Remember the first time you were disappointed? Maybe it was finally realizing you could not “marry” your babysitter, who you thought was the absolute greatest. Or perhaps it was realizing the Power Rangers were fictional. Maybe it was more serious, such as your friend sharing a secret you told them or one of your parents forgetting to pick you up from school. Disappointments come early and they hurt. As a kid, you learn to adapt to disappointment in some form or fashion. However, as you grow, the disappointments seem to grow larger as well. They become more serious, such as being unemployed and finding out you did not get the job or learning your significant other wants to end your two-year long relationship. When facing trials as an adult, the way you dealt with disappointment as a kid does not cut it anymore. An ice cream cone while watching cartoons will not pacify you the way it did when you were seven. That lack of comfort might leave you with a giant crater in your heart and your hopes shattered. Learning to deal with today’s disappointments, then, is critically important. Here are some strategies for doing just that.
Allow yourself to stew in the feelings for a bit. If you are mad, be mad. If you are sad, be sad. When you spend time allowing yourself to experience the emotions that come from disappointment, you validate the experience. Suppressing emotions will ultimately make things worse. Let yourself feel what you need to feel.
Take care of yourself. Self-care is a huge buzzword but also absolutely critical in all aspects of life, including when facing disappointment. Yes, have your moments where you feel terrible, but continue doing the things that usually help you feel good. Go to the movies, exercise, get outdoors, or whatever it is that normally makes you feel good.
Gather your support system. Relationships are most valuable during times like these. Rally the troops and lean on those who love you. Relationships can be incredibly helpful during difficult times. Others can pick up the slack when you are struggling, such as reminding you to take care of yourself, encouraging you, or helping you get your mind off the pain.
Learn from the experience. When dealing with disappointment, using the moment for something greater can help. Any lesson you can take away from the experience is to your benefit. Changing the narrative can prevent you from falling into constant negativity.
Make a plan for moving forward. There is a time for everything. There will be a time to stew in your feelings, and there will be a time to press forward. Make a plan for bouncing back; this will encourage and motivate you to keep going.
Pursue your desires again in spite of your fears. After you make a plan, pursue what you want. You might be scared because you remember the pain of disappointment. It is important to push through those fears and give yourself a chance to reach your goals.
Disappointment can hurt, but it is the most devastating when it prevents us from moving forward. Yes, an ice cream cone and cartoons might still be a nice treat when you feel down. However, using the techniques mentioned will help prevent disappointment from standing between you and your goals.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.