s a fact. I’ve been unwilling to accept the fact that right now I’m in Conway, Arkansas instead of in Cancun.
I have to accept that I am disappointed right now and I will continue to experience these feelings at various times for the rest of my life. It’s just a side-effect of being human and not a super cyborg.
Accepting that feeling this way is a part of life let’s me take back my power to be fully present in the midst of a negative emotion. That means I can choose to let it help me grow. I can choose to believe that my life is good and I am a fundamentally happy person even while experiencing disappointment.
We cant always control what happens to us, but we can control our responses.
Just in case none of this helps at all and you’re still totally bummed out…here’s a picture of an adorable kitten: