Recently, I found out that a work project that I’d spent weeks preparing for wasn’t going to happen. The opportunity was scrapped for reasons out of my control, and when the news dropped into my inbox, I immediately felt that familiar pit deep in my stomach that always seems to accompany true disappointment. (Also, how weird is it that the gut is so connected to our emotions? But I digress…) In that moment, I had a choice: I could attempt to avoid future disappointment by “not getting my hopes up” (i.e. the self-protection instincts that we frequently employ but rarely actually work), or I could allow myself to feel the disappointment, accept that I can’t win ’em all, and take a few learnings from the experience. Then, move on.

photo via jacqueline mikuta

featured image via taylr anne

You know what’s funny? That pit in my stomach didn’t last long. Whereas a few years ago I would have gone home and replayed the events through a sleepless and tear-filled night, this time I was able to look at the situation from a wider perspective. I was able to see that yes, I had missed out on a great opportunity, but there will be more of those in my future. I reminded myself that for those of us who dare to chase big dreams, some of our efforts will be huge successes and others won’t work out the way we plan. And most of all, I was comforted when I shared my disappointments with a trusted group of family and friends who magically understood just what my heart needed in that moment.

photo via taylr anne

A couple years ago I wrote a post about How to Cope with Disappointment, and today I wanted to take it a step further to examine how disappointment can actually be a blessing in our lives – with surprising benefits that can come from it. Read on for what I’ve learned, and I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

photo via could i have that

Disappointment strengthens our resiliency.

Resiliency, the incredibly important ability to recover quickly from difficulty, is like a physical muscle that has to be stressed in order to grow stronger. When we heal from the strain we’ve put on our muscles, they grow back tougher and more able to handle greater amounts of stress in the future. Similarly, when we go through disappointing situations, we may feel weakened in the moment, but if we forge ahead and try again instead of retreating into our fears, those disappointments can actually be enable us to achieve great things in the future.

photo via nicki sebastian

Disappointment gives us empathy.

After being in a severe car accident several years ago, I spent a few weeks in the hospital. For the first time in my life, I was able to truly understand what it feels like to be in the role of “patient,” completely reliant on others for everything. And that’s the thing about empathy: you have to go through the fire to really know what it feels like (I know, it’s kind of a bummer.) I’ve noticed that when I experience disappointments in my own life, I walk away from the situation more equipped to truly empathize with others when they need my support.

photo via hello fashion

Disappointment makes us grateful.

When I received that email carrying disappointing news, I sat with my own thoughts for about 15 minutes, then I called my mom, texted my bestie, and had a long chat with my husband over dinner at home. That night as my head hit the pillow, I felt myself actually smiling with gratitude for the support of my squad. Nothing feels better than knowing that the people who love you have truly got your back, and sometimes we have to go through hard times in order for them to show it. My family helped me remember not to take everything personally, told me how proud they were of me, and then made me laugh with their crazy commentary on the situation. Just what I needed in that moment.

It’s inevitable that we’re all going to experience disappointment many, many times in our lives, but the beautiful thing is that we have a choice in how we respond. Will we embrace it as an opportunity to develop more humility and empathy? Just think: when our own plans for the future don’t work out the way we wanted, it could actually end up being one of the best opportunities ever.

11 comments
  1. 1
    Kelly Krause | November 6, 2017 at 7:31 am

    The universe, God, whatever you believe in is always working FOR us <3

    Reply
  2. 2
    Elisabeth Hayes | November 6, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I love your perspective! I hadn’t really thought about disappointment as a positive before, so I’m very thankful for your post!

    xo, Elisabeth
    http://elisabethhayes.com

    Reply
  3. 3
    Jennifer Rose Smith | November 6, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I love this, Camille. I’ve found that when we allow ourselves to be really vulnerable, and share our most painful, raw moments of disappointment with select friends, it can allow for really beautiful moments of human connection and friendship. Some of my dearest friendships were born out of hard times.

    Reply
  4. 4
    Cynthia | November 6, 2017 at 10:28 am

    This is all well and good, but as your business grows, so must your savvy. Next time a proposal comes up, negotiate a kill fee. If the party you’re working with changes course, you will at least get a monetary sum to soften the pain and compensate you for the time and effort you already put into the project.

    Reply
  5. 5
    Homes & Weddings | November 8, 2017 at 7:32 am

    This was an insightful read. Thank you for this today.

    Reply
  6. 6
    Emilie | November 13, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Great post! I have been in a similar position recently and you’ve reminded me of how important it is to stay resilient and keep trying for without that we’d miss out on great opportunities! x

    http://www.mes-dames.com

    Reply
  7. 7
    Natalie Redman | November 14, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Great post! All very true!

    Reply
  8. 8
    Mackenzie | November 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    This is an amazing reminder!! I completely agree with you. It’s also interesting how as we get older we are so much more equipped to deal with disappointments. Years ago, like you were saying, I would have curled up in a ball and dwelled on every single little thing “I might have said” to sway things the way they went. Sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s life. Thank you for this post, I love it!!!

    Mackenzie
    https://www.brunchonsunday.com

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | November 19, 2017 at 7:21 am

      Thank you Mackenzie – you are so right, and I love this reminder!

      Reply
  9. 9
    Mary Beth | November 18, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I really enjoyed reading the post. It was very relevant to my life right now and helped!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | November 19, 2017 at 7:21 am

      I’m so glad to hear it, that means a lot Mary Beth!

      Reply
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