How to deal with disappointment
The weather was perfect, you’d packed your bags for your trip … then the flight was cancelled. Or maybe someone you thought was a good friend has made fun of you and let you down. Feeling disappointed is, unfortunately, a pretty common experience. While it definitely sucks, it helps to know that the situation you’re disappointed about will pass and you’ll have things to look forward to again.
Plan new things to look forward to
Planning other things to look forward to in the future can take the sting out of the situation.
Start small: there’s no need to try and change your whole life – you can plan small things to look forward to. It might be a coffee date with a friend, trying a different type of workout, or taking a walk somewhere new.
Lock it in: add the activity to your calendar.
Make a list of things you enjoy doing or that excite you, then work out how to make them a part of your routine.
Accept your feelings, even if you don't like them
Disappointment isn’t fun, but it’s a part of life. Trying to deny what you’re feeling and telling yourself to get over it can make you feel even worse. Accepting your feelings is the first step in feeling a bit better.
Identify the emotion: How is the disappointment making you feel? Angry, sad, frustrated? If you’re not sure, sit for a moment and pay attention to your thoughts and how your body feels. Write the emotion down on a slip of paper.
Validate the emotion: Tell yourself, ‘It’s okay that I feel this way’, or ‘Everyone feels this way sometimes.’
Treat yourself like a friend: What would you say to a friend experiencing disappointment? Try saying that to yourself.
Know it will pass: Remember that you won’t feel this way forever. Emotions always pass in time.
Even if you don’t like the emotions you’re experiencing, you can still accept that you’re feeling them. It’s ironic that this can make you feel better, but it does! We have more info on coping with things that are out of your control here.
Get some perspective
It can feel like the end of the world when fun social plans are cancelled or you do badly in an exam, but it won’t feel that way forever. Putting your disappointment in perspective will take away some of its power.
Be patient: It may take some time before you can see the situation in its true perspective. It won’t happen immediately.
Listen to others: Your friends or family may have a different take on the situation you find disappointing. Listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree.
Live in the moment: There may not be much you can do right now about the situation, but you can focus on today. Ask yourself, ‘How can I make today a bit better?’
Be flexible with your plans
Being willing to be flexible with how your plans look can make you more resilient. You never know, your Plan B might end up being more fun than your Plan A.
Plan B: If you can’t afford to go interstate or overseas for a trip, could you take a local holiday, or even plan a great staycation? If you can’t go out for your birthday with friends, organise a makeup party later in the year.
Mark milestones in different ways: For example, if you can’t get to your graduation event but still want to celebrate that you’ve graduated, you could have a graduation dinner with a friend or family, or treat yourself to a fun activity on your own.
Look on the bright side: Write down what you appreciate about your Plan B, even if it’s not initially as appealing as your Plan A. For example, maybe you got to spend more time on a new hobby during your staycation.
Change your self-talk
It can be easy to go down a bit of a negative thought spiral when you’re faced with disappointment. You might be thinking, ‘Things never go my way’, or ‘Life is always disappointing.’ By changing your self-talk, you can turn your day around.
Listen to what you’re saying to yourself: Take some notes on what you’re thinking. Is it mostly positive or negative?
Challenge your self-talk: Ask yourself if there is actual evidence for what you’re thinking. Have things sometimes gone your way before when you initially thought they wouldn’t?
Change your self-talk: Make a list of positive things that have happened to you in the past. Consider reframing your thoughts to something like, ‘This particular situation is disappointing, but not everything will be like that.’
Changing your self-talk takes practice. For more info on how to do this, check out our article 3 ways to talk yourself up.
Disappointment is never a good feeling and can really knock you down. By first accepting your feelings, then getting a perspective on the situation, changing your self-talk and finding other things to look forward to, you can feel better about things. If you still feel disappointed after taking these steps, that’s understandable. Keep trying and know that your disappointment will reduce with time.