Sometimes reality falls short of your expectations. You think you nailed an interview, but the job offer goes to another candidate. You’re excited about a new love interest you met online, but you realize you have little in common as soon as you meet face to face.
Setbacks are a part of life, but how you respond to them can soften the blow.
A 2016 study by psychologists found that entitlement – a personality trait marked by exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority – may lead to chronic disappointment, unmet expectations and a habitual, self-reinforcing cycle of behavior with dire psychological and social costs.
“At extreme levels, entitlement is a toxic narcissistic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life,”
said Joshua Grubbs, the primary author of the paper and a PhD graduate in psychology from Case Western Reserve. So a healthy focus on other people could go a long way towards lessening disappointments in life.
We often make disappointments seem bigger than they are. Remove unnecessary stress from your life by keeping things in perspective.
Use these strategies to avoid seeing your disappointments as bigger than they really are:
1. Embrace change. When you have your heart set on a particular outcome, you may forget that the effects are likely to be short-lived. What seems like a major loss today could be insignificant in 6 months.
2. Stay calm. Any discomfort is easier to bear when you try to stay composed. Take a deep breath or go for a walk outside. Give yourself time to process what’s happening instead of reacting automatically.
3. Depersonalize the situation. You can wind up feeling ashamed when you interpret a disappointment as being a reflection on yourself. Resist the urge to take it personally.
4. Be specific. Overgeneralizing is another hazard. Tell yourself that this is a single temporary event rather than a permanent downward spiral.
Fear of disappointment can sometimes become so intense that it holds you back from taking risks. You’ll have a more fulfilling life if you can persevere even when things turn out differently than you hoped.
These actions will help you move on from disappointment:
1. Start small. Bouncing back from small reversals will teach you skills you can apply to tougher challenges. Be grateful for opportunities to practice.
2. Learn from experience. There are other lessons too. Disappointments can teach you more about yourself and what you really want out of life. You can use them to clarify your goals.
3. Find motivation. Living through an experience you don’t want to repeat gives you an incentive to change. This could be what you need to point you in a more positive direction.
4. Take control. While you want to avoid dwelling excessively on the past, there are helpful questions you can ask yourself. Determine what you could have done differently, so you’ll be prepared for similar situations.
5. Build your confidence. Believing in yourself protects you from becoming overwhelmed. Think positive, take care of yourself, and keep adding to your knowledge and skills.
6. Cultivate support. Having family and friends that you can count on for encouragement and reassurance helps too. Spend time with your loved ones and be open to honest feedback.
7. Seek counseling. If a past traumatic event is holding you back, help is available. Talking with a therapist could give you new insights and coping skills.
Adjust Your Expectations
Are you seething with resentment because others let you down? You may be sabotaging yourself by holding onto unrealistic expectations that are too high or too low.
Consider these ideas:
1. Check your defenses. Fear could be the reason why you expect too much from others. Ending relationships because you feel disappointed protects you from having to reveal yourself or build true intimacy.
2. Know your worth. On the other hand, you may be dissatisfied because you’re investing too much in relationships with little reciprocity. A healthy amount of give and take is a reasonable expectation.
3. Advocate for yourself. Maybe your relationships are basically sound, but it would help to work on your communications. Assuming that others can read your mind sets you up for disappointment. Practice asking for what you need tactfully and directly.
Disappointments can make you stronger if you deal with them constructively. Persevering through misfortunes brings you closer to the success you deserve. Joshua B. Grubbs, Julie J. Exline. Trait Entitlement: A Cognitive-Personality Source of Vulnerability to Psychological Distress.. Psychological Bulletin, 2016; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000063