How do you feel about disappointment?
Many of us, myself included, focus on not disappointing others while at the same time protecting ourselves from being disappointed.
As I’ve been looking at this more deeply, I’m amazed by how much stress, fear, and worry I experience in my attempts to avoid the disappointment of those around me—family, friends, clients, and others.
But where do this stress and fear come from?
I can see that much of this comes from my own deeper fear of being disappointed and let down.
The irony, of course, is that no matter how hard I try to avoid disappointing others or being disappointed myself, it happens anyway.
By actively avoiding disappointment (of or by others), we set ourselves up for failure and pain. And, as I’ve seen recently, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to speak our truth, be ourselves, and live with a real sense of authenticity and peace.
What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it?
We will inevitably disappoint people, especially when we live our lives in a bold, authentic, and passionate way. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us, and taking care of ourselves are all things that at times won’t align with others and, in some cases, may even upset them.
However, it is possible for us to be mindful, empathetic, and aware of others and still be true to ourselves—these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Asking for what we want, counting on others, and trusting people (and ourselves)—all of which are essential for healthy, fulfilling, and genuine relationships—make us vulnerable to being disappointed and even hurt by the people in our lives.
Ironically, we end up getting more hurt and disappointed in the long run by withholding our desires and expectations. We might as well live out loud and be honest about how we feel, what we want, and what’s important to us.
Disappointment, as uncomfortable and even painful as it can be for many of us, is essential on our journey of growth, self-discovery, authenticity, and fulfillment.
Here are a few things you can consider and do to expand your capacity for disappointment in your own life.
Tips On How to Embrace Disappointment
1. Take inventory
Take an honest look at some of the most important relationships and activities in your life.
How many of your actions, thoughts, conversations, and more (or lack thereof) have to do with your avoidance of disappointing others or being disappointed?
Also, take a look at your relationship with disappointment in general—how do you feel about it?
Be honest with yourself and your feelings. When you’re honest with yourself, you can learn the most.
2. Practice saying no
This is a great practice, especially for those of us people pleasers who find ourselves saying yes to stuff we don’t want to do.
While there is great value in being someone who is willing to say yes in life, there is also power in owning our no as well. See if you can practice saying no to people, even if it’s scary or uncomfortable.
Set boundaries and stick to those boundaries. Be authentic and vulnerable about it—with yourself and others.
And, see if you can expand your capacity to decline requests to things you don’t want to do, remove things from your plate or schedule that don’t serve or inspire you, and make peace with yourself about it.
3. Expand and express your desires
Make a list (mental or written) of some of the most essential and vulnerable desires you currently have—the things you want but maybe have been afraid to admit (due to a fear of being disappointed).
Many of us don’t ask for, go for, or express things unless we’re pretty sure we can make them happen, get them, or be sure people will respond to them in a positive way.
When you allow yourself to tap into and express your authentic desires, even if what you want doesn’t seem possible at the moment, you give yourself the freedom to ask, dream, and create. One of my favorite sayings is, “The answer’s always ‘no’ if you don’t ask.” Start asking!
4. Be Kind to Yourself
As you delve into this, be kind to yourself. Grappling with disappointment is a big one for me and many people I know and work with. We all want to be loved, valued, and appreciated in our lives.
Most of us have had painful experiences of disappointment in the past, which have impacted us in a profound way. However, if we can alter our relationship to disappointment—we can transform our lives and our relationships in a profound way.
How do you feel about disappointing others? How about being disappointed? What can you do to make peace with and embrace disappointment in an empowering way? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more below in the comments.
I have written five books about the importance of trust, authenticity, appreciation, and more. In addition, I deliver keynotes and seminars (both in-person and virtually) to empower people, leaders, and teams to grow, connect, and perform their best. Finally, as an expert in teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence, I teach techniques that allow people and organizations to be more authentic and effective. Find out more about how I can help you and your team achieve your goals today. You can also listen to my podcast here.
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This article was originally published on October 15, 2008, and updated for 2022.
How to Embrace Disappointment and Learn From it (148.1)
The Power of Authenticity (48.3)
How to Move Through Your Fear (52)
The Power of Desire Without Attachment (59)