Processing Disappointment – lose control or self-control

disappointment 4

None of us can actually get through life without facing at least one disappointment. In fact, we probably can’t even get through a week or even a day sometimes without at least a little one.


Example of a little one – you could be driving half way down the street when you realize the Grande vanilla latte you order from Starbucks was served by a newbie in training who unknowingly filled the cup to the size of a tall. How dare they! Seriously?!? Ummmm, that is what we call ‘first world’ disappointment. But I’ll give it to ya, it’s still disappointment that if you dwell on it, you can allow it to ruin your day.


And in this type of scenario, if there are other more prominent disappointments happening in the background of your life that you are not dealing well with, then you are likely to become one of those psycho customers who takes it to the next level and rings the Starbucks Manager to unload your stress into the phone as if that half inch of missing caffeine in your day is your biggest problem. We all know those types!


Let’s be honest, we’ve all projected our bullsh** onto other people before. Some of us are big enough to recognize this and apologize for our childish ways, and repress the urge to do it again. While others of us don’t even recognize our craziness and carry on vomiting it onto the world as if those innocent people around us are to blame. However, I can probably safely say that if you’re reading this right now, the latter is NOT you. In fact, I can almost guarantee if you’re reading a blog like this, you are likely an emotionally intelligent person who would be able to practice self-control with your emotions.


But even so, sometimes, even amongst the most self-controlled of us, the craziness is justified. Sometimes the disappointments are just catastrophic. Or at least they feel that way at the time.


It could be the love of your life gone wrong and the disappointment of losing that dream relationship is just too heartbreaking to endure. Or it could be that dream job you were interviewing for not being offered to you making you feel crushed. Or the house of your dreams getting sold to someone else. Most of us have been there before in some way. It sucks, it truly does!


But… somehow… tomorrow comes and the sun rises again and we are still breathing… Now that’s crazy! I mean, amid feeling the lowest of lows, somehow life still manages to carry on. In the moment it feels like death, but we don’t die. We stand back up and keep going and we move on. Why is that? Well my theory is that the severity of the ‘death’ of the situation lives in the importance we place on it in our own minds. The more importance we place on a disappointment, the harder it is to let it go and move on.


And that’s what I’d like to talk about. The importance we place on disappointment in our own heads. Why do we do that? Why do we dwell? Why do we allow it to take hold of us? Why can’t we untangle our emotions from it straight after we realize it won’t happen and then just instantly move on without giving it another thought?


Why? Well because we are human. While some of us detach emotions from disappointments better than others, it’s still a struggle at times. We are still fragile on the inside to some degree. Our self-esteem can be weakened in the face of disappointments. We can see disappointments as a knock to our confidence and once that happens our ego flares up to counter act the insecurities that creep in. Unfortunately, when this cycle starts we can easily allow the disappointment to overtake us. We either try to run from it, fix it, or fight it, instead of just finding a way to let it go.


The key is to know when this is happening and know how to stop it. Knowing how to process disappointment out of your head quickly is the key to moving on.


I’m going to be totally honest with you, I used to suck at this! I battled to process disappointments quickly. That’s probably because I’m a high achiever who aims to win, and I win a lot. But the one thing I do well now is I treat failure as a necessity to achievement and growth. I see it as a necessary part of the process to progress because it’s always an opportunity to learn. That has been my key to overcoming disappointments, big or small. I don’t allow myself to dwell on them; I absorb them, embrace the lesson, and keep moving.


If you think about it, you’ll probably be good at processing disappointments in certain areas of your life and you might be terrible at it in others. For example, I’m good at processing disappointments with work related endeavors but I used to be catastrophic at relationship issues. That’s not to say the odd work related let down doesn’t get under my skin, because it does. But I am quicker to allow myself to move on in this space because it’s business and I can be more clinical about it. I can more easily say things like ‘their loss’ or ‘wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘live and learn.’ But in relationships, my heart was already involved and emotions were running higher, so if faced with a disappointment there, I found it harder to justify the lost opportunity and avoid dwelling. Or at least I used to be, thankfully I’m happily married now, but man, those years were rough, looking back.


Only you know what scenarios rattle your cage. The key is to understand that resilient leaders welcome disappointments and recognize them as necessities to progression.


Every time I’m faced with a disappointment now, I now think about it as necessary in my life right now and ask myself ‘what can I learn from this?’ Because there’s always something to gain, even when you feel like you’re standing in the dark alone.


You’re not alone. What can you learn from this?


Thank you for reading!