Disappointments are very uncomfortable. It fills the center of my chest with this pang and I have a hard time thinking of anything else. It’s no use trying to trick my mind into “be positive.” When I feel let down, the emotion consumes me.
So I built safeguards in my life, to prevent disappointments as much as possible. I wouldn’t take risks. I wouldn’t even dare to be happy. Don’t get your hopes up, the voice in my head would say. Or else.
As the result I’ve become a safe and tame person. I wouldn’t crack a joke when the situation calls for it. I wouldn’t sing when a groovy song comes on. I wouldn’t say “I love you” even to my loved ones.
Apparently I’m not alone. Because in our society there are entire industries set up to minimize the chance of disappointments. It’s good to be prepared, they say. You never know what will happen, they say. So we are supposed to have insurances for everything. And tuck your money away into funds that some nameless fund managers manage for you, because most of us don’t know what we’re doing. You’ll be very disappointed if you lose money because you dared to learn how to invest it on your own. Let the pros do it. And throw as much money as you can, even if it means it limits the resources and opportunities for you today.
Never mind that none of us have tomorrow promised.
Simply put, we give up living when we give in to the fear of disappointment. We say it’s better to prepare for safer tomorrow than to live today to the fullest extent. Prince Ea said that all of us die but not all of us live. I agree with that, but I disagree with him on one thing. It’s not doubts that stop us on our track. It’s fear. What do we fear? We fear disappointments. We fear that pang that can stab us all the way through our chest. It’s one emotion that’s more terrifying than all the rest put together. Even the emotion of fear is not nearly as debilitating as the experience of let down.
But life is not a renewable resource, the longer we wait the less we have left. We can’t wait for the fear to dissipate. In fact, it never will, on its own. We can’t wait to place safeguards everywhere so we can’t fail. Because it’s impossible to safeguard everything.
We have to do it afraid.
But we’re not hopeless. Life has given us an ability to heal and grow stronger where we get hurt. But one requirement we didn’t realize before was that we have to accept the hurt. Even embrace it. There’s no need to go looking for it, but when you encounter a disappointment, don’t say “I don’t want to feel this ever again.” Because that’s precisely the thing that’ll make you vulnerable. When you face your feeling and experience all the hurt, that’s when you will also heal and grow stronger.
I’m not talking about a dramatic revolution, though it may feel like that at first. All we need is just an adjustment in our trajectory. There’s no need to take senseless risks. Just be mindful of when you back off, shy away, because you are afraid of the possible let down. And instead of stepping away, you step in.
I can tell you that I’ve been trying. It’s very hard at first, but it gets easier. Disappointments sting less and less. I feel freer. The straitjacket doesn’t restrict me as much. On the outside, little has changed — I’m still where I live, work where I do, talk to the same people. I’m still the same person, with the same dreams and desires. The only thing changed is my approach to life.
But that may just be enough to make all the difference.
Dare to be disappointed.
It’s never too late. Start today. Now.