Find reasons why you might feel constantly disappointed, and ideas for how to lower your expectations – not your standards.

If you’re constantly feeling disappointed…

It’s normal! Disappointment is a part of human nature. We build up ideas and goals in our head and then turn them into expectations. When others don’t meet these expectations, we feel disappointed with the results. Constantly feeling disappointed can make you feel frustrated, sad, and hurt.

As a solution, you may go to the other extreme, trying to feel apathetic about everything. However, it’s impossible to go through life with zero expectations, especially when others have their own expectations of you. The healthy solution lies somewhere in the middle: lower expectations that still reflect your needs, values, and identity. 

Instead of expecting perfection, or giving up all your hopes and wishes at the other extreme, just try lowering your expectations a bit. Start by reflecting on past events, and work towards building wiggle room and acceptance for future disappointments. 

Why lower your expectations?

Disappointment doesn’t need to derail your life! Accept that others will fail to meet your needs sometimes. While you can’t control others, you can shift your own perspective. Be your own best friend and learn to work with others to build a middle ground.

Lowering your expectations can help you reframe how you view your relationships with others. You can gain perspective and learn more about yourself as you think more about the other person’s point of view. 

How and where to lower your expectations

What are some ways to lower your expectations? Here’s a list of some common areas of life where disappointment cheats you of happiness. 

Discuss and agree to reasonable expectations

If you’re constantly feeling disappointed with your partner for Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, or how they treat you on an average weeknight, consider having a discussion. 

It’s important that your partner understands your needs and expectations for how those needs will be met in the relationship. On the other hand, it’s also important that you understand your partner’s physical, emotional, and even financial limits. There may be less taxing (and thus easier) ways for your partner to meet your needs – and vice versa! 

Remember that both partners have expectations in a relationship – maybe you could meet your partners’ better, too. Together, you can find a compromise that feels within both of your reach.

Make concrete, realistic plans to get what you want

Disappointments at work or school can make life look bleak. You want your hard work to be rewarded or recognized, but you may feel constantly overlooked. Instead of waiting for recognition from others, make a plan to reach your goals. Outlining realistic steps to take and results to expect will prevent you from creating overly-high expectations in your head. 

As the folks here share: “Expectations are a route to great achievement — and also (when they cannot be met) intense frustration … Be a little more sympathetic to yourself through greater realism.”

(Sometimes) let the intentions make up for the results

When you’re disappointed about gifts or special gestures from friends, partners, or family, try focusing on the intentions behind a lackluster outcome. The result may not always be what you wanted, but remind yourself of the time and energy it took for someone to get or do this for you. They do care, they just may not know exactly what you wanted.

Remember that comparison is always skewed

It’s hard not to feel disappointed when others around you seem to be doing better. But human nature is to think life is going better for everyone else, even when it isn’t. It’s natural to feel like you can improve, but making improvements based on what works for others is unsustainable. Instead, be proud of your own accomplishments and work towards creating realistic expectations for yourself, so you don’t burn out trying to keep up with others’ pace and path.

Do something for yourself

Sometimes we feel we don’t deserve things we want, so we hope others give us these things (or treat us these ways). When it comes from someone else, we have confirmation we ‘deserve’ it, and that lets us enjoy it even more. But we can’t rely on others to give us what we want and need. 

Expecting things from others sets us up for disappointment. So as an all-around tip, do something small for yourself next time you need to lower your expectations. This will remind you that you are in control of your own expectations and feelings, not others.

What to do if you’re disappointed anyway

If you’re already feeling disappointed and just need to feel picked up, here are some questions and exercises that may help you gain the acceptance you need.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will this matter in 10 years?
  2. Does this person care for you?
  3. How important is this compared to other things in your life?
  4. How can you get what you want down the road?
  5. What are some other things you’re proud of?
  6. What can you learn from this?

Try out some of these exercises:

Talk to a friend

Feeling disappointed is universal. And so is the boost from talking to someone who understands. Try talking to a friend, or an understanding person here to feel supported.

Write a list of recent accomplishments

Don’t let your self-confidence dip when you feel disappointed! Write down some other things that you were pleasantly surprised by, or some recent personal accomplishments. 

Help someone else

When you feel like someone failed you, try and go help someone else! You may find it rewarding to give back to others who’ve felt the same way, and it might help distract from your own disappointment.

Write down things you love about yourself

Sometimes we translate being disappointed into being unloved. Remind yourself that you’re worthwhile by writing a list of things you love about yourself.