I’m a pretty “glass half full” kind of gal, which serves me well except for those times when my assumptions that the best will happen don’t really pan out. It’s those times that I’m taken off-guard, shocked to learn that, occasionally, the worst does indeed happen. Today we’re talking about disappointment, that universal feeling that is an inevitable part of life but is still so tough to deal with. And although it’s painful, it doesn’t have to break us.
There’s the everyday kind of disappointment that most of us can handle, no problem (favorite salad sold out at lunch, boss didn’t notice the amazing job you did on a project, Match date turned out to be a loser.) It may not be fun, but we can pick ourselves up and (in the wise words of Taylor Swift) shake it off. Then there’s disappointment, the kind that won’t be healed by a quick pep talk or a long soak in the tub (the job of your dreams didn’t work out, best friend totally betrayed your trust, pregnancy test turned up negative, yet again.) I’ve found myself in a couple of situations that were of the latter variety over the last few months. Although I’m unable to fully elaborate on the details, suffice it to say that they knocked the wind out of me and left me gazing at a glass that now looked, most definitely, half-empty.
Of course, since I’m the kind of person who recoils from the thought of wallowing in misery (at least, for more than a day or two), these experiences left me with a desire to come up with some coping strategies for disappointing situations, because, hey: this wasn’t the first time I’d felt it, and it certainly won’t be the last. And since everyone in the world experiences setbacks, I believe that our ability to be resilient plays a huge role in how happy and successful we are in achieving our goals. By coming up with some steps to healing from disappointment, my hope is that in the future, they won’t keep me (or you) down for too long. And these same strategies may even help us bounce back more quickly from the little hiccups that happen every day.
So, after first talking it out with a friend and thoroughly allowing myself to feel the disappointment I’ve experienced (always necessary first steps), here are a few actions I’ve recently taken to get over my disappointment, reclaim joy in my life, and move on so that I can accomplish what I really want to be doing:
- Take a creative approach. I always feel better when I take a proactive approach to a problem and, instead of feeling like a victim, get out a pen and notebook and jot down ideas for ways to get myself out of this mess. Negativity can stifle creativity, so first, remind yourself that it will be okay, then take a deep breath and allow your mind to freely brainstorm alternate approaches to the problem. Is it worth giving it another try? Or even better, is there another tactic you can take? Are there other resources you can tap into or a different response you could take to the issue? Disappointment clouds our judgement, so take a step back and be open to the fact that the best possible scenario may still be out there waiting for you to find it.
- It may not be personal. While it’s true that our actions bear many results in our lives, sometimes, life just happens and a situation is out of our control. When I experience disappointment, I often find myself obsessing over what I could have done differently to change the situation. Sometimes, the answer is “absolutely nothing,” and sending myself on an endless guilt trip is a pointless and destructive exercise. The only thing that is always in our control is our response to the situation, and we can can choose to either be driven by the things that happen to us, or we can choose to stand true to our own principles and act in the way that reflects our truest and best selves. Of course, sometimes, our actions could have resulted in a different outcome, making it especially important to…
- Adjust your perspective. Look at the big picture and reevaluate your attitude towards the outcome. Maybe we labeled it as “terrible,” when there actually could be positive consequences to the way things worked out. And there’s almost always something that can be learned from a situation. Sometimes it takes time and distance to figure out what that is, but there’s no doubt that the toughest situations in our lives are usually the ones that mold us into wiser, stronger, savvier women. And although it sounds simple, I often feel better when I just remember that while the situation may be sucky, it is not the end of the world.
- Adopt an “others” focus. There’s no better way to give your attitude a total makeover than choosing to smile, ask others about themselves, and empathize with their feelings instead of focusing on how miserable we are. Think about everything in your life that you have to be grateful for, including your family and friends who are always there for you. There’s nothing like getting outside of ourselves to help us forget the problems that once seemed so insurmountable.
Disappointments will happen to all of us, and we can either let them make us cynical, or we can use them as an opportunity to grow into stronger women with a deeper wisdom and a heightened empathy towards others. I’d love to hear in the comments — what have been your biggest disappointments, and how have you moved on from them?
“Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” -unknown