Dealing with Disappointment: 5 Empowering Ways to Bounce Back from a Setback

It is difficult in a nation of perpetual optimism and rampant prosperity to admit that we all experience setbacks or failures from time to time. No one is immune from disappointment and heartache in this life, especially when we are still reeling from the severe economic downturn of 2020. 

Many are feeling unprecedented anxiety due to family health matters, in addition to dealing with more stress in the workplace than ever before. 

Since the pandemic, workers are experiencing layoffs, delayed promotions, or the eradication of a hard-won career. Some are grappling with discrimination in the workplace, while others are perhaps noticing it for the first time. While no one is safe from potentially life-altering change or disappointment, there are many ways in which we can lift ourselves up and bounce back from life’s most gnarly setbacks.

  1. Connect with Friends

Connecting with those who love you can be a wonderful balm after a life-altering setback. You may be tempted to lean away from others out of embarrassment or fear, but right after a disappointment is a great time to reach out to your friends and family about what you are going through. If you’re dealing with a workplace issue, speaking with a trusted coworker (or former co-worker) may be a great resource to set your mind at ease. 

  1. Immerse Yourself in a New Hobby

Sometimes the best thing for dealing with disappointment is having a constructive outlet to focus on something new and stop dwelling. While you want to make sure you are actively dealing with the problem and not running away, immersing yourself in something new can be cleansing for the mind. Try taking up photography, learning how to surf fish, or mastering an online painting course.

  1. Focus on the Why

One of the most meaningful things we can do to bounce back from a setback is to focus on the “why.” Sit back and have a truthful conversation with yourself about why you are experiencing this setback. Is it because of circumstances beyond my control? Is it a direct result of my action or inaction? Could it have been prevented? Was it inevitable despite my best efforts? 

While it is important to be gentle with yourself during this process, auditing your own behavior and potential role in why the disappointment came about can be very helpful in your next step forward, in both your career and how you operate as an individual. 

  1. Be Honest With Yourself

Now that you have focused on the “why,” you must be honest with yourself about how to proceed with your current disappointment. How we handle the small setbacks in life determines how we will handle larger issues down the road, and it is important to always be truthful with ourselves. Practice saying out loud the truth of your situation, why it is happening, and consider how you will move forward in the future. Sometimes the honest truth is that the setback is beyond your control. Sometimes the truth is that you can really learn and grow from what you’re experiencing. 

  1.   Be Mindful of Your Habits

Giving in to bad habits after a setback is a very slippery slope. One day you’re doing well in your health and routine, and then disappointment swoops in and you’re in bed eating a bag of Cheetos wondering where you went wrong. It is important to always be mindful of your habits, but especially after a setback as it may be tempting to lean into old harmful patterns.

Setbacks can change your life, and it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Take time to consider the “why,” treat your mind with compassion and honesty, be mindful of harmful habits, and don’t drift too far from the people who love you. Psychologists say failure can even be good for us, as rising up from defeat can make you stronger as a person. Who knows? Today’s disappointment may even turn into the most valuable lesson of your life.