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Disappointment (n.)

The feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. 

 

Man, that definition is too real.

There’s nothing like that heart-stopping, gut-wrenching feeling of disappointment that plagues your mind with questions like:

  • How could this have happened?
  • Did I seriously not prepare well enough for this?
  • If I had decided to do the thing this other way instead, would have I succeeded?
  • Were my expectations set too high?
  • Do people think less of me now?
  • Am I just plain stupid?
  • What the heck am I going to do now that everything is all messed up?

This blog post inspired by my own story of a professional gig I really wanted with a certain prominent website, and after putting in a few good several hours of hard and totally unpaid work just to be considered for it, the gig was given to someone else I was competing with.

I took the risk and I lost.

It happens, but yeah, I was disappointed.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as not being good enough, losing something of value to someone else, or flat out being rejected after you pour your heart and soul into all the time and energy that it takes to try to achieve it.

 

I remember a guy I was friends with in university who was pretty much failing, but he still worked very hard and had a dream of fulfilling his career in accounting by getting his Chartered Accountant designation.

At one point, after seeking study help from our accounting professor multiple times, he was flat out told, “you don’t have what it takes.”

 

I didn’t hear him say it, but my friend told me those were the exact words he used.

What a thing to stay to a student.

A student spends 2.5 years of his life, thousands of dollars, and countless hours of time dedicated to achieving something he really wants and then he’s basically told “you should just quit now before you disappoint yourself” by an accounting overlord who has like twelve different degrees and professional designations and even wrote the dictionary-thick textbook we used in class.

Not only is it disappointing enough to have someone you look up to just completely lose faith in you, but the fact that our professor told him that he was setting his life up for disappointment was just plain disrespectful and wrong in every way possible.

It’s disappointment wrapped up in more disappointment, sprinkled with bits of belittlement and incompassion.

This calls for a Mr. Feeny moment to help balance out all the evil energy of condescending know-it-all teachers everywhere:

 


 

So anyway, my good friend the aspiring super accountant had every right to feel awful about himself because our accounting professor was actually Professor Snape in disguise.

But instead of surrendering to defeat, he simply continued to maintain a good attitude and got back to work.

It blew me away.

As someone who used to be pretty hypersensitive to criticism from the public, I just couldn’t believe that this guy brushed it all off so easily and kept going.

But he did, and that was around the same time when I started observing the way different people decided to interpret and react to certain unfortunate situations that were suddenly thrown in their faces.

And I wish I could say that he went on to getting his CA designation.

I don’t know if he did, because I lost touch with him and can’t remember his last name.

But I do remember that he got an entry-level job as a tax professional shortly after graduating, so that’s definitely something.

This guy had every reason to be disappointed in his lack of accounting giftedness and his terrible grades and he had every reason to decide to quit, but he didn’t.

What does that say about people, then?

It says that we can know and think whatever we want about ourselves and our lives, regardless of how other people treat us or how external events unfold.

 

Disappointment, then, isn’t the world trying to shut you down — it’s really nothing but your own inner refusal to embrace the learning, the hardship, the struggle, and the entire journey that’s required to succeed at something.

 

Disappointment is a symptom of failing to direct your own mind.

In reality, there isn’t really anything to be disappointed about, because it’s the struggle that builds people up, and there’s always something to be learned from it.

It’s up to you to attach real meaning to it rather than become distracted and obsessed with all the doom and gloom.

There’s a reason why movies don’t exist where the protagonist gets everything he wants right away without any struggle or hardship at all and everything just works out perfectly.

It’s just that we’d rather watch stories of other people struggle on the big screen instead of taking risks and living through similar struggles and successes for ourselves… am I right?

When you’re too busy feeling disappointed about something, what you’re really doing is deciding that the the world has granted you permission to throw yourself a pity party when something undesirable or unsatisfactory happens to remind you that you’re not perfect and neither is your life.

 


 

You don’t have to be disappointed, but you are anyway because you chose it — whether you realize it or not.

That’s a pretty big wake-up call if you ask me.

But let’s face it — it’s natural for people to really want their dream or their goal to work out as fast and as effortlessly and as painlessly as possible, and I’m sure that’s just an evolutionary side effect of how humans used to figure out how to survive.

 

There are about a bajillion reasons to be mad, sad, angry, stressed out, regretful and totally pessimistic about absolutely everything you are and everything you experience.

But why would anyone willingly choose to waste so much energy on feeling that way?

 

People don’t even realize that they can choose to interpret all the things that affect them however they want, and figuring that out is the first step toward changing your ways.

If you can simply recognize that you have the choice to say “hey, I don’t need to be so down at this,” then you’re on your way to a brand new level of thinking and feeling your way through life.

 

Survival instinct tells us to play the victim when faced with disappointment and failure, but our brains are so much more advanced than the average mammal that we don’t need to rely solely on instinct to decide what our lives will be like.

 

It’s true — humans have the most developed cerebral cortex of any other animal on Earth, impacting all the different ways we interpret perceptual awareness, retain memories, direct our attention, conceive thoughts, understand language, and experience consciousness.

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with any mental illness, you my friend have a friggin’ badass brain that is stronger than its mere ability to surrender to feelings of disappointment and fear and hopelessness when faced with something unpleasant.

That truly is a magical gift, when you really think about it.

Now, that doesn’t go without saying that accepting things as they are and staying positive about the future through those rough patches isn’t difficult, because if it were, the world would be perfect and I wouldn’t even be writing about this.

It totally is hard.

It really is — especially if you’ve spent a good chunk of your life clinging to pessimistic habits.

It takes some serious mindfulness and constant practice.

I can remember several instances even in just the past year when I let my emotions just fill me with disappointed — because in a reactive stupor, I chose it.

Somewhere along the line, my brain said, “Screw this! I’m entitled to be disappointed about this!”

And then I left it at that.

 

So pay attention to your thoughts and your feelings every time you find yourself reacting to an obstacle, a setback, or a complete failure — and become more aware of how your mind is choosing to interpret it.

 

I didn’t get the cool gig I really wanted, and I felt that wave of disappointment flow through my entire body after I read those grim words in that email this morning.

At that point, I knew I had a decision to make.

I could do what I used to do — convince myself I didn’t deserve it anyway, endlessly wonder how much better and more accomplished the person who got it really is, lower my expectations for myself as a safety precaution for my feelings, and then drown my sorrows in dark chocolate and red wine until I fall asleep.

That doesn’t really get me anywhere, though.

Reacting that way just makes it worse and reinforces the habit for the future.

On the other hand, I could take inspiration from my old accounting friend and make the conscious decision to change my thought process and look on the bright side.

I know for a fact that I did my best work to be considered for the gig, and that satisfies me.

I also know that there are a lot of other smart, amazing, talented, accomplished people out there who may not be better than me, but possibly just have different qualities that made them a better fit.

I now have the chance to look for other possibly greater opportunities, and it’s exciting to wonder what they might be.

 

 

As they say — when one door closes, another one opens.

 

Making the mindful choice to direct my thoughts this way is a persistent effort, and it doesn’t always win.

Sometimes, disappointment still wins, and that’s okay.

We’re all human, after all.

The important thing is to minimize its occurrence through practice and avoid making it a regular habit.

Work hard to pour your energy into what will come to benefit you, and it’ll make all the difference in the world.

 

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