Disappointment is a big word and such a big part of our every day lives. I mean it obviously isn’t something that we want to experience as a feeling but its a word that we often associate with so many experiences over the years and one in particular stands out for me.
I was brought up in a very strict catholic family and there were lots of expectations of how I should behave as a child and a young adult. Boys, make up, parties and general frivolity were all things that were severely frowned upon and, whilst I loved my parents dearly, I yearned for the day when I could be free from the restrictions and restraints that this sort of upbringing imposed on me.
Despite being a rebel in the making I was, and still am, a people pleaser at heart so generally played by the rules to avoid that nasty confrontation that inevitably followed an act of defiance. I say generally as on the occasion of my 18th birthday I decided to go all out and channel my inner Lindsay Lohan (she was a rebel right?). I slapped on an excessive amount of war paint, swigged back some Tesco’s own brand cider and headed for the local nightclub with my gal pals. I can’t remember what I was wearing but I do remember that I was wearing my Mums antique silver and onyx bracelet (oh yes you know this is going to go horribly wrong).
Fast forward a few hours of intense partying and I staggered back home in a drunken haze and quietly let myself into the house. It would have been a perfectly executed rebellion if I had noticed the strategically placed family sized box of cornflakes in the hall. As it happened I crashed head first into the console table and landed in a noisy heap on the floor where I was found by my mother who was not best pleased at this display of less than ladylike behaviour. The next morning I woke dry mouthed and slightly anxious at what lay ahead and when I realised that Mums silver bracelet seemed to be missing it amplified to a whole new level so I did what all good rebels and cowards do – I left a grovelling apology on the kitchen side and made a run for it.
When I returned home later that day my Dad had been to the nightclub and retrieved the bracelet and life could return back to normal but I knew I wasn’t off the hook yet. I was waiting for it and the sense of anticipation and dread hung like a damp fog in the air. Anything would be better than this- a quick smack around the ear or a beating with my Mums carpet slipper (these were the days when it was acceptable to throw a white board duster at a child’s head during class and not face twenty years behind bars).
It came…eventually. “I’m so disappointed in you Elizabeth”. I only ever get called by my “Sunday” name when I’m really in hot water. It was enough to knock me back into line and etch itself into my memory as one of those moments that you don’t ever want to relive again.
Most people manage to successfully work through their disappointment although my Mum did remind me frequently about said incident. We use disappointment as a learning tool to grow and improve and to avoid making the same mistakes again (I always watch out for stray cornflake boxes after a few too many glasses of wine) but its important that we have the tools in our self care kit to avoid it holding us back and turning into something less manageable than a passing sensation.
So to deal with disappointment we must first learn to understand why we feel this way and differentiate from what we can and cant control. Focusing on this can help us to deal with our frustrations appropriately. If it is out of our control then it is ok to feel disappointed but there is little that we can do about it. If it is within our control then what have we learned from the experience? It is also important to check that our expectations are realistic – very often we are so looking forward to something and have built it up in our minds so much that nothing will ever live up to this impossible standard and disappointment is inevitable.
Accepting disappointment is also important. A lot of people stay within their comfort zones to avoid failing and feeling disappointed but its important to remind yourself that you have had the courage to try something new and are far from a failure. If you feel disappointed in yourself then its ok to allow yourself those feelings – just don’t let them consume you.
Peoples actions and behaviours are also often a constant source of disappointment but again these are outside of our control so it is best to accept this and focus on what you can control which is your own behaviour.
Another good way of dealing with disappointment is to talk about your feelings or write them in a journal. Reflecting on a situation, especially with other people, often helps us to gain some perspective and let those uncomfortable feelings subside. This is particularly useful if someone is disappointed in your own behaviour. Talking about it helps us and them to put it in the past and move forward.
Another way of helping to avoid disappointment is to avoid the comparison trap. On a recent holiday of a lifetime to the Seychelles (ok that sounds a lot fancier than it should) I spent the whole week comparing my wobbly tummy and upside down traffic cone legs to my body beautiful, perfect friend who glowed in her hot pink bikini whilst I stretched my industrial strength black bikini buttons in an upwards direction to contain my increasing muffin tops. I felt disappointed in myself that I had not put in the effort to get my body up to scratch and instead I had mainlined on wine, cheese and crisps for months with a promise that I would lose a stone before the vacation which of course I never did. It was only when I started focusing on my own self care that I realise that this destructive and negative mindset only led to one destination and that wasn’t a gorgeous Seychelles beach – it was Pity Town. Instead of enjoying my holiday I wept silent tears of frustration because I didn’t measure up to what I felt I should look like. In a world where we are force fed images of perfection on an almost daily basis it is really important to not only avoid comparison but to focus heavily on the positive aspects of ourselves and our own lives which are unique and extraordinary.
Its also important to remember that disappointment is just a feeling. It isn’t meant to destroy us and if we deal with it appropriately it can actually be used as a tool to help us grow and move forward.
Just a word of warning though – if you ever borrow expensive jewellery always fasten the safety clasp.