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How to cope with disappointment and unmet expectations

Abstract figures placed in a circle, coping with disappointment. Mindletic blog

Disappointments are inevitable. How we cope with them is often a defining moment in our lives. How we respond to disappointment is often influenced by our upbringing; some people seek to avoid disappointment by underachieving (setting their expectations permanently low) while others seek to avoid it by overachieving (setting their expectations unattainably high).

Regardless of which way we lean, we can learn to respond significantly to disappointment. This can be usually done by adopting a coping style that seeks to understand what happened, checks whether our expectations were reasonable, reevaluates our perceptions and behaviours, as well as seeks positive solutions instead of dwelling on the past.

To navigate through disappointment it pretty tough to do in a world that expects a lot from us: be highly successful, find the “right one” and settle down happily ever after, and be rewarded for the hard work you have put into your job. As kids, we read fairy tales, and while there can be trauma and difficulty, most of the heroes and heroines go on to live happily ever after. 

There are things you can do to relieve yourself of disappointment from a past event and prepare yourself for any disappointments that are likely to come in the future.

How can you move out of disappointment?

.Accept that disappointment happens to everyone. 

It can be helpful to start by normalizing the situation. No one gets through this life without disappointment. Know that you are in good company and accept your state as perfectly normal.

.Start the process of reframing.

Reframing means taking any situation and putting a more objective “frame” around it. You can talk to someone. You can also ask yourself, Will this matter one year from now? A week? One month? A lot of times, asking this question will bring you back to reality. But it can also be helpful to actually write your disappointment down, like journal notes. Capture it like a journalist. Trying to separate the emotions from what happened is helpful to get some personal power back. 

.Change your self-talk.

Instead of talking to yourself as if this was the worst thing that could happen to you, shift your language to something more powerful (yet still true) – “It happened and now I need to figure out my next steps.” Or “I can do something different right now if I choose.” Any time you hear yourself say to yourself, “It’s the end of the world” or “I can’t go on” allow these phrases to be a trigger to shift the talk to something more positive.

.Make a plan.

Don’t make grand plans – “I’m going to move to Costa Rica and start another life” – unless you have the will and the means to do so. Instead, start small; set a goal of something you can accomplish and move confidently in the direction of it. Experiencing some form of accomplishment can send the message to your mind and your emotions that you can do it.

In spite of whatever disappointing experiences come our way, our challenge will be to not let bitterness take root. Therefore it is good to remember, that even though disappointment is inevitable, being discouraged or not is always a choice.

Sources for helping to cope with disappointment

#1 //  TED Talk // What I learned from 100 days of rejection

Jia Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends. Have a look or listen to his inspiration talk here.


#2 // Focus on self-gratitude

Consider all the reasons you are grateful for yourself. How much time do you spend criticizing yourself? And how much time do you spend praising yourself for who you are? Probably about 80/20 in favour of criticism if you are anything like most people.

Often this comes from our parents who, without knowing, were constantly trying to correct us when we were small. So we grow up with the feeling that we are doing wrong, that there is something wrong with us. But you are truly amazing, and you hardly ever acknowledge it.

List all the reasons you love and cherish yourself: your looks, your personality, and your actions. Really try to realize and feel how awesome you are.

#3 // Keep yourself motivated

Life becomes a little simpler when you accept that as we pursue our goals, there will inevitably be challenges and barriers along the way. This is why a few extra sources of inspiration, such as motivational books, never hurt anyone. Have a look at the list here.


#4 // 15 Questions to help you feel confident now

According to Emily Roberts, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help boost your self-esteem and help you feel confident now. These questions can be answered quickly, or something you take more time to ponder on. The more time you spend thinking about yourself in this manner, the better you will feel. Take a look.


#5 // 8 Unrealistic Expectations That Will Ruin You

Believing that you’ll succeed really does make it more likely that you will. It also means that you’ll need to let go of some erroneous expectations that will only get in your way. Have a read.