How well do you deal with disappointment?

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I recently received some disappointing news. I will resist the urge to say the news was devastating- it was not, just inconvenient and it brought a costly implication. Nothing we could not handle as a family!

Disappointment is a fact of life. It will come in many forms whether we like it or not.  It is therefore our responsibility to build up a resilience to disappointment.  It is our responsibility to ensure disappointment does not ruin our day, week or month. Easier said than done I know, especially if it impacts on your family members.

I do not recommend that you plan for disappointment but that you operate with an element of flexibility.  Life is never black and white – there are always shades of grey.  However much we plan, life throws the odd challenge here and there. We must endeavour to throw them back.

As a child and teenager I handled disappointment badly and also found it difficult to cope in particular circumstances.  I recall receiving earrings for my birthday, I must have been 13 or 14 years old. One of the earrings broke as I was clearly too forceful when attempting to put them on. I sat and sobbed for hours. My mum tried to console me but I would not allow her to. I felt terribly sorry for myself and wanted to wallow in self pity.  I knew then I struggled emotionally but had no idea how to work my way through it so my dramatic reactions to disappointment continued into my twenties.

We have such different characters and thresholds for disappointment. Someone I know of booked a break for her and family. Her child fell ill near the travel date (not seriously ill) and they were unable to attend. They were not reimbursed so lost all payments. She was easily able to shrug it off and move on and I admire her for this. 

It is important we understand how we absorb information and news – good or bad. There are mechanisms one can use to reduce anxiety around facing disappointment. Whilst none are guaranteed to bring an immediate turnaround, they can serve as a starting point to you taking control.

1. Stop whatever you are doing and breathe easy.  If at work, walk away from your desk. If at home go to a quiet room to gather your thoughts.

2. Do not make any rash decisions. At times one may wish to quickly ‘find a solution’ in order to ‘make it all better’. This could bring further calamity.

3. Try not to blame yourself when life does not go as planned. Not every challenge we face is a product of our wrong doing.

4. Stop aiming for perfection – it does not exist and it is a tiring process living to prove your worth via work, family, hobbies etc.

I hope my mechanisms for facing disappointment have been helpful. Perhaps you can share your personal experience.

How do you deal with disappointment?
Have you improved on this over the years?

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22 thoughts on “How well do you deal with disappointment?”

  1. I think one gets chiseled down by the years and while you may not get as excited as you did about some things as a child, you don’t get as terminally disappointed as you once did. Life teaches that good or bad: this too shall pass and like you wrote, accepting that requires flexibility in our perspective. So while older folks may not be as flexible physically, they may be more flexible in handling disappointment.

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  2. This is really good advice for disappointment. I’ve dealt poorly with disappointment at times in my past. I think lots of us are really bad at it as teenagers. I spent so many hours of my childhood crying over things I can’t even remember now. I think that with age, I get better at picking myself up and moving forward. But there are always days where disappointment can take over if you let it. So I try not to.

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    1. Thank you Erica.

      The things we mulled about as children/teens meant so much to us then but are completely trivial now.

      When my daughter is upset about anything at all, I remind myself that children are easily affected and need constant reassurance and support.

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  3. I think the hardest kind of disappointment to get over has been that in people. When I stopped having expectations that people would behave the way I wanted/needed (have I?), I started to spend less time being disappointed.

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    1. Rosemary- we (or I) have a tendency to expect people to treat us in the way we treat them. Life just does not work in that way and once we realise this, we can let go of resentment and any other negative feeling.

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  4. Excellent post, Phoenicia. Your advice for handling disappointment is most wise. I think that flexibility is indeed a key factor, as is maintaining a positive attitude, knowing that everything happens for a reason.

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  5. Good advice on handling disappointments, Phoenicia!
    Heart breaks, loss and failure that eventually lead to disappointment are part of life and little can we do to avoid them.

    I try to compare my pain with people who are in far severe pain around me. If they can smile why can’t I? This motivates me to keep fighting .

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  6. Nice tips Phoenicia. Growing up I dreaded disappointments and I reacted to them negatively, but now I’ve learnt through experience that my negative reactions only made things worse for me rather than solve problems.
    We face disappointments, and learning how to deal with them positively will reduce the stress and damage negative reactions can cause. I have learnt to calm down and think through the situation, then find solutions to the disappointment.
    Thanks again for sharing x

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  7. If you do not know what disappointment is, you never really lived. We all want to be happy, but I will admit, the best adventures I ever had started out with a disappointment.
    I think of disappointment as those bumps in the road that your car hits, you can sit there and curse when you hit one, or yell in excitement when you go over them.
    Eventually, you might need to change your shocks or tires, but before then, enjoy the ride.

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  8. I think I am a pretty resilient person so while I do get disappointed, I try to take everything as a learning experience if I can or just try to move on.

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  9. Disappointment is easier to swallow if a person can maintain a certain degree of hope. At least that’s how it’s generally gone for me. Life has thrown me a good number of curveballs that bring tons of disappointment, but as long as I keep a bit of hope, I know things are not permanent and will get better (though they will also be different).

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  10. Good advice. Thank you for sharing about times you and others were disappointed. This post comes at a good time for me since I am facing several types of disappointment right now! I’m going to try your advice.

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