A love note to disappointment


Happy October!

At the end of July, I set a weight loss goal. I’m turning 55 in November and want to use the milestone to focus on my health goals. 15 pounds in 15 weeks – so doable, right?

Except I’m now six weeks out and 10 pounds away from my goal. Not where I wanted to be. According to my plan, I should be six pounds away right now. 15 pounds in 15 weeks, evenly distributed – Didn’t my body get the memo?

Right away, my brain offered me suggestions. I could give up carbs. I could give up sugar entirely. I could change my goal to ten pounds in 15 weeks.

And then I realized: I was trying to solve for my disappointment.

My brain was telling me that if I did all the things, maybe I could veer away from disappointment, like swerving the car to avoid hitting an animal.

Disappointment feels terrible.

Disappointment is sadness with a twist: sadness that we don’t have something we really want. Sadness + desire + loss. We can feel embarrassed that we let ourselves want the thing, and blame ourselves for not having it.

We don’t leave disappointment behind as we age, do we? Some of us feel disappointed that we still don’t have a better relationship with our parents, or that we aren’t closer with our kids. We may be disappointed in our marriage, or disappointed that our marriage ended. We may be disappointed that we didn’t rise in our company the way we imagined, or that our book didn’t become a bestseller.

This feeling of disappointment can feel so toxic that we’ll do anything to get away from it. We change our goal, cut ourselves off from the source of our disappointment, blame ourselves for having had the dream in the first place. Why did I get my hopes up? Why didn’t I aim smaller? Why did I ever think that I could have [insert dream here]?

The answer is simple, but not easy: We have to feel our disappointment. Rather than swerving to avoid disappointment, we have to let ourselves feel it.

Notice where disappointment lives in your body. What physical sensations does it bring? Create safety to let yourself know that you can feel this feeling and it will be okay. You’re here for yourself. Ask yourself, What do I need right now? In this way, you create a disappointment survival plan.

This is how you can tell if you’re trying to solve for disappointment or if you’re letting yourself feel it: Are you blaming yourself or are you on your own side?

When we try to avoid disappointment, we make our goal smaller; when we feel disappointment, we remind ourselves that we can take more time to reach our goal.

When we try to avoid disappointment, we create all-or-nothing scenarios to avoid future failure; when we feel disappointment, we're able to evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

When we try to avoid disappointment, we blame ourselves for having dreamed; when we feel disappointment, we celebrate ourselves for having dreamed big.

I don’t need to be stricter to lose weight. I can try different things if I want, but by 54 years old, I know what works: self-love and patience. There are things I’m still learning (eating only when hungry, stopping at enough, how to exercise even when my brain tells me it's better under the covers) and they get easier little by little. I’m not giving up on my goal to lose 10 more pounds by November 11, but it will be okay if I take until Hanukkah to lose that weight, or even to New Years or beyond. If that happens, I will feel my disappointment, evaluate my actions with self-love, and celebrate myself for setting a goal so publicly.

If moving your goal won’t work, like if your mom is gone and you still feel disappointed that you never had the relationship with her that you wanted, then just let yourself feel that disappointment. Put your palm on your chest, take a deep breath, and say,

I know you’re so sad. I’m here for you.

This is how we let ourselves be disappointed while reminding ourselves that we are not a disappointment.

This week, notice when feelings of disappointment arise. Consider making your own disappointment survival plan. What support do you need to let yourself feel the disappointment without self-blame? ❤️


Disappointment makes us feel vulnerable. What if we don't reach our goal and a thoughtless person says something like, "I guess you dreamed too big there, didn't you?" We think we will feel so bad that we shouldn't even try. But if we're willing to have our own back through our vulnerability, we get to show up more authentically as ourselves in the world. That's what I do in this week's podcast, which feels vulnerable. I show up as my most earnest, passionate self as I share what studying death for three decades has taught me about life.

Episode #70: This Barbie is a Holocaust scholar and life coach

What do teaching the Holocaust and being a life coach have in common? Actually, quite a lot.

I used to think these two parts of my life were separate, until one day I heard myself passionately say that I don't want anyone to die without having lived the life they want. And then I saw it -- what connects my two careers. In Episode 70, I explore how thinking about death can help us to live. In this episode:

🎯 Why your life matters, even if you’re no Einstein --- and how knowing this builds self-compassion

🎯 How knowing that "life is too short" can help us get over fear -- and why we shouldn't use it to pressure ourselves

🎯 How the idea of having a life purpose can trip us up and how to choose a more empowering thought

Take a listen and let me know what resonates!

Love, Rachel

⭐ I love being connected to you ⭐

website: coachingwithrachel.com

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email: rachel@coachingwithrachel.com

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Rachel Baum

I'm a life coach, college professor, and former president of the Overthinkers Club. Also, I host the Making Midlife Magic podcast. I love helping middle aged people dream again and create lives they love. Sign up to get inspiring mind shifts sent right to your email box. I don't over-send, and you can unsubscribe any time.

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