Not getting what you expect can be a pleasant surprise – or a devastating disappointment. When things didn’t turn out the way I hoped while traveling with a friend, I was quick to blame it on her.
But once I started taking responsibility for my negative feelings, I realized how easy it is to rise above disappointment.
We had planned a trip together to Kyoto, with all the things we wanted to do: visit temples, eat street food, try on traditional costumes… It would be my only chance to visit during my time in Japan, and I wanted to make the most of it.
Travel is a passion of mine, and I was looking forward to visiting Japan’s former imperial capital. But despite the plans we had made, I felt like the entire trip was a waste of time.
To me, it seemed like nothing we planned actually happened. The things I wanted to do, we never did. The things I wanted to see, we never saw. The places I wanted to go, we never went. The fun and exciting adventure I had pictured when we planned the trip never came true.
After the trip I was resentful, especially when people asked me about my visit to Kyoto. They naturally assumed I had been to see the famous Silver and Gold Temples, tried Kyoto tofu, taken in the scenic beauty of the Sagano district. I would try to smile, shake my head and reply that I had not done any of those things.
I blamed my companion for my disappointment. For not considering what I wanted to do – especially when she knew that I would never be back. I was angry I had wasted my time traveling with her. I wished I could go back in time and visit Kyoto alone.
Getting over my disappointment took time, and once I did it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. If you’ve been disappointed, here’s how to rise above your negative feelings (and avoid disappointment in the future).
Examine Your Expectations
When you’ve been let down, think about all your expectations in detail. Find the root of your disappointment, and you can confront and overcome it. Ask yourself if your expectations could be met under the best of circumstances, and if the answer is “no” then you’ve taken a step towards accepting disappointment instead of resisting it.
I was unhappy with my trip, because I had set high expectations and assumed that my travel companion thought like me. Until I thought about it, I hadn’t realized how high I had set the bar for my travel in Kyoto.
Be OK with your feelings
Admit to yourself that it’s OK to be disappointed: burying your feelings or pretending you’re happy doesn’t help you recover from a negative experience. Let your emotions have their way with you. Truly feel what’s in your heart, and get to know your feelings: they are you.
Accept your feelings, and they won’t control you. Once I actually said out loud “I didn’t enjoy my trip,” it didn’t dominate my thoughts.
It might be difficult, but try to practice gratitude for the things that went right instead of wrong, things you enjoyed instead of what you missed. Help yourself see the good in what might be – at first glance – a disappointment.
I realized that despite not seeing what I expected, I did see some wonderful sights and have some great experiences in Kyoto. A lot could have gone wrong, but didn’t. It’s cliché, but things could have been worse.
I felt grateful for my experience which helped me overcome disappointment.
Learn from your experience
Depending too much on others can lead to disappointment. But rather than only depending yourself, the real lesson is to recognize when you should and shouldn’t put your faith in another person.
I learned to be more selective of my traveling companions, and not to leave all the planning to someone else. I’m also now more firm when voicing my opinions about travel plans, and I’m prepared to break away by myself to make my travel wishes come true.
Take a step back Disappointment
Despite what it might feel like, sometimes things happen that aren’t meant to hurt you. Take a step back and think about your experience the way a bystander would, and you’ll see a different perspective. This helps the situation feel less personal – and less hurtful.
The trip wasn’t just about me, and it certainly wasn’t about making me feel bad. My companion wasn’t trying to make my trip to Kyoto terrible. Ridding my mind of selfish thoughts helped me get over my disappointment.
Put yourself in the other person’s place
If you feel like someone let you down, try to see the situation from his or her perspective. Imagine you’re in the place of the person who let you down. What would be going through your mind? What would your reasons be? Practicing empathy for someone who let you down helps you understand the situation better, and get over it more easily.
My traveling companion wasn’t being selfish on purpose, she was trying her best to make the trip enjoyable. She had expectations and priorities too, and acknowledging them made it easier for me to see that she had done her best to make us both happy.
Disappointment is never a good feeling, but you don’t need to let it hang over you like a black cloud. Thinking about your expectations, the things you’re grateful for, and practicing empathy can help you rise above it, and see the good things in your situation.
It feels bad, but being disappointed does have a good side: it teaches you how to avoid it in the future. And if there’s one thing we could all use less of, it’s disappointment.