How To Deal With Disappointment And Let Things Go

By Sarah Fader

Updated December 18, 2018

Reviewer Cessel Boyd


Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Even the happiest, most "zen" people experience it at times. Disappointment comes in various forms, but what is constant is that it is something you will have to face throughout your life. Rather than trying to live your life without ever feeling disappointment, focus on learning how to best deal with those feelings so that you can let things go and move on without letting the feelings of disappointment hanging over you.

Disappointment Defined

At its core, disappointment is a form of sadness. It is simply one of the multitudes of ways in which sadness is experienced. When you are disappointed, you are sad about expectations or hopes you had that do not come to fruition. People may not meet the expectations that you had for them or your relationship with them. Goals you had may be left unfulfilled. Thinking about the past and what you had dreamed of for the future can also spark disappointment if the future you had envisioned is different than the present reality. Disappointment can stem from many situations, but the emotions experienced as a result of it are similar regardless of the exact situation.


Everyone experiences disappointment. But, according to one psychologist, people tend to try to avoid feeling disappointment more than any other kind of sadness. They do whatever they can to deny the fact that they are a disappointment and push any emotions or thoughts associated with disappointment out of their minds.


Often, this is because people are resistant to admit that they do not have something they desired or envisioned, or did not achieve their goals. It is easier to simply ignore your emotions, or respond with anger rather than sadness than to admit that you are feeling disappointed. Disappointment means accepting that things did not turn out as you had planned or hoped; by responding with anger, you can falsely convince yourself that it may still happen. Disappointment is more final than anger; there is an element of accepting the situation, even though it is not what you had hoped for.

It is very important not to avoid feelings of disappointment or try to push them away. There is a false perception that people who are happy being able to hold on to their happiness even in situations that naturally would evoke sadness or disappointment in most people. While this is sometimes viewed as an admirable trait, emotional avoidance is not a good thing in the long run. Emotional awareness and emotional intelligence are important skills for maintaining mental health and stability, and they play a big role in healthily managing disappointment.

Dealing With Disappointment

Disappointment can be a particularly hard emotion to process and allow yourself to feel. But, it is important that you do so so that you can move on from the situation and come out of it stronger, rather than letting disappointment hold you back. Many people struggle with disappointment and the emotions that accompany it, but there are some steps you can take to best handle disappointment so that you can let it go and move on.


Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is one of the most important skills you can have for your overall well-being. It is one of the keys to emotional intelligence, which is a skill that allows someone to recognize their own emotions so that they can best manage them.

Emotional awareness is the first step to mastering emotional intelligence. It involves self-awareness, and the ability to be honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings. Pushing feelings away and avoiding them, as many do with disappointment, is essentially the exact opposite of emotional awareness. Emotional awareness and acknowledging your feelings is so important in the long run. No feelings can stay pushed down forever, and people who try to do so often end up "blowing up" when all of the negative emotions they have pushed away finally do come to the surface.

One of the best ways to improve your emotional awareness and reduce the tendency to push emotions down is to work with a therapist or counselor. A therapist is a trusted confidant who is trained to help you through any difficult emotions or hard times in your life. Working with a counselor means that you will always have an outlet and someone to talk to about what you are feeling, both good and bad. Plus, they can help you develop strategies to process your emotions all the time, not just when you are talking to them directly. A counselor can teach you skills that help you with your emotional awareness and mental health that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Let It Out

Emotional awareness, and fully acknowledging your emotions surrounding disappointment, is just one piece of the puzzle. The first step to dealing with disappointment is being honest with yourself about what you are feeling. But, then what? It is important that you have an outlet to express these feelings.


Again, a counselor can certainly serve as that outlet. Talking about your feelings with a person who you trust is a great way to start to release them. Plus, the person can sometimes offer advice on your next steps or provide reassurance and comfort that everything will be okay, despite how disappointed you may be feeling at the moment.

In addition to talking to someone, journaling can be a great way to express your emotions. Journaling is a good option if you would rather keep your emotions private, but still, need an outlet to express them. Emotional awareness is great but putting your thoughts into the world outside of your head can be crucial to release them and to move on from the situation truly. Putting your thoughts on paper not only helps you release emotions, but it can provide a new perspective on the situation. We often get caught up in our thoughts and emotions and do not see a situation from an objective point of you. Writing it all out can show you a different side of a situation, which can be invaluable for accepting a situation and moving on, or even giving you insight to a solution to a problem you previously thought of as insolvable.

Learn from The Experience

Once you have accepted your disappointment and the situation at hand, you are in a position to turn the disappointment into a positive thing and learn from the situation. Sometimes, disappointment comes as a result of the failure of something you hoped to achieve individually, such as a certain athletic goal or initiative in your career. In these cases, there are likely some things you can trace back to why your goals were not met, and alter those specific behaviors to learn from your mistakes and have more success in your endeavors the next time around.

But, often you are not at fault for whatever is causing disappointment. Being disappointed in no way automatically means that you failed at something. In these cases, the source of your disappointment is the expectations you had for a situation that was not met, not any specific action that you took.


Take the time to evaluate your expectations for the situation honestly, and maybe in a more general sense the expectations that you have for other people. Were your expectations realistic for the specific situation? Were your expectations based on a different person or situation, which you tried to apply to something else? Were your expectations narrow or inflexible? Again, having unrealistic expectations is not something you should feel bad about yourself for or beat yourself up about. Rather, accept that everyone makes mistakes or misjudges things sometimes. Think about what you can do next time to set more realistic or flexible expectations for something or someone. Taking the time to work through all of these things now, and being honest about what your expectations were and how that is impacting your emotional state in the present, can help save you from disappointment in the future.

After taking the time to figure out how to better manage your expectations in the future, think about how you can learn about yourself, not just your expectations, from experience. What can you learn about your emotional response to certain triggers? How do you handle these emotions? How can you deal with things better? What is the most effective way for you to process negative emotions? Again, talking to a counselor or writing these things out in the journal can be very beneficial and offer you additional insight on how to learn and grow from disappointing situations.

Recognize Your Strengths

Disappointment tends to make people feel beat down, or that the disappointment is due to a flaw that they have that caused it. But, remember this is not the case. When processing a disappointment, take the time to think about your strengths and how they can help you bounce back from the situation. What skills do you have that can help you in this situation? Who are the people in your support network that you have to fall back on? What experience do you have dealing with similar emotions, and how did you recover from those situations? What strengths can you apply to this situation?


Even if you feel like you are powerless in dealing with a disappointing situation, you are likely to have answers to at least a few of these questions. Thinking about these things will reassure you that you can get over this disappointment and that everything will be okay. It will give you a boost of self-confidence to move on and let the situation go.


All of the above will help build your sense of resiliency when dealing with disappointing situations. Resilience is the ability not only to recover from hard situations but to come back stronger than before. Resiliency is very important in dealing with disappointment.

The good news is resilience something that you can learn and improve over time. All of the strategies mentioned above will help you process your disappointment so you can let it go, as well as build your overall sense of resiliency so you can recover from whatever obstacles life throws your way. Everyone goes through hard times, but with some self-confidence and a support system in place, you can conquer anything with time.

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