The School of Hard Knocks
I’ve had my fair share of disappointments over the years. Jobs I was certain I would get but didn’t. A broken engagement. The dress I ordered online that I needed in 24 hours but it arrived in 48! We all experience disappointment but just how well do you handle it?
I grew up with an army of cousins. In fact, typical of many West Indian families in the 60s, I had so many cousins that I didn’t actually need any friends, however, I sometimes felt like an outsider - especially when it came to choosing sides. They weren't mean (well, not all the time!) and I now understand and admire their sense of loyalty towards each other but at the time with no siblings to claim as my own my younger self struggled. A lot. Yes, I was family, however, as I was not a sibling should I have expected to fit in and belong in the same way?
I guess I was a typical teenage girl in that I compared myself to my female counterparts and came to the conclusion that they were a lot more attractive than me – a belief (or lie) that was compounded by the attention I saw them receiving from the opposite sex and I didn’t! I expected to receive some of the attention my friends received and because I didn't I was convinced I was invisible (which was ironic because I was taller than the average female my age so there really was no way you could miss me). I would often be referred to as “... do you mean Susan’s friend?” of course I assumed this meant I wasn’t worth remembering which impacted my self-esteem for many years and adversely affected how I related to the opposite sex. Even as a twenty-something I was trying so hard to be noticed – a little too hard if I’m honest. I would be a little louder than I am naturally and buy gifts to win the affection of the men I liked but it never worked so I was often left feeling rejected and disappointed.
If only I had known then what I know now my life would have been extremely different.
I would have owned my height and size. I would have celebrated all the things that make me unique and I definitely would not have compared myself to anyone else. But sadly, I didn’t grasp any of this until much, much later in life. Over many years I have had to navigate my heart through a sea of disappointments. Of course, the impact disappointments differ but if they’re not handled well, your heart will absorb the pain like a sponge and over time it will become numb. So, how can you walk through disappointment and come out powerful and free?
1. Don’t hide. This was usually the first thing I did when I felt threatened with the possibility of disappointment. Hiding must be instinctive as children generally hide behind their mother’s skirt or their father’s legs when they feel scared. I’m not suggesting responsible adults should push children into the face of danger but it would help to walk a child through their fears which could be rooted in a lie. There are no monsters under the bed! 2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable which is not the same as being open or bold. Being vulnerable means exposing yourself to the possibility of rejection. The first time I did this I had to stop myself from censoring what my heart truly felt as I really wanted to play it safe. However, I had to trust that people would value what came from my heart as much as I did. And if they didn’t, well that was fine too because I knew I was powerful. 3. Ask more questions. Clarification helped me to manage my expectations and protect my relationships. I began to include people in my process – whenever I felt myself withdrawing I would make myself share with a friend I trusted. 4. Spend time getting to know who you are because when you truly know and own YOU you may discover that some disappointments are actually blessings in disguise.