Archive for the ‘lessons’ Tag

Learning from Disappointment

Everyone gets disappointed from time to time. Sometimes it’s mild, like when you have your tastebuds all set for the remembered flavor of some particular favorite treat (such as apricot filled croissants), only to find them sold out for the day. Bummer, but you move on without true damage. Sometimes it’s so significant that it almost doesn’t count as disappointment anymore; rather it’s basically trauma.

But then there’s the middle ground, where the bulk of everything in life happens. Disappointment is no different. There’s this bulk quantity of circumstances that fall between those two extremes, the disappointment that has lasting meaning in your life. These are the ones that change your outlook on things, that make you change behavior and sometimes aspects of your personality.

Teaching moments, they’re sometimes called. Lessons that last…if you’re willing to learn. And that doesn’t have to be bitter or hard or sad. Being wiser and better equipped to deal with the same or similar circumstances in the future can still be a positive outcome.

Yet, the positive outcome doesn’t change the fact of your disappointment. The disappointment still stings. It’s initial bitterness is no less sharp before any mellowing that assimilation of the lesson may provide. This is particularly true when the disappointment comes from people close to your heart, when it’s their actions or words that deliver the blow to your hope or steal the joy from your soul.

Lessons from hopes dashed by changed circumstances or from the ugliness of the anonymous world in general can be hard and painful, sure. But there’s a special flavor of heartache when someone you love, respect and rely on (whether that love is familial, friendly, or romantic) does or says something that cuts you, disappoints your understanding of them and your shared bond, or tramples your beliefs.

I’m struggling with a string of coincidental disappointments, all from people close to me and whom I have respected and continue to respect. Working on separating my hurt feelings from the circumstances so that I can glean the lessons I believe are just under that tangled surface is proving to be very difficult. Not least because a part of me fears that the lessons will include some from of:

  1. Your original beliefs were stupid so your disappointment is deserved.
  2. Your hurt feelings are misplaced because you didn’t deserve a different experience.
  3. What you’re really disappointed about is that you didn’t do/say/act that way yourself because you are too [insert derisive descriptor of choice here].

You see, the nature of these particular disappointments feed straight into the middle of the deepest areas of insecurity lurking in my brain where the traitorous internal critic holds court: a friend who has ghosted me, a rejection from someone I hoped to get close with, a leader’s disparate treatment to the detriment of my team, and a demonstration by a respected elder that racism and misogyny live too close to me for comfort.

All these things fuel my internal critic’s loudest voice: you’re not worthy.

So untangling the lessons is a more complicated challenge than usual. I’m trying to be as objective as I can, making allowances for context I could be missing or the always-likely struggle of the other person of which I am unaware. Yet the line between making allowances and making excuses that enable the poor behavior is often too fine to detect.

So right now, the only lessons I have been able to bring into focus are: everyone has flaws, so don’t lose sight of the good despite those foibles; and just because you’re not worthy of those specific things, don’t give up on other possibilities. I’m still picking at the tangle, hopeful that one day I’ll have clarity enough to see more of the silver lining in all of it. Until then, just gotta keep trying to keep going.

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