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Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Afraid of Disappointing Others? This Insight Will Liberate You!

If fear of disappointing others keeps getting you into situations that are uncomfortable, painful or unfulfilling, then this might be just what you need.We’ve all experienced it — that crushing, heart-wrenching, stomach-churning, bitter sensation when someone disappoints us. Perhaps the pain is even worse when it’s you disappointing others because you’re also disappointing yourself.

When we intensely want something we think about it, dream about it, and make detailed plans for it until we can taste it and see it like it’s already happened. And when these hopes and expectations go unfulfilled, that disappointment makes us bereft, drained and deflated. We feel like such a failure.

It’s no wonder we do our best to avoid putting this emotional pain upon ourselves or others. Too often we make unwise decisions or hold back from stepping forward because we’re driven by this thought —“I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

Disappointing Others Starts with the Set Up

Are you like me — when I  give my word to do something, I do it whether it’s easy or not, right? That’s part of being true to ourselves and being trustworthy. Not wanting to disappoint someone is a strong motivator to follow through, which we all need at times.

However, if we’re not careful, we can set ourselves up for unnecessary disappointment. How so?

By saying “Yes” to things you don’t want to or can’t do (closely associated with being a people pleaser) you’ve taken the first step down the road to disappointment. 

Wouldn’t it be so much better to view our yesses as golden tickets that we guard and give out only for deserving circumstances? We can guard our precious yesses by pausing before responding and saying, “Can you give me a moment to think about this?” 

But what if we find ourselves on a path that’s not right for us and have no idea how we got there? What can we do then? Let me share a recent experience one of my clients had. (Her name is changed to protect her identity.)

When Karen, a woman in her mid-50s came to me, she had lived a life of service. Not because it was her calling, but because her mother taught her this was what she was supposed to do. You see, her mother, who is presently a nurse, had been a medic during the war. She constantly told her daughter that “a woman’s life is about sacrifice”.

At some point in our work together, Karen realized that her mother had modeled a life that had no room for wants and needs. It was about everybody else’s needs and wants — a life of utter self-sacrifice. Although she was proud of expressing that deep family value through her work, volunteer service, and in her family, she told me that it left her “empty, lonely, and a stranger to myself”.

When she realized the emotional consequences of such an attitude toward herself and her life, she became even more depressed. Until finally the light bulb went off! She realized “I keep disappointing myself to make everyone else happy.”

Once she understood how she got there, and determined where she really wanted to be, she embarked on a journey of claiming herself, her life, and her need to find joy and passion again.

Karen discovered that what was right for her mother wasn’t right for her. When she clarified what she needed from life, she was able to handle disappointment in a healthful way.

A clear understanding of what you want doesn’t guarantee you won’t ever disappoint anyone ever again. Disappointment is part of life because we can’t do it all. Rather than striving never to disappoint others, a better approach is to become comfortable with the discomfort of disappointment so we can hold true to ourselves. But how do we do that?

Disappointing Others — A New Perspective

Give your yesses carefully and mindfullyDisappointment comes from the interaction between our thoughts and our body sensations. It’s an indicator of another learning moment. So if you can step back and mindfully assess, while suspending all judgments, you’ll be able to fully open up to some new insight. 

You’re uncomfortable or in pain because there’s disharmony in your life. It’s time to slow down and mindfully review what’s happening. Start separating reality from the expectations you’ve built up in your mind. As you peel back the layers of what part you’ve played in the scenario and what part others play, you can deep dive into your strongly held values and see where they’re not being supported.

It’s good to recognize and reaffirm that there wouldn’t be pain if you didn’t care about the other person. So if the relationship is one that you want to continue, communicate that caring so your connection remains intact and becomes stronger.

Does this mean it would be best to lower your expectations and quit dreaming? Definitely not! It’s simply a matter of the timing not matching your capabilities. There will be more opportunities in the future.

Is it wrong to disappoint someone? Not if your motives are to show up and do your best in every situation. Ultimately, you are not responsible for how others react to the intentional and mindful decisions you make. They’re responsible for managing their own thoughts, hopes, expectations, and emotional reactions. You’re responsible for being the best version of yourself possible and sometimes that will lead to disappointment because there’s something more you need to learn. 

To support you on your authentic journey through life, I’ve created my Stepping Forward Program. If you haven’t done so yet, please feel free to download the free Intro to Stepping Forward. It’s a great way to start a mindful self-exploration.

Thank you for the photo Alexander Grey

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I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.


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