How do you feel about being disappointed? How about disappointing others? 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 much of my life is focused on doing everything I can not to disappoint others, while at the same time protecting myself against being disappointed. Can you relate to this?
When we focus a lot of our attention on trying not to disappoint others or worrying that people will disappoint us, we set ourselves up for failure and pain. And, as I’ve seen recently, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to speak our truth, be ourselves, and live with a real sense of authenticity and peace.
What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it? It’s inevitable that we will disappoint people, especially when we live our lives in an authentic way. 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. It is possible for us, however, to 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 real relationships – do make us vulnerable to being disappointed and even hurt by the people in our lives. So what! We end up getting more hurt and disappointed in the long run by withholding our desires and expectations. We might as well live out loud and be honest about how we feel, what we want, and what’s important to us.
As Dr. Suess so brilliantly said, “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 me and many of us, is essential and important on our journey of growth, self discovery, and authenticity. Being okay with disappointing others allows us the freedom to be ourselves in a more real 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’re able to embrace disappointment, we create a sense of liberation and space that frees us up to be who we truly are and let go of our attachment and obsession with other people’s opinions. This is not easy, but is so powerful and can be transformational.
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 a fear of disappointment is present, see if you can tell the truth about it in a vulnerable way to the people involved. You may say to a friend, “I really want to ask you for this favor, but I’m a little scared to do so because I’m worried you will say ‘no’ and then I’ll be disappointed,” (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.” This is a great practice, especially for those of us “people pleasers” who find ourselves saying “yes” to stuff we don’t really want to do. While there is a great amount of value in being someone who is 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 real 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.
As you delve into this, be kind with yourself. This 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 impacted us in a deep way. However, if we can alter our relationship to disappointment – we can transform our lives and our relationships in a wonderful way!