Woman with her hands over her face after disappointment

7 Steps to Bounce Back After Disappointment

How do you deal with disappointment and bounce back after a setback?

The last couple of years has brought up a lot of emotions in people. It seems we are experiencing more exhaustion, discontentment, and disappointment. 

It’s not surprising we’ve had to put celebrations on hold, rethink our travel itineraries and adjust to speaking to coworkers and loved ones via our screens.

…..all of which can weigh one down.

But before we become emerged under the intensity of disappointment, the solution is to take action. Here are 7 steps to bounce back after a set back.

Firstly let’s explore what disappointment is and how it can show up in your life.

What is Disappointment?

Disappointment is a complex emotion that arises from sadness when your hopes and expectations are not met.  

That is ……what you hoped or expected is out of line with your current reality.  

Such as

  • the relationship that ended, despite your conscientious effort to make it work.
  • the test, you failed even though you spent hours studying.
  • or hearing that promotion you laboured so hard for was awarded to someone else. 

Even though sadness is the primary emotion, it can develop into other emotions. 

You might recognise it as a feeling of loss, regret, shame, anger and frustration, or you may have experienced it as that uncomfortable space between your expectations and reality.

7 Steps to Dealing with Disappointment.

1. Acknowledge the situation.

When disappointment strikes, take a moment and be with it instead of denying or ignoring the circumstances. 

Facing up to the reality that things didn’t go as you had expected and connecting with your thoughts and feelings helps start the process of moving forward.  

2. Identify and validate your emotions.

Disappointment can evoke an array of negative emotions. But like all emotions (energy in motion), when we take the time to experience them, they generally pass or fade.

Sit with the feeling as it arises, name it, and ride the wave until it lapses.

Or you might like to punch a pillow, scream in your car with the window rolled up or have a good cry to let that energy go.

3. Practice self-compassion and show yourself some kindness

Judgement and comparisons are only going to keep you in a negative state. 

So speak to yourself as you would a friend going through a similar situation. 

Practice staying in the now. 

When your mind wanders back, gently bring it back to the present and speak words of kindness and encouragement. 

Such as “It’s okay, I’m choosing to focus on the present; I’m doing the best I can.” 

Young couple reading a book having bounced back from disappointment



4. Seek outside support.

While there is a sense of hopelessness associated with feeling let down, confiding in others such as trusted friends, family members, or therapists can help validate your feelings and offer some much-needed support and comfort.

This is especially important if shame is what you are feeling. Because shame thrives on secrecy.  Speaking about your disappointment loses its potency. 

5. Put things into perspective.

When you are directly in front of a situation, your view can be limited because you only see it one way.

Speaking to trusted people about what’s occurred can create opportunities to hear alternative perspectives and, in turn, you gain valuable insights.

6. Choose to take the learning and forgo dwelling on the what if’s.

Absolutely, things could have been different, but they are not, so don’t punish yourself by going over the same things.

Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time, so decide to take the wisdom from the situation and focus on how you will put that in place moving forward.

7. Revise current expectations.

Having rigid expectations that others should behave in a certain way to show their love or respect will most definitely lead to disappointment because you can’t control what others believe. 

While unreasonable expectations can wear away your self-esteem and confidence, e.g. you shouldn’t make mistakes on the job. 

Mistakes come with being human regardless of how well you know your job. 

Give yourself a break, update and realign your expectations to make them more flexible and realistic to your current situation.

Disappointment is a natural part of being human and that comes with the territory. 

No, it’s not pleasant going down to the depths of hopelessness, but you don’t have to stay there.

Understand that disappointment provides vital information about what is important to you.

Take the wisdom from the learning and continue to grow.

Woman at her desk smiling as she has just bounced back after disappointment

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