Here's the thing: feel the disappointment in order to move forward

Disappointment is a somewhat disappointing fact of life.

And even though we can be in the ongoing process of creating a life with fewer disappointments by adjusting our expectations and our actions, the truth is we can’t guarantee outcomes, and so we experience disappointment.

From minor disappointments, like drinking a cup of tea way after it’s gone cold, to major disappointments, such as business opportunities not being fulfilled, it’s important that we can process everything we feel and make great choices going forward.

Even small disappointments, when noticed and processed, can lead to better situations next time. You might be more mindful of when you make a cup of tea next time, or you might get an insulated cup! For the bigger disappointments, the more we process them, the more we learn about what happened, what fell through, what that means for our choices going forward.

Too often, we’re too quick to try and jump up and move on and pretend nothing happened. Hope no one noticed, including ourselves. In my experience, this can keep us stuck in secret disappointment that we can’t shake off…

I was thinking about this over Christmas, when my five-year-old stepson got really upset at losing a game. My initial reaction is, “Wow, it’s not a big deal. He needs to not overreact like this.” Partly, I don’t want to see him upset, but also it’s so easy to forget how much of a disappointment this is for a small person. (Side note: I’m terrible at most games, so losing is no big deal for me!)

Reflecting on it, I want to help him deal with the disappointment. If he’s disappointed, I want him to be able to express it and process it healthily. I don’t want it to be suppressed so that in the future he’s just aggressively determined to win. He needs to know that it’s okay to lose, to be disappointed, but he can still try again, he can still have fun.

Disappointment points us to what we want

Maybe you wanted to win that game. Maybe you wanted to score that interview in the local paper. Maybe you wanted to win an award, or buy a specific house, or get a wholesale contract with a lovely shop.

Maybe you were disappointed by someone – someone let you down, whether on purpose or not.

I absolutely want you to be able to pick yourself up and move forward. I think that is one of the most important strengths of an entrepreneur. The determination and resilience required to try again is vital in pretty much any self-employed profession.

But I don’t want you to squash the disappointment. Now, I’m not saying dwell in it and take a billion years to move past it. I’m not recommending getting stuck in being the martyr or the victim or starting the buy into the belief that you “have terrible luck”, “just never win anything”, or similar. (Insert your own downtrodden phrase here…)

So how do we hold space for the disappointment in order to get over it?

We have to acknowledge the disappointment. We have to look at it, describe it, explain it, see it. We have to notice what it’s showing us about what we were hoping for, and what we can learn from it.

And then we can make a plan to either get what we were hoping for some other way, or turn our attention to something else.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re disappointed until way after the fact. We didn’t realise how much we wanted something until it hasn’t happened, until it falls through. These can be confusing to process, but are some of the most interesting places to discover what you really want.

Sometimes we can attach a whole load of meaning to why we didn’t get what we wanted – meaning that isn’t really there. “I didn’t get that promotion because my products aren’t good enough.” “I didn’t get the house because I don’t deserve it.” “That relationship fell through because I’m not pretty enough.”

Before we jump to conclusions in reflecting on disappointments, let’s avoid making sweeping assumptions, especially when they relate to other people’s decisions. We don’t know what led someone to promoting something instead of yours. We don’t know exactly why someone chose to go in a different direction.

Honestly, I think entire lives can change based on an assumed meaning we’ve attached to something because it’s a tender place or a secret fear. Let’s keep our minds open to the possibilities – and remember that we don’t always know exactly why something didn’t come together.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Start by naming your disappointment. What are you disappointed about?
  • Did it catch off-guard? Were you expecting to be this disappointed?
  • What were you hoping would happen?
  • What is it about that thing that was important to you?
  • What’s the feeling? Can you describe it physically, emotionally? Give it form.
  • What do you need to let go before you can move on?
  • What are you telling yourself about this disappointment? Are there any stories you need to acknowledge aren’t necessarily true?
  • Is there anything you can learn from the situation to help you in the future?
  • Do you still want to pursue the outcome? How might you change your approach having been through this experience?

Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability of actually admitting how much we want something to happen, so that we give ourselves the time and space and support to process it if it doesn’t happen. Let’s not pre-reject ourselves when we’re declaring our big dreams, and let’s not shrug off something that was disappointing because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.

For me, even the client who decides not to book a session can be disappointing, especially if it’s someone I’d love to work with. Yes, I trust that they are making the best decision for them. Yes, I’ll survive. But if I let that little disappointment go un-checked, I can end up with a story about how I’m no good or will never get a client again.

I need to write about the disappointment, to explain to myself what I was looking forward to, and remember that I can still get that elsewhere and with other clients. And I often end up writing a list of all the factors that could have been – a powerful activity for anyone who tends towards thinking it’s their fault.

Embrace the disappointment so that you can move forward with a clear mind, a clear heart, and more information about yourself and your business. I highly recommend it.

Jx

PS New Year Coaching sessions are still available until the end of February. Get booked in now.

Here's the thing: how I first became aware of depression and anxiety

depression and anxiety 18 08 (1)First, a big thank you to everyone who got in touch after last week’s blog post. I had a LOT of “me too” emails, and I can’t wait to bring you more support if you are managing depression and/or anxiety in your life and business.

Today I thought I’d share a bit about when I first became aware of depression and anxiety for what they are, as well as some of my beliefs about what it’s like to live and work with mental health challenges. It’s in telling these stories and offering tools and resources that I hope to help other business owners thrive, even with limitations.

When Jenny met Depression

I was on the bus. I was maybe 19, and travelling between my part-time job and my shared house. It was miserable outside, I remember that. I felt like, despite long hours on uni work and a part-time job, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt stuck. I had a boyfriend, but not in the same city, and we didn’t often have the time or cash to visit or call or text. I had friends, but didn’t feel I could share feelings with them – we were meant to be having fun and changing the world and having an awesome time. It was raining, and the prospect of getting home to more work and eating something rustled up from fairly empty cupboards wasn’t particularly cheering.

This is the first moment I remember being aware of depression; aware of the heaviness and the potential for hopelessness. I felt the stuck-ness, and it felt like it was sucking me in.

My external circumstances weren’t great, but they weren’t dire. This was the day when I realised it was more about the internal landscape than the external. This wasn’t “having a bad week”. It was a sense of futility and sadness and loneliness that I couldn’t shake with an early night and decent meal. It was longer term and further reaching than being in a funk or struggling with a heavy workload.

It would take me another couple of years to seek dedicated support or even say aloud, “I think I’m depressed.” But this was the moment when I knew it was something that was more than “normal” struggle.

At the time, I turned my attention to working harder. I read some self-help books. I dealt with it in the way I’ve often dealt with adversity: by over-performing. I thought if I just “snapped out of it” and found success, I’d feel better.

Well, I got a degree and a job and had a good relationship, and I still found myself feeling hopeless and tired and emotional. I found a therapist. I started admitting that this wasn’t about the circumstances. I started to realise that no matter how much I achieved, Depression wasn’t going to fade.

And this is why I believe so many self-employed people can struggle with depression – because we’re always waiting for success to tell us we’ll be okay, that we deserve it.

I’ve heard from people who thought their depression was one-off, was based on a specific occasion. And while certain circumstances can trigger grief and sadness, they can also open our eyes to patterns and to the realisation that something bigger is going on.

My journey with anxiety

My experiences with anxiety are different to depression. In general, these days, I don’t struggle with anxiety very much. But I certainly have. The first time I really struggled was maybe a year or so after that day on the bus, and just after I’d started seeing a therapist. I was at a gig, and had that sudden sense of not being safe. I couldn’t get out of the building – I couldn’t see the door.

For me, panic attacks are nauseating and light-headed. I can’t stand up by myself and I can’t imagine walking. At that gig, I got outside and sat in probably a pretty horrible smoking area and waited until I started to feel normal again. At the time, it was coupled with the fact that I felt I’d ruined the gig for my friends, so I was desperately trying to be normal. I think I even went for a drink afterwards. (Which isn’t what I’d recommend!)

These days, I’ve worked through a lot of the things that triggered anxiety for me, and it’s a long time since I had a panic attack. I’m more grounded than I’ve ever been, mostly because I don’t fight myself anymore.

But I remember. And I know how anxiety can affect people. So it’s also here, as part of the work and the support. Anxiety and worry – chronic or otherwise – has already been a theme of my work with clients. So many come to me when they can’t see the wood for the trees. I’ll keep working with it and talking about it, alongside depression.

Here’s the thing: your story

First, there’s no shame in acknowledging that depression and anxiety are part of your life. Especially around here. I think some people are afraid of it, and I understand that. But I truly believe it’s possible to live a good life and to manage depression and anxiety – so many of us are already doing it. (Around one in four adults struggle with depression. One in four! Let’s talk about it.)

And as I said in my last post, if this isn’t for you, no worries! Maybe you’re not as far down the line as “depressed”, but you’re still interested in integrating human with business. Because a lot of the depression management I know about can also apply to heart-led, soulful and highly sensitive people. Or maybe you’re just interested. That’s cool. Great to have you.

If you know you struggle with depression and/or anxiety (or suspect that you do), I encourage you to remember when you first noticed it. By claiming your experiences and your stories, you get to notice that you’re bigger than the struggle.

Here are some writing prompts:

  • What’s your first memory of experiencing depression or anxiety?
  • What was going on at the time?
  • How did it feel, physically and emotionally?
  • What was your reaction to it? Did you try to stop feeling “bad”? Did you seek help? Did you accept the experience or squash it?
  • Looking back, what did you need at the time?

I’m not a certified therapist, so go gently with this, and seek support if you need it. These prompts are intended to help you explore your experiences, but please take care of yourself if you’re not in the right frame of mind to explore this right now.

What’s your story?

As I build up my resources for business owners with depression, I’m inviting anyone who wants to to get in touch with their story. Not only do I want to support you and allow you an outlet to share your experiences and understand your story, it also helps me to understand what I can offer in more detail.

So please, if you want to, let me know your story. Get in touch. Let’s talk about how we can survive and thrive while managing mental health challenges.

Jenny x

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