How to Deal With Disappointment

Three Parts:Adjusting Your MindsetMoving ForwardDealing with Future Setbacks

Disappointment is never fun, whether you're dealing with a relationship that hadn't worked out or if you've missed out on a major opportunity to advance your career. No matter what the disappointment, it's almost never as bad as it seems, and there are always more ways out than you may think. You can deal with disappointment and come out stronger on the other side. Things can just be hard sometimes, and this article is here to help.

Part 1
Adjusting Your Mindset

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    Let your feelings out; it's natural that you feel upset or even inconsolable. Some doctors say that dealing with the fact that a major life goal is suddenly closed to you is not different from dealing with grief, so you may really feel that you are "in mourning," even if it's over the fact that your book deal didn't work out, or that your boyfriend broke up with you instead of proposing. It's perfectly natural to feel incredibly upset and pained, so acknowledge it and accept your pain.
    • Don't be ashamed to cry or otherwise express your feelings. This doesn't necessarily mean doing so in public. Though, letting out your emotions are healthier than suppressing them.
    • However, avoid lashing out at others. For instance, if you did not get the promotion, writing a bitter e-mail to your supervisor will not only deteriorate the situation, you might get fired.
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    Put your problems in perspective. In the immediate aftermath of a disappointment, it's often really difficult to see the aftermath as anything but an unmitigated disaster.
    • Ask yourself, Will this matter one year from now? A week? One month? A lot of times, asking this question will bring you back to reality. It's terrible that you dented your car, but will it be fixed in a week? You failed a quiz, but will that matter when the semester ends with a passing grade? You have an injury, and cannot finish out your spring sport, which is unfortunate, but you can play next year.
    • Talk to a rational, calm, sympathetic friend or relative about your situation -- preferably someone older who has had plenty of setbacks and can offer some more insight.
    • Writing your feelings and thoughts down can help express frustration, anger, fear, and other negative feelings, too. This can be helpful if you can't immediately talk to a sympathetic ear. While you're at it writing your " grief list ", the mere fact of your writing it, kindly takes the focus out your deep-felt present disappointment what with your resilience and your up-bringing start suggesting alternatives that somehow, in a very delicate and sensible way, will let you see some light and hopes.
    • Identify a real "disaster" versus something less dire. Real disasters do happen to people: losing a home to a fire, getting a diagnosis of leukemia, your town is overrun by an invading army....those are disasters. Failing an exam is not on this scale. It's easy to fall into the trap of "nothing this bad has ever happened to me!" without realizing that people deal with problems far, far worse than what you are dealing with.
    • Be careful writing about your disappointment on social media. It can be helpful to hear feedback and support from friends in times of disappointment. But be careful of the particular situation. For instance: your employer could find out you are grousing about work, or your angry comments about your ex-girlfriend could cause her friends to become angry at you.
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    Be grateful. You may be thinking, Grateful??? How can I be grateful at a time like this? -- which is precisely why you should stop moping about whatever it is that went wrong and start thinking about all of the things that are "going right" in your life. Chances are you have a lot to be thankful for: a nice home, a great support network, a promising career, your health, or even your favorite pet. You might be focused on the things you don't have that you haven't had a moment to step back and feel blessed for the things that you do have.
    • Count your blessings. Make a list of all of the things you have to be thankful for. You'll see that there is a lot more good in your life than bad. And, typically, what you have is more important to you than whatever disappointment you are facing.
    • Be grateful for your problems. Turn your frustration inside-out. Sure, it's disappointing that you did not get into your first-choice college...but you have the opportunity to go to college and not everyone has that. Maybe you didn't get that job you interviewed for...but that opens the door to apply to other jobs that you may have overlooked. Finding out you have diabetes is unfortunate...but you have the opportunity to live a healthy life thanks to modern medicine, something a person 100 years ago did not have.
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    Take some time to heal. It's great to let your feelings out and to acknowledge that you're feeling sad and disappointed. However, wallowing in self-pity cannot be a long-term plan. There is no particular guideline on how long this should take; but the sooner you start thinking positively, the sooner you'll be able to make a plan for success.
    • Take some time to care for yourself physically. You may feel a lot better after taking a long walk and getting some sun.
    • You may need some time to yourself to "lick your wounds"; that is natural. But don't isolate yourself for very long, as prolonged moping will not do you any good, either.
    • Listen to music. Music can help work through feelings, depending on your needs. One person may find comfort in angst-filled heavy metal, another in gospel music, another in Tibetan folk music...whatever works for you.
    • Express yourself artistically. Artists throughout history have drawn inspiration from disappointment. So compose a song, draw anime, paint a may feel better and create something beautiful as well.
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    Take some time to reflect on what you can learn from your situation. Disappointment is an emotion occurring when what you want to have happen, doesn't happen. Sometimes it's simply bad luck, but more often than not our plans or expectations need adjustment.
    • Was your expectation unrealistic? For instance, your 15-year old girlfriend was probably not going to be the person you were going spend the rest of your life with...teenage relationships typically do not last that long. It still hurts to have a break-up, but realizing you weren't married and that you will date many, many people in your life may help soften the blow.
    • What can I do better next time? You did awful on your SAT. Fortunately, there are many programs, books, and other resources available to do better next time. Plus, you have the experience to know what to expect next time. Finally, you typically have many chances to shine.
    • Avoid dwelling on blame. Okay, so maybe you messed up - or maybe life is just unfair. Even if you did have something to do with it, give up the regret and move forward. And if you don't have anything to do with it -- you're working your butt off and your boss still won't give you a raise -- then take a step back and see that it's the world that is a little unfair right now, but that you've done everything in your power to move ahead.
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    Adjust your expectations. Plenty of would-be actors flood Hollywood hoping for stardom, and rarely do they achieve success without a lot of disappointment. That is, if they find work at all. Actors who "make it" typically work relentlessly to find roles, get told "no" over and over again, get very minor roles at best, and yet remain optimistic. A person who thinks getting a leading movie role will be easy, gets frustrated every time they don't get picked for a call-back, and is not willing to keep trying will likely never make it in Tinsel-town.
    • Ask yourself, am I impatient? Becoming good at something generally takes an extremely long time, and this is something generally not depicted well on television or movies, for instance: a 5 minute "training montage" compresses a character's efforts that would have actually taken weeks or years.
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    Strain to see the silver lining. You may think that there's absolutely nothing positive in the situation, but that is rarely the case. So you broke up with the person who you thought was the love of your life. Were you really so perfect for each other? So you lost your job. Was it really the best fit for you anyway? One door may have closed, but maybe a window will open, and the whole experience can lead to something even better for you.
    • Trying to find the good in the situation will help you think positively. And if you want to move forward from your disappointment, then that's a must.

Part 2
Moving Forward

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    Take a break. Okay, so you got fired. You got dumped. You injured your leg. Does this mean you should look for a new job, join OkCupid, or start training for a marathon ASAP? Of course not. Give your situation a little bit of time until you feel calm enough to make a rational decision. Obviously, you should start looking for new work sooner than you should start training for a race with an injured leg, but you get the picture. If you try to solve the problem directly after the setback, you're likely to make a decision out of desperation and despair, not from a rational standpoint.
    • Watch the entire first season of The Killing. Take a long walk every day for a week. Don't do anything that would make you wallow or be upset, but clear your mind, do something different, and start to heal.
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    Practice acceptance. This is another important part of dealing with disappointment. You can't keep thinking that the world is completely unfair, and that what happened to you was completely horrible. Okay, so maybe it was, but it happened, and there's nothing you can do to make it un-happen. It was in the past, and this is your present. And if you want to have a better future, then you have to accept the past for what it was, however unpleasant it may be.
    • Obviously, you need to "practice" acceptance because it won't happen overnight. Let's say your husband cheated on you -- are you going to "accept" that overnight? Obviously not, but you can come to a place where thinking about it no longer leaves you feeling completely angry and bitter.
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    Spend time with close friends and family. Sure, hanging out with Mom or your best friend Mindy might not help you improve your career or find a new place to live, but it can make you feel better about the process. You'll see that you have so many great relationships in your life, and that you have an awesome support system that can help you through it all. Though you don't have to rehash the disappointment with everyone, just having them there will make you feel like you're not so alone with your pain.
    • Don't force yourself into loud social outings if you're not feeling up to it; hang out with your friends and family in low-key settings.
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    Make a new plan. The old plan didn't work out for you, did it? That's perfectly okay. Ships have to change courses in the middle of the night all the time to avoid unforeseen obstacles, and so will you. Find a new way to get to that dream career, to find that perfect man, or to make your dream charity come to life. Maybe you've had a setback in your health and won't be able to walk for a few months. Work with a physical therapist to make a plan for success.
    • Take a look at your life in a new way. How can you still follow your dreams, make yourself happy, but move things around?
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    Seek advice. Talk to people who know what they're doing. If you're a teacher who is struggling with your job, talk to the principal. If you're trying to make it as an artist, see if there are other artists in your city who will be willing to offer some insight. Call a family friend who knows something about having to relocate to an unpleasant location for a job. Talk to your mom about what it was like when she went through her divorce. Though every situation is different, getting advice from different people (provided that you trust them), will give you more direction and will make you see that plenty of other people are struggling, too.
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    Be open to new opportunities. So you may not become director of the writing program at your small college. But there's a new reading series that opened up and they want you to be in charge. Dash at the opportunity to do something new that can give you experience, help you work with a variety of people, and give you more confidence about achieving your goals. If you only want to do thing A, B, or C, then you'll be turning a blind eye when opportunity Z, the best opportunity of all, struts right by you.
    • A new person can be a new opportunity, too. Don't close off and hang out with the same circle of friends; a new friend can bring new momentum and energy to your life.
    • Maybe you've only looked for work as a high school teacher and just can't get a break. Why not try something different but related, like teaching community college? It can still be a great opportunity that will give you the experience you need.
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    Get inspired. The Nobel-Prize-winning author, Alice Munro, didn't publish a book until she was 37 (!!!), Steve Jobs was a college dropout, and Matthew McConaughey cleaned chicken coops before he became a star. Look at the lives of other people who dealt with major disappointments before coming out the other end with more guts and more appreciation for what they have. If success was served up on a silver platter, then it wouldn't be worth the struggle, would it?

Part 3
Dealing with Future Setbacks

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    Learn from your mistakes. So you've had a disappointment. Does that mean that all it did was set you back a few years and ruin your mood? Of course not. There's something that you can learn from any situation, whether it's that you should do your research more, not be so trusting, or not jump into something that you feel a little uncertain about. Though it's no fun to learn your lesson the hard way, think of all the positive things this knowledge can do for you in the future.
    • If you never fall down, you'll never learn to get back up. It's all part of the learning experience.
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    Don't tell your friends about what "might" happen. Maybe you have a good opportunity in the works. You've been dating a guy for six weeks but have this feeling that he's "the one." An agent asked to see your novel manuscript and you have a feeling she might ask you to sign a contract. Your boss mentioned a new exciting position and you think you'll be picked for the job. Well, you can share your feelings with a close friend or two, but if you tell your twenty best friends or acquaintances about what might happen, then you will be more upset when it doesn't happen and you have to give everyone the bad news.
    • In the future, be cautiously optimistic but private, and share your joy and success after it happens.
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    Keep hope alive. Staying hopeful is the key to a happy and fulfilling life, no matter how disappointed you may be. Stay optimistic, keep things positive, and always have something to look forward to in your life, no matter how small it may be. If you're hopeful about the future and all of the good it can bring, then you will be much more likely to succeed. Hopeful people make meaningful connections and go for unlikely opportunities that more "realistic" people would scoff at. Keep your head up and only good things can happen to you.
    • Hanging out with people who are hopeful and optimistic is a great way to keep up your own sense of hope. If everyone around you is bringing you down, then how can you have hope?
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    Know your worth. Remember that you're a valuable person who can bring a lot to the table, whether it's because you're a superb mother, a talented animator, or an incredible listener who is invaluable to your friends. Maybe you're also a great writer, a keen observer, and a computer whizz. Remind yourself of all of your good qualities and keep giving the world what you have, because the world needs it -- even if it may not feel that way after a set back.
    • Make a list of the five best things about yourself. How can you use these traits to your advantage?
    • If you think you're worth nothing, then prospective employers, significant others, friends, etc, will think so too.
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    Make time for fun. What does fun have to do with making a new plan, achieving your goals, and avoiding future disappointments? Nothing and everything. If you're so focused on achieving your goals and overcoming your setbacks, then you will never be able to stop, breathe, and relax. Having fun is just as important as sending out your resume to twenty companies because it allows you to get grounded, sit back and appreciate what you have, and take down your stress levels a few notches.


  • Sometimes you are disappointed by something that you really want/need. The best thing to do is think of other avenues and really explore what's next, instead of focusing too much time on the sadness.
  • Try each day to remind yourself that better things await and you shouldn't give up.
  • If you are alone, throw a temper tantrum. This way, you can let out your anger and feel much better. Remember not to do this when around others or they might not want to be around you.
  • Open up to people. Talking is a really effective way of offloading all that emotional baggage that can really stress you out.
  • Follow through with the steps religiously if you want to offload yourself of the stress this experience is taking on you.


  • If you feel like self harming, suicidal, or any harm-based thoughts, call a helpline.

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