Like most people, my life has taken a few detours through Disappointment City over the years – things haven’t turned out the way I’d hoped they would, and a few more emails have come back saying “thanks but no thanks” than I would have hoped.
Whatever you do or aspire to do in life, chances are your path will also take some unexpected twists and turns. While I’m by so means an expert in managing life’s ups and downs (though I am an expert in experiencing them), here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that might help you tread water in stormy seas until things get back on track.
Throw yourself a pity party
Disappointments and setbacks suck. I mean really suck. There’s no getting around it. So why deny it? When things go wrong, allow yourself to feel bad. Allow yourself to cry, or shout, or whine, or complain. Allow yourself to feel crummy, eat ice cream straight from the tub, watch trashy television, or do whatever else you feel like doing. Wallow in that self-pity and throw yourself the ultimate pity party, at least for a little while – goodness knows you’ve earned it.
Talk it out
Admitting life’s failures, mistakes or letdowns and sharing your disappointments with others can be difficult, painful or embarrassing. On the other hand, admitting to the world and to yourself that your life isn’t perfect can also be incredibly cathartic. Talk things out with your friends and family, write down your thoughts in a journal or on a blog, or join a group of like-minded individuals who will understand what you’re going through, like a job-searchers group or an aspiring writer’s club. Whatever you do, don’t keep negative feelings bottled up inside where they’ll just do more harm than good.
Work it out
Sitting around moping doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run. Once your pity party is over and done with it’s time for a change. Go for a walk, see a movie, bake a cake, ride a bike, read a book, listen to music, volunteer with an organization you feel passionate about, join a social group, spend time with a pet. Just do something – ideally something that doesn’t tie into the source of your disappointment. There will be time to get back onto that horse later. First, though, you need to reset your mind, refresh your spirit, and get out of a negative head space by getting involved in something that’s outside of yourself.
Dust yourself off and get back on that horse.
You didn’t get the job. The publisher didn’t want your manuscript. Your journal article was rejected. Your audition went over like a lead balloon. You didn’t finish the marathon. You’ve felt sorry for yourself and you’ve refreshed your brain with some enjoyable activity. Now it’s time to get back out there and try, try again. Risking rejection or failure again can be terrifying, but sometimes taking a deep breath and plunging back into the fray is the only way to move forward. Start another article, story, drawing, song, job application, marathon, or whatever else it is that you do. I’m not saying it’s easy to get back out there, especially when your confidence has taken a mighty bruising, but who said anything about life being easy?
So there you have it – a few of my thoughts on dealing with disappointment and triumphing (or at least muddling through) setbacks. What tips and tricks do you have for getting yourself through a rough patch, or dealing with a disappointment? I’d love to hear your thoughts – we’re all in this together!