Expectations. We all have them.
Sign up for a class, you expect to learn something new. You go on a date, you expect that person to be genuinely interesting. When you go to a restaurant, you expect a pleasant dining experience. When everything pans out, you feel a sense of satisfaction: joy, smiles, pride, and contentment. What you invested—or sacrificed—was worth it.
And when your expectations are not met, you get a bad taste in your mouth and a resentment burns within. You may ask, “Why did I waste my time on this?” You could think, “How could I have been so foolish?” Or you may feel a need for retribution, or better still, revenge.
How can we move past the times we’ve been wronged or when things don’t go our way? Here are 4 ways to release the frustration and pain that comes from disappointment and having unmet expectations:
- Feel it. Things hurt, things make us angry, and things make us sad. This is true for everyone.
It’s useful to feel what we feel when we feel it. Let’s all make a greater commitment to allow our full range of emotions to be present during a given circumstance. Instead of running from the pain, suppressing the pain, or immediately trying to push through the pain, taking time to feel the pain is critical for moving past it.
Think of that time you jammed your toe on the side of the bed rail, it hurt and you felt it. You may have even screamed or cursed for a while, and then the pain eventually went away.
- Share it. Often times, having someone there to listen helps to process painful or disappointing circumstances.
Venting is cathartic because it helps us get things off our chest. The next time you need to talk about a disappointment, ask the person you’re venting with to be there as an active listener. Active listeners can repeat back to you what you say, they can help you to hear the issues from a different perspective, and they can help you to articulate your feelings so that in the future you are able to better communicate your expectations.
Additionally, sometimes our expectations aren’t met because we haven’t communicated them.
- Learn from it. Random things occur that we couldn’t have controlled if we tried. And sometimes, disappointment comes because of real error on our part.
Every failure is an opportunity for growth. The next time you experience a disappointment that was brought on by something that you did or didn’t do, make a conscious choice to analyze the situation and come up with 2-3 lessons you can take into the future.
Not every expectation is realistic, and learning how to reform expectations helps us have more realistic expectations.
- Get over it. People are disappointed all the time.
Getting over pain and disappointment is a process, and with effort and time it is possible to get over such difficult circumstances. The truth is, the moment we realize that not everything goes as planned all the time every time, the easier it will be to move through disappointment.
To live productively, we must develop ways to heal from painful circumstances, learn from failure, be able to articulate realistic expectations, and release the disappointment that comes from unmet expectations. Let’s not wrap our identities in, or determine our self-worth by, the circumstances of our lives. Frustrating things happen every day, but we are not those things, so it is useful to have the skills to get over disappointment.
It might take time and effort, but it is possible to move on.