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4 Steps to Deal with Disappointment

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“Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” ~Unknown

For me, disappointment is one of life’s most uncomfortable feelings. It’s complex, containing a subset of other emotions like anger, hurt, sadness, and probably many others too subtle to identify.

Sometimes, those emotions by themselves are easier to deal with, but disappointment can leave me at a loose end.

I might not be sure whether I should feel angry, or just impatiently wish that I would hurry up and get over it. Disappointment can hover at the front of your mind and niggle at the back, bringing you a grey perspective on life, even if you’re trying to forget about it.

Here are 4 steps I’ve recently identified in my own process for genuinely getting past disappointment:

1. Let it out.

One of the hardest things to do in a world where everything is immediate—we are all under external pressure, and time is a scarce resource—is to just let yourself experience a feeling.

Even at the most difficulties times, such as grieving, on average we only allow ourselves 1 to 2 weeks off or work, and then we mostly expect to get back into normality again.

Human beings are not very good at allowing the experiencing of emotions in full without trying to speed up the process. The only time we have this ability in its purest sense is when we are young children who have yet to be told or taught what is socially acceptable.

Children will tantrum and cry and scream, or laugh until it runs out and they are genuinely ready to move on.

I’m not suggesting we lock ourselves away for weeks at a time whenever we have been disappointed, but to be aware of any sense of obligation to “just get over it.”

Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling without any agenda of speeding up the process. Whatever you are feeling is OK. Take some time to just sit with your emotion and experience it without moving to fix or change it.

Genuinely experiencing emotions, no matter how painful, is one of the beauties of life. Don’t shy away from these moments. Be present in them.

2. Get some perspective.

The wonderful thing about letting it out is that you have given yourself that time. You have said to yourself, “I care about you. I want to allow you to feel what you need to feel and I do not wish to push you or cajole you.”

You have treated yourself like a friend and allowed yourself the space you needed to experience your feelings of disappointment.

Once you’ve done that, it becomes much easier to get some perspective. After you give yourself space to feel, you’re able to give the situation or individuals involved more room to breathe.

Perhaps the person who you feel disappointed by doesn’t even realize they’ve done something to upset you. Maybe they’re stressed out and don’t have the emotional bandwidth to think about it because they aren’t allowing themselves time to experience their emotions.

Giving yourself space to be as you are prepares you to allow the same to other people.

Having a broader perspective than your own view on a particular situation is always helpful. The critical point here is that you have to mean it. Rushing onto gaining perspective before you’ve allowed yourself to be with how you feel will be artificial and will not last.

3. Know your own heart.

Disappointment can ripple through to the core of who you are. If you don’t know what your core values are, you may not have a framework to support you when you experience negative emotions.

For example, one of my core values is open-heartedness. I wish to keep an open heart and be ready to share love and kindness with others, irrespective of how they might behave.

I would like to always try to choose to act with love and kindness towards others, rather than with negativity.

When someone disappoints me and I feel like closing and withdrawing, I remember this core value, then pause and make a choice.

I wish to be an open-hearted person. These negative feelings are feelings, and they will pass. Do I choose to remain open-hearted, or do I choose to follow the easier instinct and close off?

More often than not, I choose to be in line with my values over the automatic response to the situation. It doesn’t happen every single time, but most.

Knowing your own heart and your values gives you the freedom of choice. You can choose to be driven by what happens to you, or you can choose to live in line with your principles.

The latter has helped me to overcome disappointments and negative situations in a healthy way. The challenge of disappointment allows me to practice living closer to my values, and stops me from being swallowed up by it.

4. Practice acceptance.

As human beings, even though we know that some things are bound to happen, we’re not always willing to accept them.

Every time I am disappointed, I feel overwhelmed by my emotions. I’m inclined to withdraw and blame others, wanting to wallow in my disappointment. Each time, I have to accept that I will feel these things again.

I have to accept that I will continue to be disappointed—that it is a part of life, part of being human. I also have to accept that I will probably continue to struggle to accept this fact, at various points throughout the rest of my life!

This step is a lifelong challenge and fundamental to dealing with disappointment. I will be disappointed, I will disappoint, you will be disappointed, and you will disappoint. Life will be disappointing—but it will pass.

Practice acceptance and we may suffer less as it is happening and notice the good things in life more.

Disappointment is a part of life, but all parts of life can help us grow. We can be present and aware even in the midst of negative emotions and therefore life more fully.

Photo by shawncampbell

Avatar of Raeeka

About Raeeka

Raeeka runs a website lovemindbodyheart.com where she provides free meditation and yoga videos, e-books, and consultations to help you live your best life.

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  • Jan Schlupp

    Wow. This truly came just as I wanted to read something to make me feel better about a recent disappointment. That’s a pretty fortunate coincidence. I love it.

  • Shar

    This is great! I needed this because I’m in the last year of high school and almost every week I get my subject exam’s results back. Right now, everything is fine. But I know one day, I am going to be strike by disappointment and it might make me feel uncomfortable for my next exam. I am relating this to the quote “Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” Thanks to this post, I am glad that I will be more aware when disappointments come in place. I won’t be on the ground, I will still stand up and experience the feeling.

    Thank you very much :)

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Shar, I’m glad this helped you! Good luck with it all.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    It’s great when that kind of thing happens isn’t it! I’m glad this was a fortunate coincedence & I hope it helped with your recent disappointment.

  • Fiona

    Thanks so much for this post, I’ve recently been having to deal with a series of disappointments, including someone close to me letting me down big style. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to deal with it and your post has helped me realise that i am on the right track. Thanks for laying it out so clearly. Great post. :)

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    You’re most welcome Fiona – I’m glad it’s helpful to you :)

  • Wendy

    Thank you for this awesome post. Just-in-time. :)

  • Plur_ferrari526

    i needed to hear this. thank you. i hope i am truely on the right path. these are obstacles in my life that i will conquer and win!

  • Julieanna carsen

    I was severely disappointed on Jan 2nd, 2011 when my son that I was 42 weeks pregnant with was pronounced dead when I finally went into labor and went to the hospital. 42 weeks of hoping, dreaming, preparing, anticipating… gone in two short words, “I’m sorry”. That was all they had to say- I definitely identify with your points of gaining perspective and the acceptance stage- and allowing yourself to feel an emotion once in awhile. Grief, however, is one of those emotions you just can’t stop. Thank you for this post! It’s pretty right on with many areas of life’s disappointments.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hlhorwath Heather Lee Horwath

    Thank you for helping me understand it is okay to have an open-heart. For years I have been told to “be bitchier” by friends because I am a “pushover”. Which I feel is untrue, I stick up for myself when I need to but I enjoy helping other people feel happy, why should I be mean? Your post reassured me that I am handling a recent disappointment in my own way, on my own time. Now I understand that it is okay to not have to retreat and protect myself and instead handle things in a more positive way, my way.

  • Diane

    I’ve been sitting at work for a week now letting myself feel the severe disappointment over the betrayal of someone I was dating and had allowed to get close to my heart. He changed overnight for reasons unknown, and I was wondering if allowing myself to have these feelings and not lower my standards as to mimic his behavior was worth it. Thanks for affirming that there is nothing wrong with practicing your values (such as not stooping to vindictiveness) and for the reminder that it is a blessing to be able to feel at all.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Heather, what a lovely comment. I’m so glad. I can completely relate & spent quite a lot of time myself figuring that out. It’s amazing what clarity you can have when you think about your values & what matters to you. I hope you are inspired to be open-hearted as you wish, & forgiving of yourself when you can’t be.

    Be who you are, what you value, who you need to be.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Oh Julieanne, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I’m glad you find the post useful, and I wish you the best.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    You are very welcome – good luck :)

  • Jane

    Curious: How does forgiveness work in these cases?

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Diane – glad that it helped – for me it was such a revelation to realise that I could be disappointed without behaving out of sync with myself and my values. I hope it’s the same for you.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Jane. Interesting question. For me, forgiveness is something that I value. I believe that people make mistakes & are fallible, and also often don’t realise how what they are doing might be hurting. For the most part, it’s step 3, knowing myself – that allows me to reconnect with my desire to forgive people. What do you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kris.kaplan Kris Kaplan

    Came home last night after a fundraising event i put on failed to meet my expectations. lots of no-shows, little money raised, stood around generally uncomfortable for two hours and couldn’t get home quick enough only to be confused with feelings of anger and sadness all at the same time. what do you do with that crap in your head. its a fund raiser for a great cause, how do you get mad at people for not coming that said they would, how do you make up for what the expectations of the charity were -vs- what was delivered. wow it was a tough night.

    today i read this blog and in seconds i at 42 come to learn that that suck ass emotion is called disappointment. I don’t like it at all, but wow how it motivated me to learn from the lesson, pick up the pieces, and go at it from another direction. giddy up.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Aw, Kris I can totally relate! I think it’s admirable that you give up your time to charity – it’s clearly one of your values & important to you, so yeah! Giddy up! :)

  • Jane

    It is something I definitely cherish but find very difficult to do as it feels like the forgiveness creates an emotional debt. That is, I’m doing something nice without receiving in return. Perhaps that’s selfish, but it just FEELS like I’m giving too much despite forgiveness being valuable to oneself. I hope that makes sense. I struggle with this.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Jane, how do you feel about people forgiving you?

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie Amundson

    Raeeka.

    Disappointment — what a compelling topic. Sometimes we seem to create more drama around a disheartening event so that we don’t have to feel it. More stories, more rumination. Although our lives are so busy, if we can find the feeling of disappointment in our bodies, then the actual emotion will only stay with us for about 90 seconds. However, it’s our stories about disappointment and injustice that seem to linger on and on.

    I appreciate you reminding us that we need to time and perspective to heal from disappointments.

    Thanks.

  • So Grateful

    What great timing for your post! These little “life lessons” seem have a habit of turning up just when I need them most! :)

    I have recently been disappointed by a friends rather “un-friend-like” attitude and behaviour towards me…. Open-heartendness and forgiveness are two of my core beliefs – both of which i have struggled to maintain during this situation.
    Reading your post has made me realise that, yes I have been disappointed – it’s happened before and it will happen again! – but it doesn’t mean that I have to let it take over me.

    I have taken ownership of what my contribution has been to the situation, but whilst I have forgiven my friend for her contribution, I have been living IN the disappointment of it.
    Now it is time for me to accept the disappointment for what it is; part of life, something that we are both experiencing towards the other, and most importantly a stepping stone for our friendship to grow from.

    Thank you!

  • Nancy

    I so agree with #1…we just don’t allow ourselves to do this. So much pressure! Thank you

  • http://twitter.com/mohan_kumar Mohan Kumar

    There is no global rule for how to live/feel, its up to the individual how to react to a situation. Live your life in your own way. Keep the great going dude.

  • Meredithrchapin

    I too am in a philanthropic career, and what I’ve always told myself is that I did all that I could do, I am not able to control someone else putting pen to paper or their foot to the ground. What I can control is my ability to spread the word, make connections, make the cause more known and know that someone out there will benefit from the hard work I’m doing, even if it’s not during my lifetime or when I’ll be able to see it. It’s challenging, believe me Im there with that feeling on many occasions, but know in your heart that you’re making a difference just from simply trying & doing your job everyday!

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose AlannahRose

    This is a great piece, Raeeka. Disappointment is such a tough thing to handle, and it seems to pop up in daily life so much that we are constantly dealing with it. Your 4 steps are very helpful, and I completely agree with #1… when things are uncomfortable, we want to push them away rather than just sit and experience them. That’s human nature, as you said. I am constantly working on that step myself!

    One thing I read (I think in the book “Feeling Good” by David Burns) about disappointment really stuck with me–never use the word ‘should’. By using/thinking that word, we are projecting our own storylines and creating imaginary situations which might or might not happen. Basically you can’t expect anything from anyone, because life just doesn’t work that way. I personally have found that having that mindset (expecting that people should act a certain way because I’ve done A, B & C) is one of my main sources for constant disappointment. Now it’s been so much easier for me to just let go of that. If I send someone a birthday card, I am never disappointed when they don’t reciprocate. I don’t expect someone to thank me when I make a kind gesture. I don’t judge someone when I ask them to attend an event or do something for me and they say they can’t, or even if they say they can and then don’t do it anyway. I am not excusing bad behaviour, and I make note of it for future interactions, but I am open to every possibility that comes from any situation in my life.

    Of course, I am human and this concept is a work in progress so it’s not as easy for me as I make it sound here, but keeping this in mind has truly helped my perspective. I am the kind of person who always lives by the rules and constantly gets frustrated/disappointed when other people don’t. I especially have a hard time with bad drivers who ignore all the rules and drive where they want as fast as they want and how they want… but thinking about how I can’t expect anyone else to approach life like I do helps me let go of how I feel they “should” drive and just accept that there are people like this and it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I am also forgiving with myself and try to accept that I am learning and growing and mistakes are inevitable. If I am able to stay true to my authentic self, being perfect doesn’t matter and can I accept myself “as is” in this moment, mistakes and all.

  • Rma

    Good post, I was actually disappointed in someone just this morning. Someone whom I am trying not to expect too much from to begin with at this time. Right now I am still in the midst of feeling it, I know I will let go sometime later today. I do hope that if I continue to be disappointed in this person that at some point when it happens, I will just accept it and let it go much quicker, because I do not want it to be something that I think about all day. I guess that is where being open-hearted comes in. But right now, today, I’m just not quite there, and that’s okay.

  • Pingback: 4 steps to deal with disappointment « Mindful girl, joyful girl.

  • http://mindfulproductivity.net/ Beverley

    Everyone has values…its the checking in with them on a regular basis that makes all the difference…and often that is the hardest part

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  • Lv2terp

    FANTASTIC article!  This really spoke to me and helps me to understand some feelings I recently went through…thanks you for the great tips and understanding! :)

  • Peter

    Just came across this post. This has been a lifelong issue and something I’ve always had trouble letting go of. Sometimes the memories and feelings are just so strong and I don’t know how to release them, especially when the person is no longer in my life so that I can understand why they did it. I’m going to try to apply these four steps. Thank you!

  • Pingback: 7 Ways to Benefit from Not Getting What You Want | Tiny Buddha: Wisdom Quotes, Letting Go, Letting Happiness In

  • Judy

    This is very helpful to me in putting perspective on a recent situation in my life.  Thank you.  You have made an enormous impact.  I have shared this with several friends.  

  • Dawsonscreek453

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This post helped me get some perspective. :D

  • Delerium18

    Thank you so much! I got stood up tonight and I really didn’t expect the person to be capable of doing something so hurtful towards me. I really thought he cared about my feelings enough to at least tell me he wasn’t coming but he didn’t even have the decency to do that, hence my disappointment, but your post has showed me that it is okay and normal to feel this way and that instead of wallowing in my own self pity, I can chose to remember that this is just a natural part of life and realize that although this will happen again, each time I will be stronger.

  • Shira

    Amazing writing!!! Thank you!!!! You’re terrific. I wish you were my bff or something :)

  • Wrightn03

    This post is a great “lift me upper”, sometimes when we are faced with disappointment, the best remedy is to acknoweldge the emotion.

  • Anna

    I spent thousands of dollars on driving practice but failed the test. Already in debt, i have to fork out another few thousand to learn again. The feeling of disappointment is beyond belief. I hope this article could help me heal..

  • natasha sneed

    Thank u……these steps help a lot….i appreciate the messages…..thank u again it really helped me with an issue that ive had for a long time;)

  • Jenna

    I didnt get the lead character in my school play.It really hurts because the girl i really dont like got the part.

  • Alexis

    Thank you this really helped. I just went for a dance audition and didn’t get it but my friends did. This page made it a little bit easier.

  • Ruby Wilson

    Thank you so much for this. I to want to live my life with an open heart, and be able to forgive others easily. although i am finding it hard right now, your piece has really helped me and given me a new perspective. thank you again :)

  • Celestial

    Thank you for this article. I am currently experiencing disappointment and wanted a different perspective. All of this is helping me and I feel lighter because of it. Thank you.

  • Guestmas

    Its Christmas. A day for family, love, and reflection. Once again I experience immeasurable disappointment from those around me. Thanks for your insight, I hope it comes in handy…tomorrow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004196233979 Drenaa Wilse

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’m dealing with a disappointment that might seem a little silly to most – I missed out on a lovely vintage item at an antiques shop that I really wanted, but figured I could find something similar online. However, when I went to search for it, I found out that the item I was looking for was very rare, and the prices were ridiculous. I could have had a very expensive item for cheap, but I passed it up and now I have no way of going back. I’ve never felt so disappointed about saying “no” to a purchase in my life. I feel a lot of regret and sadness about this. I hope it passes soon.

  • JULESY

    nice article . full of wise perspective and a great help!

  • Cmay

    Thank you

  • caryn

    I needed this. Very helpful advice. Thank you and namaste!

  • Joyce dela Cruz

    Thank you very much for this article, it helped me understand that life teaches us things which can please us or disappoint us, we should accept these for these are inevitable, no matter how hard we try to avoid them they will come but the good thing with them is that they will also pass and give us a lesson, without these we will not be able to grow as a person :))))))))))))

  • Anonymous

    The only person you can truly depend on is yourself.
    Once you learn that, people can’t disappoint you. You’ll be too busy taking care of your own life!

  • Liam Kay

    This was actually so helpful, the past part about acceptance really guided my when trying to overcome my disappointment, thank you so much

  • santiago

    very insightful, thank you

  • mike

    thx for the info. i just got married and my fiance and i went thru a few things before we married. i let them go and moved on. once i said i do i felt a new kinda love for her but in return she didn’t. i was very disappointed but I’m trying to move on. im just trying to set my feelings and emotions aside. its very hard but you’ve encouraged me.

  • karen karnen

    thanks you for helping me, I just felt a terrible disappointment and sadness, your post have showed me how to come back to my own way. I really experience my feeling, and suddenly i can give a space, I was breathe and smile, what a wonderful way, thanks for posting

  • CEW1512

    I actually googled “how to deal with disappointment” because I am just overwhelmed by it over something that happened tonight. Reading this article is helping me to just allow myself to feel disappointed, even though, like you say, it is one of the most uncomfortable mix of feelings. Thanks for helping.

  • Jasmine JK

    The same person keeps letting me down over and over again! She’s a teacher who’s agreed to help me outside of school (through webcam) to learn a Language she speaks and I want to do GCSE in and every time she chooses a time and day to meet online, she’s never there!! I keep feeling that rush of disappointment that I probably will never get to do the GCSE :/ I guess we all need to learn to accept our emotions because the true and honest fact is we can’t escape them and will have to learn to live with it! This really made me feel better =3 Thank you~

  • Happy

    For so many years, school has been part of my problems and it just brings me down easily that I will be overcome with anger and hatred towards my professor and fellow students for having such low grades. Thank you for this steps, I really am hopeful to get over with all the disappointments I have gone through and I may even use it as my strength rather than my weakness.

  • Angela Stimson

    I also googled ‘how do i get over disappointment’ and this site appeared like a godsend !
    The four steps especially the first step. I was asked to make a short film to promote a charity very close to my heart. I spent 5 weeks putting my heart, soul and expertise into the project. I did it as a gift. The person who runs the charity took a cursory glance at it on his smart phone while exercising at his gym, then texted me and said that it ”didn’t move him”. he would “give me notes to improve it”. I was crushed, its a beautifully crafted piece of film making. I started to show it to other people, in case it really was rubbish, and I just didn’t know it. It was loved by everyone else who saw it. Strangers and friends alike. People reacted to it as I hoped they would. However as he is not going to use it on his website, it is now completely redundant and won’t be seen by anyone. I am going to sit with the emotion for a while and not take on board the “you should have got over it by now” that I keep hearing, thank you

  • Ronah

    Wow. I am struggling with this as well.. I always tend to think that because I’m doing this and that, they ‘should’ also do at least half of what I did and that.

    But if I tolerate constant disappointment from someone, their behaviour won’t change. Do you have any advice on this? I’m torn between letting go of always getting disappointed and pushing someone to get better. :(

  • Mshel

    Thank you all for openly sharing your feelings. I too googled this because I just didn’t know how to deal with feeling so disappointed. I actually wanted to turn my back on my family and disappear. I turned 50 three weeks ago and finally got my degree and my family just assumed these events in my life meant nothing. I have done everything as a wife and a mom to make their lives special. To make matters worse my lifelong friends all forgot my birthday as well. So did my sisters in law. I lost faith in my family and my husband. I think I finally just could not take feeling so forgotten about. Then I read this post. I realize that everyone experiences disappointments in life. Talking makes you feel better.

  • DJ Thomas

    I have quite a story to tell. As of now I am 23 years old and I have no girlfriend at the moment. I have been trying for a while to meet the right girl but everytime I come close, the Carpet gets ripped out from underneath me. I am a really genuine, nice guy and Im always trying to do the right thing. Girls don’t care about that apparently. As of now I have a chip on my shoulder and I am bitter. I hate to be that way and it’s a challenge to get myself to rid of the bitterness. I have had dissapointment after dissapointment and I just feel like life is such a horrible thing most of the time. I feel like people are just evil and I am surrounded by them everyday. I try to see the positive in things but it’s really hard right now. P.s. that is not me in the pic lol that’s stone cold Steve Austin, I use this for my wrestling sites.

  • Ann

    “Basically you can’t expect anything from anyone, because life just doesn’t work that way.” Thank you Alannah for this sentence.

  • Ann

    Happy Belated Birthday Mshe and Congratulations on getting your degree! Although I don’t know you in person and despite the fact that your own family seems to neglect you (I experience the same thing myself so I know how that feels), I just want to assure you that you are PRECIOUS and how proud I am to hear you achievement!!!

  • Ann

    “The only person you can truly depend on is yourself.” Yes I certainly still need to learn a whole lot about this.

  • Ann

    “This has been a lifelong issue and something I’ve always had trouble letting go of. Sometimes the memories and feelings are just so strong and I don’t know how to release them.” I experience the same feeling. Thank you for sharing this feeling of yours. I’m glad I’m not the only one experiencing this struggle.

  • Geraldine

    @Ronah What you just asked is something I dealt with as I started down the path of buddhism.

    Just because you don’t expect something from someone or something, doesn’t mean you tolerate it or let them do unto you things that are not okay or to your standard of what you would like in your life.

    You can ask someone to respect you. And you can wish they do so. But if they do not, you can make a choice based on that knowledge of their values and how they treat you. Expectations in certain situations are okay if they are reasonable, but if you continually expect something to change without doing something different, you will always be set up for disappointment in that area.

    Not expecting something from something or accepting someone behaves incongruent with your values is not equal to staying at the receiving end of it. Make sense? I.E. “I accept he will always find his needs more important than our collective needs. I don’t expect him to change. I want someone who values our needs equally. Therefore, I will move along as I know and accept that is the way he is and it is something else I want.”

  • Angie

    Hands down favourite tiny Buddha article yet. Thank you!

  • Brenda

    Disappointment is the most confused period of a human’s life. Especially when it’s from a loved one, close friend or even a husband. It is the most difficult time in a man’s life and it could be a very sensitive situation to handle. Please when ever you are facing any challenge in life, remember to keep praying for God’s help and directions for what to do next.

  • LaWanda

    Thanks