Overcoming disappointment | What to do when you let yourself down

I’ve always said, “never break a promise to yourself.”

If you said you were going to clean the house today, go to the gym, or stand up for yourself in the boardroom next time, then you better freaking do it! No matter what your commitment is, keeping your word gives you such a strong sense of accomplishment, and motivation to keep being a better you.

So, what happens when you break a promise to yourself?

Well, that’s what this post is all about—dealing with disappointing yourself.

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Earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that by October of this year, I will have completed the first draft of my book, Burn it Down. Yes, I’m writing a book and much to my own disappointment, I’m nowhere near done.

October 9th marks the one year anniversary of the wildfire that not only took my family’s home but also wiped out square miles of my childhood. It’s a work of fiction based on real stories and events. Writing it has been cathartic for me to write—not just in dealing with the fire, but its aftermath, and all aspects of my childhood. The launch and reveal of this book were sure to be an emotional one for me—a triumph over tragedy, an homage to the life I’d left behind more than 15 years ago. I had built it up in my mind as a homecoming of sorts.

The marketer in me had big plans to share the draft by the one year anniversary. I feared if I waited too long, the story would feel less timely. The ship would have sailed. 

But life happened. I started my business. It was busier than I had anticipated. My writing suffered. And all at once, I was hit with the reality that I was going to miss my deadline.

I fought reality for a few weeks before succumbing to the following process which may help you overcome a promise to yourself (big or small) that you’ve let slip:

  1. Feel the emotion
    Sit with your feelings and give it a name. Maybe it’s not feeling disappointed, but feeling anger or sadness. It’s important to feel the event to to figure out what it means for you that you broke a promise to yourself. Don’t act on anything until you can name your emotion.

  2. Review expectations
    Take a hard look at the promise or goal you made to yourself and reflect on whether or not it was realistic to begin with. It’s possible you set yourself up for failure because the ask was too great. If it was technically or logistically possible to pull-off (like just watching TV instead of going to the gym), ask yourself if there’s some underlying fear associated with the goal that needs to be addressed first.

  3. Think big picture
    Self-reflection is the essence of good mental health. Explore what disappointing yourself has taught you, and what it means in the grander scheme of your life. Maybe this is a trend… or perhaps you’re not used to failure and this is a turning point for you. Write it down. Talk to a therapist, a coach, or a friend who actively listens. Expressing the emotion of this event in the grander context of your life may open up some underlying issues.

  4. Get back on the horse
    Time to make an important decision. Will you try again or choose a different path? Taking action of some sort is critical to forgiving yourself and moving on.

As for me, I realized my goal to write an entire book in the timeframe I gave myself was not realistic given what else I have going on in my life. I discovered I was less upset about the missed target because no one but me knew about it, and more feeling sad and unprepared about the anniversary of this tragic event that came up more quickly than I’d realized. I’m still writing the book. It’s not something I can rush and I’m going to move forward with more incremental milestones along the way. If you want to be notified about its status, or want to contribute your story to it, please drop your email here.

Until next time, be easy on yourselves.

XO,

Rachel