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Tips for Coping with Disappointment

back to the last time you were disappointed. Maybe it was when you didn’t do as well as you expected on a test, when your friend cancelled on you, or when things didn’t turn out as planned. Disappointment is a difficult feeling to grapple with. It’s not pleasant, but it’s certainly helpful if you can learn to recognize what it’s telling you. Disappointment can lead to difficult, yet important thoughts like “Am I not good enough?” “Why me?” and “How can this turn out better next time?” Not to mention, disappointment is inevitable; it will appear from time to time, whether we like it or not. Therefore, learning to cope with disappointment is a necessary skill to handle life’s ups and downs. Here are some tips to help you manage disappointment as it arises…

Normalize disappointment - Recognize that disappointment is part of the learning process. No journey is going to be perfect; there will always be bumps in the road. Start by telling yourself “It’s okay to feel disappointed right now.” With time, you won’t feel shame or guilt around feeling bummed when things don’t go as planned. Instead, you’ll be able to feel your feelings, and then move on from them. You’ll be able to look forward and maintain your goals because the disappointment won’t be holding you back.

Take a dialectical approach - Dialectics is all about opposites coexisting. For example, you can be disappointed AND hopeful. While disappointment and the events surrounding it can shoot down your confidence, don’t forget all of the successes you’ve had and all of the wonderful qualities you possess. You wouldn’t have gotten this far without all of the hard work and the characteristics that make you who you are. Remind yourself that you can be disheartened AND proud of yourself for what you accomplished. Or if those strengths of yours feel far away, let your support system remind you. Remember that feeling disappointment means you care, and this is an amazing strength. it means you want good things for yourself and that you believe in yourself.

Take time to honor a loss or a change in plans - You can’t move forward from something by ignoring it. Doing that will only cause the emotions to gnaw at you. Instead, take time to recognize the disappointment. Sit in your feelings. Maybe you didn’t get accepted to the college of your dreams and suddenly the image of your future has shifted. This shift is hard! And will take time to readjust. So give yourself time to grieve a loss, journal your thoughts and feelings, and reach out to your support system. Take care of yourself now so you can make the most of your situation later.

Understand how your disappointment can help you - There’s always something to learn from our experiences, so take time to reflect on your disappointment. What is it telling you? Perhaps you’re disappointed in how a friend is treating you. What is that teaching you about the qualities you want in a friend? Maybe you feel disappointed in a grade on a test. What can you do next time to meet your goal and get a better grade? Perhaps you didn’t win the championship game. What did the loss teach you about how to play a good game, and what skills have you learned so far? See what you can glean from your disappointment, and take those learnings with you as you power through to your next goal.

Disappointment is an uncomfortable emotion for us all. While it’s unpleasant, it’s also a sign of where we can improve. Make the most of your disappointment by feeling your feelings, recognizing your strengths, and learning about yourself. The feelings are normal, and it’s okay to feel down at first. What’s important is that you don’t let it stop you from achieving your goals. Continue to look forward because even though it didn’t work out this time, you’ll come back stronger for having worked through the disappointment.

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