How to Embrace Disappointment and Learn From it
I am not a huge fan of disappointment.
When I disappoint someone or disappoint myself, it can often lead me to feeling sadness, anger, and even shame.
How do you feel about disappointment?
Recently, I’ve been quite disappointed by some important people in my life and, in turn, they’ve been disappointed (and annoyed) with me.
As I’ve been noticing my strong reaction to these situations, I realize how I spend time focusing on doing everything I can not disappoint others while at the same time protecting myself against being disappointed.
Can you relate to this?
Don’t Let Disappointment Set You Up For Failure.
When we focus on trying not to disappoint others or worrying that people will disappoint us, we set ourselves up for failure.
And, as I’ve seen recently, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to speak our truth, be ourselves, and live with authenticity and peace.
Disappointment can have all sorts of adverse effects but it can also be a positive thing.
It’s essential for us to be able to overcome our fear of disappointment and learn how we can use disappointment to our advantage. This way, we can embrace it and learn from every disappointing experience.
Why Not Embrace Disappointment?
What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it?
Disappointment usually isn’t fun, but we don’t have to avoid it. It can actually teach us a great deal. It can play a significant role in our emotional development and can help us on the road to achieving our goals.
We will inevitably disappoint people, especially when we authentically live our lives. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us, and being true to ourselves are all things that at times won’t align with others and, in some cases, may even upset them.
However, we can be mindful 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 — all of which are essential for healthy, fulfilling, and authentic relationships — make us vulnerable to being disappointed and even hurt by the people around us.
Disappointment is an Essential Part of Our Growth
Disappointment helps us grow, learn, and improve.
We end up getting more hurt and disappointed in the long run by withholding our desires and expectations. So we might as well live out loud and be honest about how we feel, what we want, and what’s important to us.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Disappointment, as uncomfortable and even painful as it can be for many of us, is essential on our journey of growth, self-discovery, and authenticity.
Being okay with disappointing others allows us the freedom to be ourselves in an authentic way. It also takes away the pressure and stress we often feel about always having to do, say, or be a certain way.
Letting go of our fear of being disappointed by other people gives us the ability to take more risks and ask for what we truly want.
When we embrace disappointment, we create a sense of liberation and space that frees us up to be who we are and let go of our attachment and obsession with other people’s opinions. Of course, doing this isn’t always easy, but it can be transformational.
The Benefits of Disappointment
It makes you grateful.
When you experience disappointment, it can help make you feel more grateful for what you have. Whether you disappoint someone or someone disappoints you, it helps you better understand and appreciate the things you have in life, the people who have your back, and the fact that you can overcome anything.
It helps you learn.
When you experience disappointment, it can be a great way to learn a valuable lesson. In addition, you can use the experience as a guide to help you deal with similar situations in the future.
It motivates you.
Once you overcome feeling disappointment, it can help motivate you to grow and learn from your mistakes.
It makes you more resilient.
Resilience helps us recover and move on from difficulties, face challenges, and grow stronger each time we experience stress or pressure. When we go through a disappointment, it helps us grow, adapt, and make goals to become better in the future.
How to Embrace Disappointment
Here are a few things you can consider and do to expand your ability to embrace disappointment:
Take inventory of your life and relationships.
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?
Be honest and take responsibility.
As you notice areas, situations, and people in your life where fear of disappointment is present, see if you can tell the truth about it in a vulnerable way to the people involved. For example, you may say to a friend, “I want to ask you for this favor, but I’m a little scared to do so because I’m worried you will say ‘no’ which might disappoint me” (or something to that effect). Take responsibility for how you feel and remember that your issue with disappointment is all about you, not them.
Practice saying “no.”
Saying no 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 an astonishing amount of value in being someone willing to say “yes” in life, there is also a great deal of power in owning our “no” as well. See if you can practice saying “no” to people, even if it’s scary or uncomfortable. Be authentic and vulnerable about it — with yourself and others. And see if you can expand your capacity to decline requests of things you don’t want to do and make peace with yourself about it.
Be Kind to Yourself
As you delve into this, be kind to yourself. Showing yourself kindness is a big one for me and so many people I know and work with.
We all want to be loved, valued, and appreciated in our lives. And, most of us have had painful experiences of disappointment in the past, which have profoundly impacted us. However, if we can alter our relationship to disappointment — we can grow stronger and transform our lives and relationships in a beautiful way!
Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog below.
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 published on August 10, 2009, and has been updated for 2021.