Moving on from disappointment

BY NIKKI ADEBIYI, FOUNDER @ BOUNCE BLACK

Disappointment is one of those emotions that will always be difficult to feel, no matter how resilient you are.

From losing out on a job, or an opportunity you longed for and believed to be within your grasp – whether it comes in the form of a conversation, a letter, a call, text or email—or worse, no communication at all—rejection will always sting. However, it’s what we do in response that matters most.

Everyone encounters failure and rejection, it’s a part of the human experience. Having a history with trauma or adversity may make the experience feel like a heavier blow than a person with moderate-to-little experience of hardship might feel. It can trigger specific sensitivities and negative emotions associated with past memories and early experiences of hurt that undermined our ability to trust, or sparked feelings of abandonment, powerlessness or being stuck. Yet it’s important to remember that while our emotions are information, they are no more facts than our thoughts are.

Just because it feels like you might not recover from a particular let-down or setback, doesn’t mean you won’t. Just because you feel stuck, doesn’t mean you are.

Here are some tips for moving through these difficult feelings in a healthy way:

Acknowledgement: feel your feelings

Be honest. It’s okay to admit that you really hoped for a certain outcome, and you’re upset about not getting it. You don’t have to be stoic about life, it is better to feel the full range of your emotions than it is to be numb. Besides, what we do not confront directly and deliberately has a way of resurfacing indirectly and unknowingly elsewhere in our lives or later down the line.

So, own your desires, and sit with the discomfort and the personal significance of your goals that make it hard for you to accept when you have been unsuccessful. Mourn the trajectories you imagined going down at that point in time, and all the adventures, future possibilities and pathways. Block out time to grieve if you must, but do not allow yourself to wallow. Eventually, you have to pick yourself back up from that low place of let-down or heartache as if the rest of your life depends on it… because it does.

Acceptance: it is what it is

Sometimes rejection is redirection, and sometimes delay is not denial. So, once you’ve acknowledged and processed any hurt you feel, begin to reflect and assess the situation as calmly and rationally as possible.

Have you left every stone unturned, and done all you could appropriately do to gain a favourable outcome? Is this an unfulfilled hope to move on from entirely, or is it time to go again but with a different approach? Either way, if you have a Plan B, it’s okay to get going with it, as long as you aren’t in denial and rushing past processing the fall-through of Plan A!

Gratitude: what can you learn?

Don’t waste any experience: good or bad, failure or success. Although it may not feel like it, the worst thing that can happen isn’t that you lose, but that you don’t learn from the loss. That’s a recipe for repeating unhelpful or even unhealthy patterns that hold you back from getting to where you want to be. 

Be sure to reflect on the factors you have control over that may have contributed to the outcome you got. If possible and/or appropriate, ask for feedback to identify what didn’t go down well and how you can improve going forward. If not, reflect on what you think you might’ve done better—but also remember that sometimes you couldn’t have done much differently, and it just might not be for you.

At this point, try to celebrate the vulnerability your instinct might be to feel ashamed about.

So, you didn’t get what you wanted. Okay, but you did put yourself out there and try!

You were courageous enough to envision something and go after it. You didn’t just have an idea, you took action. You put yourself forward and tried to make a positive change in your life. This is good! It shows you are taking charge of your life, and not being a passive spectator in it.

Of course, the higher the perceived or actual stakes, the greater the disappointment and the more difficult it is to be thankful—but you can try.

Grit: what will you do next? 

Maybe that opportunity is not right for you at this time, or you’re simply suited to something else. It doesn’t matter. Failure or rejection are only dead-ends if you make them one.

While it might be true that expectations are what led to disappointment, it’s also true that hope is the cure for it. As scary as it feels, the sooner you accept what is, the sooner you can get going with imagining differently what can be. This is how we move forward. When one possibility falls through—regroup, reflect, then prepare to pursue the next.

At certain points in our lives, it may feel like we are running either out of time or options or both, and sometimes that could be the case. Yet as long as we are alive, there is hope, and we can still live meaningful lives we are proud of at any point.

Thank U, Next

In summary, acknowledge the experience and accept the outcome if it’s final. Charge it to the game, take it in your stride, have the mindset of Ariana Grande in her hit song ‘Thank U, Next’ and be grateful for what you learned, then move on.

As my mother says, start dreaming again!


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“As long as we are alive, there is hope, and we can still live meaningful lives we are proud of at any point” – Check out @iBounceBlack’s latest blog on getting past disappointment: