3 Ways You Can Learn To Stop Setting Yourself Up For Disappointment
Disappointment is that familiar feeling in your gut. It's that sinking feeling that makes you want to quit the day, curl up in bed and start “Grey's Anatomy” over for the fourth time, instead of being a functioning adult.
I do that a lot. When you're disappointed with your own life, nothing feels better than watching a lot of doctors' lives fall into a lot of trouble that pales in comparison to your own.
Maybe I'm on the show's fifth season because I've been feeling especially disappointed with reality lately. Everything feels like it's been coming up short of my expectations.
In the past week, disappointment has been my best friend. My teacher wouldn't let me turn in my final essay, despite my printer actually dying on me the moment I needed it the most. Printers are notorious for letting me down.
I had been looking forward to plans with a friend for weeks, only for said friend to cancel on me the day before. This morning, someone stole the bike I've had for six years from its locked rack.
It's been one of those weeks. Well, one of those months, really.
We all have times like these. We don't get the job. Our love is unrequited. We miss out on an opportunity. Our hearts get hurt.
Maybe one day, I'll look back and see that all those things were pretty mundane in the grand scheme of things. I'll still pass the class. I can buy another bike.
Like my dad always says, “Will it really matter in a month? A year?” Probably not. Absolutely not.
But in the moment, they matter a great deal. They consumed my mind.
When I'm disappointed — and I'm sure you can relate too — I try to place the blame on something else in my life. It could be God, someone else or even the universe.
Some days, the universe feels like a big, mean bully who steals my lunch money and makes fun of me. I feel powerless against it. I find myself saying things like, “The world hates me.”
In fact, I say this all the time. But in reality, it's not out to get me. I know that, but it feels easier to cast out the blame. This way, I can make sense of the world, and why it hurts so badly to be alive sometimes.
But the thing is, there is no one to blame. Sure, you can find fault in your friend when he or she forgets you had plans. You can find fault in yourself when you did something you really shouldn't have.
But that's what it means to be human. Humanity is imperfect: gravely so. With that comes mistakes.
We will never get rid of that sinking feeling if we can't learn to see ourselves for who we are. Sometimes, that means doing a few things that feel uncomfortable at first. Here are three ways I try to handle my disappointment in a healthy way:
1. Think about it.
So, something disappointing happens. You feel a wave of emotion. It'll be strong and overwhelming.
I've found people react to disappointment in two different ways. They either block out the emotion and don't feel anything at all, or they dwell in negativity for way too long.
It's not healthy to ignore your emotions, but it's also unhealthy to let them take over. Give yourself a set amount of time to sulk in your disappointment.
Set the clock for 20 minutes to an hour. Grab the wine and get in a good cry. But when that alarm goes off, your time is up. It's important to find a balance between working through emotion and not letting it affect you.
2. Don't think about it.
When that time is up, the dwellers have a hard time. I'm a dweller myself. Sometimes, I let that clock run for days.
Like I said, I started “Grey's Anatomy” over for the fourth time. But it's important that you distract yourself and find reminders that things will not always be this way.
I like to grab a blanket and go lay in the park. Nature has this incredible power to heal us.
Call a friend, read a book or go for a run. Make your mind think about other things, even when you don't think you can. This will ease the hurt faster and help you move on.
3. Let it go.
Disappointment is one of the hardest things to let go of. This is especially true when it's out of your control, or when your heart was so set on something that didn't end up happening.
People let things go on different timelines, and in different ways. No two hearts are the same. To learn how to truly let go and move on, you'll just have to experiment.
You'll most likely get a lot of practice because life is unpredictable. Humans are just along for the ride. But when you can let go of the things you can't control and forgive the things that hurt you, happiness and contentment naturally come next.
I had a particularly disappointing week. I'm not perfect, and I definitely haven't mastered how to handle disappointment.
I called my dad for reassurance. He said, “A lot of life is beautiful and unbelievably great. But a lot of it is also dirty and messy, even painful. You just have to try to stay even through it all, and not get too high or too low. Keep pulling through. Pretty soon, something amazing will happen, and you'll be able to see that life is actually pretty cool.”
So, there you go. My dad said it best: Life is pretty cool.
Stay balanced. Try to reason with yourself, and remember that life is full of surprises. An amazing one is bound to occur soon. You just have to hold on until it does.
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