On Disappointment

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I'm writing a blog about disappointment - because I want to write a blog about disappointment. 

I've been disappointed - let down - by others this week. Last month. Last year. Life is full of disappointment. How are we supposed to deal with it?

The problem with disappointment, along with getting upset or depressed, is that no one around you desires this feeling. They tell you not to be disappointed. They want you to NOT be upset. Growing up this is typically everyone's first response, right after they ask "why?", as they regurgitate blanket statements such as "Things will be fine." or "It's not as bad as you think." or "It doesn't mean anything."

Truly, it doesn't mean that much - in the grande scheme of things - but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to be disappointed. 

I'm a big fan of showing one's disappointment; though I have to be careful not to let that turn into disapproval. Letting others know you're disappointed can produce various results. Stronger bonds in friendship. Deeper understanding of one's own insecurities. A new drive towards better performance. Disappointment derives from our own understanding that things should - could have been - better. In essence, it didn't have to be "this way", or things could have been different. 

The problem becomes: what if we're disappointed in ourselves? 

How do we deal with THAT? 

Disappointment is, ultimately, a misstep on the uncharted journey. When it comes to disappointment in oneself, ultimately it's a reflection on past decisions - or lapses in judgement. It's when we find ourselves at the bottom of a rocky valley, in the middle of a depressing looking creek, or just outside a desolate field and wonder "How exactly did I get here? This is not where I intended to go."

This is not to be confused with rock bottom - where one usually finds themselves after a series of horrible decisions - finding themselves alone and hurt because they pushed everyone away and have no idea what went wrong or how to get out.

On the contrary - it's simply a wrong turn - and we know exactly where things went wrong, and the direction we were ultimately headed.

Because disappointment is the sudden recognition that we've been down this path before, and we better turn back before we end up in places we never intended to return.

Of course, this is only a matter of perspective, as you could just as easily be disappointed in your own performance, the way you reacted, or perhaps your lack of presence during a certain situation. Overall I don't know why you may be disappointed in yourself, but I can bet it has something to do with the past - and the familiarity of what's done-is-done and cannot be changed. However the primary function of disappointment lies not only with your past decisions, but in how we handle it in the moment.

The question still remains: How do we deal with it? 

The danger with disappointment is how we let it define us. If we are disappointed in others we may let it reflect back on ourselves, or how we believe others view us or accept us. In an effort to control our disappointment we begin to blame ourselves - turning everything around to be our fault. Let's think about this for a second. Are you a faulty creation because you wanted things to go a certain way? Is there fault in your manufacturing because of your own expectations? Are we capable of expecting too much? Absolutely! But disappointment was never meant to be a reflection of ourselves as flawed, unworthy, or broken human beings.

Disappointment is simply a spark of recognition of our own misjudgement. 

Even in ourselves we can let disappointment be a stumbling block. We can allow it to become our identity. Telling ourselves, and others, that we will always let people down. We will never stop going in circles. We will never get out of this wasteland. We let it become us. We wear it like a badge-of-honor saying - don't believe in me. 

But I don't think we should read into disappointment that much.  

Disappointment in oneself could be seen as a sign. From God. From yourself. From whatever you deem capable of putting it on your path. It's meant to be taken seriously. But in the end it's just a sign. It's not yet the point-of-no-return, and you still have the ability to turn back around and find the path. 

So how do we deal with disappointment? 

I think, initially, we should see it for what it is. Whether it's a spark, a sudden familiarity, a bright neon sign, or even our own worn out tracks. If disappointment derives from the idea that things could have gone - differently - then this can only be fueled by our past experience; otherwise, how else would we know? Upon that sinking feeling we should probably take the time to call it out. Maybe mark it down. Perhaps ward others off. At least take the time to tell yourself or others that you're not going that direction. This is where we plant our little red flags.

Then you reorient. 

You turn around. 

You go the direction you originally intended. 

Take your time, if you have to, and ultimately know that you're allowed to feel this way. This is quite normal. This does not mean your are destined to return here again. Find the courage to move on and be on the lookout for something new.

[Disclaimer: If you are a person that reflects on your life and all you feel is disappointment, I believe you are looking at things the wrong way. Recognize that in those cases, regret and disappointment are often mistaken for one another. Regret is when you look back and wonder how things could have gone so wrong. Regret works under the assumption that you could never have forseen the outcome or the path that you were walking on. Disappointment, on the other hand, is when we are for sure we've been down this path before. Sometimes these things go hand-in-hand, and other times they are clearly separate. I mention this because you should never look back at full chapters of your life and feel disappointment, because that will disregard all the good that came during that time, how much you've grown/learned, and everything that's been gained throughout that chapter. Odds are you needed to go through that. But that's probably a blog for another day.]