Learning to Manage Disappointment


Think back to your first disappointment. I was disappointed by friends when they didn’t invite me to their house. I was disappointed in myself when teachers would deduct a point from me for catching me talking during quiet time. At an elementary school age, every child experiences what it feels like to be let down and feel some level of disappointment. I would continue to be let down in middle school, high school, and college to varying degrees.


In middle school I felt what it was like to be let down by my very first crush. I felt sad when the men who came into my life weren’t measuring up to who I expected them to be. In high school, I was let down by friends. I felt the need to “fit in” with a particular crowd even though there were times when I knew I didn’t belong. In college I was disappointed in myself when I did less than perfect on an exam. I was disappointed that I wasn’t making a group of friends as easy as everyone else. My biggest disappointment came my senior year of college when I was interested in a guy who ended up not respecting me and my body.


Even though all of these disappointments were all different, they all shared something.  I internalized all of the betrayal, hurt, sadness, and feelings of rejection. I took out these feelings on myself only validating my feelings of worthlessness.


Before talking through my past with a therapist, I kept a lot of my hurt inside. Even in elementary school years, my way of coping with disappointment was to think about all the reasons as to why I deserved it. In my mind, when I was penalized by a teacher, it wasn’t because of the act of talking.  My thoughts were, “I don’t listen because I’m an awful person. I can’t follow directions because I can’t do anything right.” In middle school when I had my first heartbreak, I didn’t think of it as “his loss”. I felt it was because I wasn’t pretty enough. In high school I stuck around with a group I never felt I belonged with. There must have been something “off” with me and that was the reason I didn’t want to do what they were doing. In college when I experienced an awful violation of my body, like other survivors of rape, I blamed myself. If only I wasn’t texting him before, if only I didn’t go upstairs with him to be alone.  If only I wasn’t such a prude. All of these disappointments were not all my fault. At the time, I never could understand that.


When managing feelings of disappointment, it’s extremely difficult for me not to internalize. When I am feeling disappointed in my body when my medical conditions leave me in bed most of the day, I immediately start blaming myself. My body is terrible and can’t do anything I want it to. Nobody is going to want to be around me if this is what my life looks like.  I begin to compare which only validates the disappointment.


For me, although it is still difficult to manage this emotion, it’s important that I recognize it for what it is. It’s important for me to talk about this disappointment with a friend, family member, and my therapist. The more I talk about it, write about it, and connect with others who feel the same way, the easier it is for me to not store up these feelings and worsen my depressed and anxious thoughts. Managing disappointment involves communicating what you are feeling upset about. When the situation is replayed in my own mind, it’s easy for me to put the blame on myself. Saying “rape is my fault,  friends betraying me is my fault, doing less than perfect on exams was solely my fault, a boyfriend dumping me was because I’m ugly” just sounds so silly when I actually think about saying it out loud.


Disappointment shows up in many forms throughout life. It all depends on how you let these feelings manifest. I am working through seeing that there are many faults with those who bring on this disappointment. Maybe it’s not always a character fault, maybe a friend just had a bad day and weren’t themselves.  Maybe the teacher truly didn’t realize that the majority of the class was unprepared for the exam. Some disappointments, like rape, in my opinion are inexcusable. It’s important to talk through these disappointments to come to this understanding and not feel the need to hold all of the blame.


Turning this disappointment into a fault of my own did absolutely nothing to help how I felt inside. If anything it was validation over the years of why I wasn’t worthy. It was something that led me to cope with anxiety and depression through acts of self harm and an eating disorder. It was why I believed I wasn’t worth it. Until I started thinking  “maybe I am worth It” and eventually “I am worth It” I began to learn to manage difficult upsets in life with a little more ease.