At its core, disappointment is a testament to our standards and dreams. These are the silent architects of our hopes, the scaffolding on which we construct the outlines of our lives. But as life unfolds its chapters, these hopes sometimes materialize differently than expected. What do you do when things don’t go as expected? Disappointment often becomes a breeding ground for anxiety and overthinking, where we replay scenarios, question our choices, and lose our motivation.
Join us as we explore how disappointment impacts us emotionally and how to tackle disappointment head-on with Industry Scholar Intern Valerie Vallejo.
The Roots of Disappointment
Imagine getting a bad grade for a test you studied all week for, a friend betraying your secrets, or even your family failing to make an effort to spend time together- these are all examples of unfulfilled expectations. Expectations are a set of standards people have for themselves and those around them. When they aren’t met, it can trigger a wave of emotions like disappointment or negative thoughts, leaving you overthinking what went wrong. This can make us anxious and stuck on the things that didn’t work out, making it harder to feel better. When disappointment keeps happening, it can impact how we see ourselves and others.
What Disappointment Can Look Like
Disappointment can instill negative judgments about your abilities or about those around you. Let’s say, for example, you didn’t do well on a recent test, and it then triggers thoughts that make you start to judge if you will ever do well. It might sound like I know I will fail no matter what I do. In your head, you may begin to believe you can’t avoid bad things happening to you, practically accepting failure before giving yourself the chance to try another solution.
Disappointment can also look like getting stuck on what has gone wrong and feeling disheartened. It could also show up as changes in your mood, energy, or motivation, making you less excited to take action. Something we don’t always make connections to is the experience of disappointment at an early age. If you’ve experienced disappointment at an early age, it can show up later in life when as an adult. Adults sometimes reflect these negative judgments or experiences as expectations to fail in relationships or in their own negative beliefs about their skills and abilities.
Disappointment hits different for Minorities
I spent time researching community issues that may also influence self-belief. According to EducationWeek, research has shown that black students are less likely to be placed in gifted education and twice as likely to receive exclusionary discipline like suspension and detention when they have white teachers. This data reflects a potential pattern of practices that hold lower expectations for black students, nurturing a belief that their school performances are not dependent on their intelligence but more on the teacher’s perception of their racial status. Such early experiences of academic disparities and disappointment in treatment compared to peers can indelibly shape adult beliefs about capability and potential.
Why Therapy Is Important
It is hard to be emotionally self-aware when your judgment is just clouded by negativity and self-sabotaging thoughts. In other words, your mind is like a messed-up ball of yarn. Therapy is important because psychotherapists detangle the mess by picking out every strand and winding it into strands of clarity. Therapy helps you figure out your beliefs and how it impacts your actions. If you can’t get to a therapist, we have some tips to help with disappointment and support challenging unhelpful beliefs.
How to Tackle Disappointment Head On
- Become less pessimistic as you approach new opportunities. Change the way you look at the causes of events in your life. Instead of saying, “I’m never good at this” or “I screw up everything,” ask yourself what this new event in my life is trying to teach you. For instance, “I made a mistake once, but now I know how to avoid this in the future.”
- Get in the habit of responding optimistically to reframe negative situations. For example, ask yourself how you came to have these thoughts that upset you. Did your strong emotions lead to certain behaviors and actions? Was the way you responded helpful? Is there another way to look at the thoughts? or respond to these thoughts?
- Set SMART goals to navigate disappointment and keep yourself on track despite how others or even your thoughts may make you feel. Ensure your goals are Specific – clearly define your objectives. Make sure it is achievable, you have a way to track progress, that it is relevant to you, there’s a deadline, etc. Goals may keep you out of your feelings (like disappointment) and keep you on track with clear actions so you don’t get derailed by your expectations.
Blog researched and written by Industry Scholar Intern from the NYC Public Schools, Valerie Vallejo. Valerie had some great points. We do agree it is helpful to explore early connections to disappointment and your current experiences with achievement, success, relationships, and self-worth. You would be surprised how patterns continue to follow us in different aspects of our life. Therapy is a powerful tool that can help if you live in NY. Mindset Coaching for Black Women in Business is also available if you need to disrupt your relationship with disappointment.