We’re All Mad Here – Dealing with Disappointment

As we all know by now, life is full of disappointment; you don’t get that collaboration you wanted, that vintage dress you wanted is the wrong size, you didn’t win that title you worked hard for and your social media growth is non-existant… and these are just the ones I’ve heard from pinup friends over the past week. We can’t help but be dealt disappoint from time to time but it’s really important to know how to deal with it to ensure future happiness. So this week, I thought I’d put on my mental health professional hat and talk about disappointment. If you were here looking for pretty dresses, that feeling of disappointment you’re feeling right now will be explained.

Disappointment can be described as the feeling you get when there is a disconnect between our expectations and the final outcome. Generally, the size of the gap is directly proportional to the strength of the feeling. So basically, when things don’t turn out the way we hoped, those feeling and unfulfilled desires fester and start filling us with negative thoughts and emotions. Everyone reacts to disappointment differently, some criticize themselves and start thinking that they’re not good enough or begin to believe that nothing ever works out for them. Whilst others display a combination of self-doubt, discouragement, despair, depression, and despondency. Disappointment can quickly fester into some very destructive (and self-destructive) actions further affecting our mental, physical and social wellbeing. So what do we do when we’re disappointed and how do we move on?

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Step 1: Always acknowledge how you feel.
Being disappointed sucks but if you reflect on how you’re feeling, you’ll find that there are deeper feelings that can help explain what’s actually going on. For example, you didn’t get that collaboration you really wanted, your disappointed but perhaps your feeling resentful towards the person who did get it as you feel it’s always them in the spotlight. Other examples include feeling vengeful towards a business partner who betrayed you, being angry at how you were treated by an individual after a break-up and even feeling jealous towards someone for winning a prize you really wanted. There is always something underneath the disappointment that needs to be acknowledged.
Ask yourself if you are blaming others or circumstances for what happened. Are you making up excuses, pointing the finger of blame or just refusing to accept responsibility for your actions. It’s ok to feel this way, it’s normal when disappointed but you cannot let these feelings hold you back. By identifying why you are disappointed, you can help identify any and all expectations you originally had and then move onto the next step.

Step 2: Get rid of unrealistic expectations.
Take a moment to evaluate and reflect upon the expectations you had of yourself and others; are they fair, realistic, flexible or did you see the situation too narrowly? You could also have been thinking in a selfish or petty manner which resulted in feeling disappointed. Ask yourself, “do my expectations need to be adjusted for next time?”. If you think you need to, call a friend-tervention and get a dose of reality from people you trust because if you can’t identify unrealistic hopes, you cannot move on so bury those unrealistic expectations.

Step 3: Rethink and replan your goals.
Being disappointed can be a bitter pill to swallow and we often feel like we’ve lost the battle but, by taking a moment to re-connect with our overall purpose we can still win the war. Why did you pursue this goal in the first place and how does it fit with our vision for our life? If we reconnect with the “why” of whatever we were seeking gives us the patience and courage to stare down the disappointment and start from scratch. Now is the time to decide if you need a new strategic vision or just a new way of approaching what seems to be the right thing for us. It’s ok to fail time and time again, preserving in the face of apparent failure allows us to get to the next phase of the process.

Step 4: Take a step back and disidentify from the disappointment. 
If you look at a photo that’s so zoomed in its basically blurred pixels, you have no idea what the picture could be; you need to zoom out and then you can see the entire image. Disappoint is basically the same concept; you need to take a step back and disidentify from the painful disappointment feeling and see the bigger picture of the situation. This also includes seeing the possibilities and potentials that are embedded within the disappointment. By seeing the bigger picture, we can see what we are being asked to learn from the situation, we see what else we could do and/or what could happen differently in the future. It is here where we realize that maybe our original goal could not have suited our lifestyle or the person who left us wasn’t really there for us to begin with. It’s time to split illusion and imagination from clear-headed reality to allow us to reach the next step.

Step 5: Connect with your strengths and support unit.
It’s totally ok that for the first four steps you have felt disempowered but now is the time to identify the skills and strengths which help you to turn the situation to your advantage. Reflect on the knowledge you have gained since the disappointment which can be now used to create a new plan of attack (think about feedback from others as well). Reflect on the tools you have at your disposal, what support you have around you and with a clear mind, how can you reevaluate your future plans. For example; if a friend has left you, maybe now if a good time to spend time doing things you want to do, or if you didn’t get a job you wanted, maybe now if a good time to sharpen your skills of self-presentation for a job which may be more suited to you in the future. This is your time to look at all the positive things that have come from the disappointment and spend time in your support unit (there are online counseling sites in case you really do feel alone and want to talk and feel supported).

Step 6: Reset, restart and move forward. 
All these steps have now made you re-appraise the disappointment from an expectation that was not met. To avoid future disappointment (although this is never guaranteed), ask yourself how you can pursue your objectives realistically, with less rigidity and not lose hope. You don’t have to lower your goals but maybe approach your dream from a different angle or with smaller steps. Now is the time that a genuine acceptance of the past and a solid commitment to move forward will really help. Everything in life is an experience and although not all of them are good or fulfilling, there is never anything stopping you from reaching your dream goals.

Working towards goals is a very personal and sometimes difficult journey. We never know what can go wrong or how badly we will fail along the way; in saying this, it is never ok to be a horrible person. Disappointment can turn ugly very quickly so please don’t be petty and pathetic by spreading rumors, backstabbing or being jealous of anyone else. We all have different dreams and goals and you don’t need to trample over people to make yourself feel better, you won’t win in the long run. It’s good to be kind and encouraging to others; kindness will never make you a lesser person. If you are currently feeling disappointed because of something, take time out for yourself and work through these steps no matter how much time you need. These steps are not supposed to be done in 10 minutes so it’s ok to take your time to reassemble your life. Also, remember that there are mental health professionals ready to help in case the disappointment really does consume you.

It’s been a hot minute since I’d done a mental health blog but it feels like as the year draws to a close, people are starting to panic and the claws are coming out when in fact it’s all just stemming from disappointing from outcomes. I hope these steps help; I have found them to be really successful with my counselling clients and thought it’s time to pass them on to you.

-Sending love, Mon.

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