how to stop being afraid of disappointment

The fear of disappointment is the expectation you will not get what you want.

Fear of disappointment is one particularly tragic form of self-sabotage.

Here’s why it’s tragic: what we expect, we tend to create.

If you believe you will not get what you want, your mind subconsciously chooses actions that are in alignment with that belief.

When your actions align with the fear of disappointment, you may decide to do nothing {or very little} towards achieving what you want and, ultimately, find yourself stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment.

Let’s unpack where the fear of disappointment comes from.

If, in childhood, we were exposed to difficult disappointments and were not given the support we needed to process and integrate them with resilience and insight, we can learn that the price of holding onto hope is too expensive.

:: maybe you hoped your parents would stay together and it was a brutal blow when they didn’t.

:: maybe, year after year, you worked hard to get picked for the team and felt the devastating defeat of not making the cut.

:: maybe you opened your innocent heart to young love, hoping for your affection to be returned, but instead you received rejection.

Deep in our psyche, an association can be forged between possibility and pain, hope and danger.

If this association happens, your mind would prefer to live quietly with disappointment than to fall into the dangerously overwhelming place of mental pain.

Self-sabotage slides in to protect us with this message: not trying and not getting what I want is preferable to trying, getting my hopes up, and being disappointed.

For all things related to healing the past, we need to remind ourselves that we can {despite the fear and the wounding of the past} choose freedom because we are no longer in need of {self-sabotaging} protection.

Consciously, of course, you know that who you are now is different from who you were then. But, your unconscious mind doesn’t know this truth.

Your unconscious mind reads the present through the lens of the past and, from there, projects problems onto your future.

When we pour our time, love, energy, and attention into healing the parts of ourselves that are stuck in the past, we can then see how to get free. The truth becomes clear – the conditions that forged our caution in the past, are not our reality in the present.

When our scared-sabotaging-self sees this truth, it’s easier to truly believe that we can survive disappointment and fall forward through failures.

Once you fathom where the fear of disappointment comes from and offer the you-from-then some love, you can move into reprogramming your mind.

You can give new meaning to disappointment to prevent it from paralyzing you by challenging cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are like tiny mental prisons that keep us stuck.

Unlucky us, there’s a bunch of them.

The cognitive distortions we’re going unpack, for now, are globalization and personalization.

Globalization sounds like, if this relationship doesn’t work out, I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.

If globalization is a form of self-talk that sabotages you, remind yourself that even if it doesn’t work out this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t work out next time.

If you decide that because your past relationship didn’t work out, you’re giving up on finding a partner … yeah, you might be alone forever.

But, it’s not because you’re destined to be alone for the rest of your life, it’s because you’re allowing the fear of disappointment to keep you stuck in a mental prison.

Pro psych tip: the best predictor of the future is not the past, it’s what you decide to think and do in the present.

Fear of disappointment also swells to an intimidating size when we personalize the problem.

Personalization sounds like, if I don’t get the promotion, it means I’m not good enough and don’t deserve it.

When you personalize a problem, you make it about who you are as a person and forget the important situational factors that are at play.

Maybe there were an influx of qualified applicants and the HR person was overwhelmed so he skipped a bunch of resumes {sadly, yours was in that stack}.

Maybe the hiring manager really wanted to work with her best friend who also applied for the job, so she didn’t interview very many people {not cool, but it happens}.

There are always things that are beyond your control playing out around you.

Whether or not something works out the way you want it to, is not a reflection of your worthiness. And, even if it is about you {you’re not qualified, for example}, it’s not a reflection of who you are as a human. It’s about an experience that needs to be navigated, a skill that needs to be developed, a conversation that needs to be broached, or an opportunity that needs to be approached again.

Pro psych tip: you are worthy for who you are, not what you do.

Strengthening your ability to lean into the fear of disappointment and navigate it with courage and self-compassion is important for overcoming self-sabotage.

You can practice this by finding the good thing that’s hiding in the hard thing.

:: Maybe we need to go to therapy to recover from the hard relationship to have the relational skills we need so we can show up for a healthy relationship.

:: Maybe, we need to get passed over for the promotion to get clear on what really matters to us professionally. Then, we can take action to make it happen.

If you want to be successful {as you define it to be}, you might as well get cozy with disappointment because it’s part of the process.

You can buddy up with disappointment by embracing this belief:

Disappointment isn’t an obstacle that needs to be avoided. It’s an opportunity to be who you want to be and do what you want to do.