How To Get Over Disappointment & Live A Full Life
Hope is the element that keeps us going; the thing that aids in our well-being, and it’s the secret sauce we need to create our best life. Without hope, we don’t have enough energy to move forward, to be optimistic, to dream. But when things look especially grim, it’s hope that supports our growth and allows us to change our mindset.
However, the cost of hope is a disappointment and you can’t have one without the other. How we handle disappointment is extremely important, for if we let it overwhelm us to such an extent that we’re powerless, then hope becomes harder to access.
We have numerous disappointments—large and small every day—and we get used to them. If you go through a major disappointment, it’s not a good idea to suck it in and push your feelings aside. Disappointment sucks and even though it’s a part of life, it doesn’t mean that it’s something that anyone seeks out. There are better ways of dealing with disappointment than pretending that you’ve never experienced it.
14 tips to help you get over disappointment
Take the time to feel your feelings
This suggestion comes up a lot, but there’s a good reason for it. When we don’t take a moment to sort out our feelings and we react, it often comes from a very negative space. Sometimes you just need to sit a moment, identify what it is that you’re really feeling, and then you're better able to take positive action. “The best way I know to get over disappointment is to actually let yourself feel it,” says Nikki Bruno, Power Coach for Women. “Emotions have a way of popping right back up, in magnified form, if we deny them, swallow them, or try to get around them.”
Remind yourself everybody goes through it, too
Everyone, no matter how together they may appear or how you may think that everything they touch is successful, feels disappointment. Being let down or not getting something that you wanted happens to everyone, all the time. It’s part of the human experience, so the last thing you want to do is make yourself feel even worse for being disappointed. “Just because you feel bad doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong,” says writer/jazz musician Adam Cole. “It’s essential to make a distinction between the feeling of disappointment and a feeling of shame for having failed.”
Don’t judge yourself for caring
There’s an idea that’s floating around that suggests everyone could benefit from not being sensitive or caring when things don’t go our way. However, it’s good to care about an outcome, even if it wasn’t the outcome you wanted. Licensed therapist and coach Tess Brigham says, “Don’t judge yourself for ‘caring’—there’s nothing wrong with being passionate and excited about something.” When you don’t care, you’re not invested, and that’s like living half a life.
We’ve all had those moments where we feel sorry for ourselves and wallow in feeling that life’s so unfair—especially to us. As tempting as it can be to indulge self-pity, the reality is that it takes away our feelings of empowerment, independence, and impacts our ability to make our own choices. Instead of indulging in self-pity, remind yourself that you have control over how you feel and what you do with the challenges that confront you. Focus on your self-worth.
Look at it as an opportunity to grow
We learn from our failures, so turn your disappointment into a lesson. Was the thing that you wanted always out of your grasp, was there something you could have done differently, or will the disappointment make room for something better? You might make these same mistakes again or maybe because of this disappointment, you’ll be able to avoid them.
Don’t overthink what might have been
It sucks when we don’t always get the things we want, but it won’t do you any good to dwell on it. You can’t change the past and not moving on with your thinking will cause you to be stuck and apathetic. You took your moment, now it’s time to move on or else you’ll just be hurting yourself further. If you focus too much on the negative, you may find that you’ve put up barriers and made it difficult to focus, problem-solve, or even take a tiny positive-step in a new direction.
Put it in perspective
Think about if after some time has passed if this disappointment will have any bearing on how you feel or where your life is at. In most cases, it will be easily forgotten. If it’s a huge life-changing disappointment, focus on the positive things that you have already in your life. If someone outside of you was looking at your disappointment, would they see it as catastrophic? Probably not. Restructure your disappointment as something to be grateful for and it will be easier to handle. “The fact is that you shouldn’t get everything you want or try for, “ says Adam Cole. “I can honestly say in hindsight that so many things I wanted I was later glad I didn’t get!”
Congratulate yourself for taking a risk
Hey, you know what? You put yourself out there, you had hope, and you took a chance. These are all good things, so you should feel proud of yourself. “We feel disappointed when we put ourselves out there in some way,” says Tess Brigham. “You took a risk, it didn’t work out as planned, but you took a risk and that’s what builds confidence and makes you stand out from the crowd. Most people make a lot of excuses for not taking a risk, you didn’t do that and that is all that truly matters.”
Show yourself some compassion
Be kind to the most important person in your life—you! Disappointment is tough and it can cause you to lose hope. You wouldn’t be a jerk to someone in your life who suffered a disappointment, would you? “Do not take things personally or internalize things,” says Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and board certified neurotherapist.“When you have given your best effort and even when you didn’t. It’s OK. Instead, offer compassion and understanding as to why it may have happened. Apply the same kindness and compassion you give others to yourself.”
You’re not perfect—no one is, but you’re amazing just the way you are. If we embrace and make peace with our imperfections, it helps us to recognize our worth. Dr. Jackson urges us to practice acceptance. “Accept that disappointments will happen. Learn from the situation and make adjustments next time if needed.”
Write it down
It can be helpful to write down your thoughts and emotions regarding your disappointment. Just the physical act of getting them down on the page can be extremely therapeutic. New York therapist Tzlil Hertzberg says, “A quick go-to is writing down what about the experience was disappointing. Get very specific, including identifying feelings and expectations, This can help to elaborate on how the experience fell short for you and perhaps you can find an alternative experience to satisfy what was missing.”
Tune-in to your inner voice
It’s easy to disregard what our inner voice is telling us. Focus in on what you’re telling yourself and if that inner voice is talking smack about you, change the narrative. Make sure that your inner voice is building you up, not bringing you down.
Talk it out
Talking about how you feel to a friend or mental health professional can be a very effective way to cope. They can give you a fresh perspective or just listen as you work the experience out for yourself. Maybe it was less about being disappointed and more about another feeling.
Identify and focus on the next opportunity
One sure way to get back some hope is to look forward to something. You didn’t get this thing, but what might take its place? You’ll be better prepared to handle the next opportunity. No one gets everything they want. The best is yet to come!
Jo Tucker, MA, Ed, grief specialist at Happiness Over Everything has this to say about how to get over being disappointed: “The reality is disappointment is a sign for us that we’re attempting to control the uncontrollable, and we’re giving away immense energy and power to these places. Through this process that addresses the emotional and mental aspects of disappointment, we get to know our values and motivators and we can adjust them to be more supportive and life-giving, therefore disrupting a pattern of disappointment in our lives and re-orienting ourselves towards greater ease and joy.”
You can choose to let disappointment stall you or you can use it as a way to propel you into continuing forward, growing, and gaining confidence. Disappointment is a snag; it’s not a derailment, and having hope is the thing that will get you on the right path again.