Not-so-fun fact of the day: Sometimes, stuff doesn’t turn out the way I hope it will.
Maybe you can relate?
As a self-proclaimed optimist, I often find myself building up lofty expectations, and then wondering what the next steps should be when I find those hopes unfulfilled.The feeling of disappointment obviously isn’t something I enjoy, but it’s still a valuable opportunity to observe myself under less-than-ideal circumstances.
In other words, the way I face disappointment is a window into my character.
It’s easy to respond well to life when things are “going my way”, but when disappointment creeps into the scene, it’s far more difficult to display the kind of courage it takes to move forward gracefully.
I am by no means an expert on how to deal with disappointment in the best way.
In fact, I’m more of an expert on how NOT to deal with disappointment- hence the topic of this post!
So, I’ve narrowed down some of these poor responses to into 5 categories, listed below.
(Clearly, I have a LOT of room for personal growth and character development in this area!)
Okay- here we go. These are 5 tried-and-true ways NOT to respond to disappointment:
1.) Hang on to negative feelings.
No wound will heal properly if you keep touching it. In the same way, there is a delayed healing when you indefinitely hold onto your negative feelings, picking and prodding at the issue until your heart feels as raw as it did when the issue of disappointment first surfaced. You’re basically just getting in the way of your own ability to process those feelings in a healthy way. It’s ok to be disappointed, but it’s not ok to dwell in that negativity without any plan of action to process through it.
2.) Focus on how you measure up with others.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt.
This is a huge one for me! Comparison comes so naturally within the generation of Instagram snapshots and Facebook news feeds- carefully crafted highlight reels that portray our lives as we want them to be perceived. It’s hard NOT to feel disappointed when you get caught up in the comparison game. “I’d be way happier if my Saturday night was as fun as hers was.” “I wish I had what he has.” “I’ve been working out for months and still don’t have the awesome results she got.” Meanwhile, the hardship, struggle and ugliness of life is carefully kept under wraps; far from the gleaming image of perfection you see on your screen.
It’s just a game. We’re competing against an illusion.
The comparison game has no winners- everyone loses.
After all, there’s always going to be someone out there who seems to project a better highlight reel when compared with yours, and chances are, there’s someone else out there who looks at YOUR highlight reel and finds a reason to be disappointed in theirs.
Comparison is a one-way ticket to misery, so jump out of that sinking ship!
3.) Deny your emotions.
Pretending you’re not feeling disappointed when you ARE feeling disappointed is a terrible waste of effort. Instead of spending your emotional energy on denial (trust me, it’s exhausting!), why not try processing through those feelings in a healthy way?
Don’t be afraid of asking yourself the tough questions- ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ ‘Is my response healthy?’ ‘Will this matter 10 years from now?’ ‘Who can I seek advice from?’
As I mentioned in my 1st point above, it’s important not to dwell in negative feelings, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t address those feelings at all. Processing through those emotions, asking the right questions, and moving forward gracefully is a far wiser approach than wallowing in misery indefinitely.
4.) Make everything about you.
Many disappointments in my life were rooted in a perspective of entitlement. “I did a good job, so I deserve this result.” “I wanted it to happen this way, but I didn’t get what I wanted.” “Whiiiiine whine whiiiiine.” When I look at my life from an entitled standpoint, it’s far easier to fall into disappointments that could have been EASILY avoided by practicing a posture of thankfulness. With an attitude of gratitude, life becomes an opportunity to learn in spite of challenges. On the flip-side, the more inflated my ego gets, the easier it is to be deflated when things don’t work out the way I wanted.
Turns out, my mom’s timeless wisdom was right: The world does NOT revolve around me.
When I’m disappointed, it’s my responsibility to ask myself- “Does this feeling stem from a place of self-absorption?” And if the answer is yes, then it’s my job to course-correct. It’s time to go do something kind for someone else.
Serve someone without expecting something in return.
Get back on track and recognize that I’m not center-stage; Jesus is.
5.) Ignore the bigger picture.
I’m not the protagonist in the story of the universe. There’s a bigger picture, and a greater purpose to my very small role in God’s perfect plan. When disappointment gets the upper hand, and I don’t choose to process through it in a healthy way, I’m essentially telling God that I don’t trust Him. “My way was a better way.” I’m saying that I would prefer to be sad about how things “should have been” (in my own limited perspective), instead of choosing a hopeful expectation that God “will work all things together for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). Wallowing in disappointment is a rejection of hope.
Looking back on some of the biggest disappointments of my life, I can see the Lord’s hand on those situations.
Wishes don’t always come true, and that’s ok.
Expectations aren’t always met, but the world will keep turning.
Disappointment is a part of the story, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.