Why is it that we feel ‘disappointed’ with our partners, ‘disappointed’ with our friends, ‘disappointed’ with our family, ‘disappointed’ with ourselves!

According to the dictionary the word disappoint means “to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of”…………

From childhood we are conditioned to fulfill the expectations of others, whether from parents, teachers, family members or peers. How many times do we hear the proud young mother comparing her infant/child with another about achievement in potty training skills, talking skills, reading skills, swimming skills etc.?

As we mature, not only others have a certain perspective of our capabilities and a sense of what we should be able to achieve, but we begin to set standards, too. This is great when the encouragement “to be all we can be” comes from a positive source and it is combined with ones own passion and confidence. After all, a little healthy competition is stimulating – especially when we feel we have a fighting chance to succeed.

But what happens when we lack confidence, and we do things constantly to please others with a sense of duty rather than pleasure or joy? What happens when we don’t live up to expectations? What happens when no matter how hard we try, we just cannot achieve that ‘acceptable level’? What happens when we suffer setback after setback and nothing we do seems to work out? Who sets the standards, which we accept and try to live up to?

And who feels the pain of disappointment, and the guilt of having disappointed others – not to mention one-self! (Talk about double whammy!)

Of course we must realize that life is full of disappointments – big and small, and for many of us, overcoming disappointment and obstacles is the way we measure our success. If we do not dream about a specific goal in life we are not likely to realize success. However, the dream should be our dream and the passion should be our passion – not someone else’s!

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and we believe we should be able to achieve goals, which may have been set by another. When these goals are not realized we become disillusioned, lose confidence, ultimately become depressed and may even become physically ill.

I am not an advocate of underachievement or laziness, I just believe that if we truly believe in ourselves and we have a passion for our undertakings, we have the ability to ‘shine’ and succeed to the highest level. If we don’t have that fire or passion, and we secretly fear failure, then we set ourselves up for disappointment and rejection.

Chemical response

Let us examine the effects of emotions on the physical body.

When we are excited by our expectations our brain releases a chemical called serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter. It interacts with adrenaline (the hormone released from the adrenal medulla), and the sympathetic nervous system, which makes the heart race, pulse quicken, and eyes sparkle.

When we are extremely stressed, fearful or angry the sympathetic nervous system is also triggered and this, of course, has the similar physical effects of the heart racing and pulse quickening, but this effect is commonly known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ syndrome, and is not so pleasant!

Conversely, if we become ‘depressed’ by an emotion such as disappointment, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated. A chemical response is triggered which results in melancholy, inertia, and a feeling of hopelessness. If there is a prolonged ‘roller coaster’ of emotions excitement/stress, followed by melancholy/inertia, serious stress-induced disease may occur. These may include heart disease, digestive disorders, and depressed immune system (which is why medical research links depression to increased risk of infection and cancer).

It really is amazing how our thoughts and emotions can (and do) dictate our state of health.

How does disappointment during childhood affect our adult life?
I taught in a vocational ballet/theater arts school for twelve years and I saw for myself how extremely talented youngsters at the age of ten or eleven would enter the school bright-eyed and full of hope. They loved dance and they each fell in love with the dream of ‘stardom’.

As they entered puberty and body shapes changed, some became thoroughly disillusioned, mainly because a nucleus of one or two teachers would criticize their increase in weight (sometimes being quite cruel describing them as ‘hippo’s’). It would be inferred that they were ‘less than perfect’ and that as such could not expect a career in dance.

The teachers theorized that ‘taking a hard line’ with the children would motivate them – bearing in mind that life in the theater is extremely hard and competitive. I don’t believe that their intention was to harm – many athletic coaches have the same approach. But for some of the students it had dire consequences!

I would spend a quarter of my teaching time explaining to these devastated children that puberty and resulting body change was normal and that it did not affect their ability as dancers. Family, friends, other teachers would all try to convince the affected children in the same way.

Who do you think they believed - the nucleus of teachers with negative remarks, or the rest of us who wanted them to see the truth in realistic terms?

Of course they believed the negative remarks, and initially dismissed the positive suggestions as well-meaning kindness – not to be taken seriously!

This was obviously sowing psychological seeds for the future, gravitating towards the ‘negative’………… and losing ‘the dream’.
Belief in these negative remarks resulted in self-disappointment in their appearance,

Listening to many students and adults twenty years on from those days, this negative

‘feedback’ still goes on, and many adults are still affected by thoughtless and cruel

remarks made during the vulnerable years of adolescence, and – for many – has

seriously affected their perspective on life and expectations.

My advice for remedying this is….

Take out the ‘dis’ and make an appointment with life, let go of the disillusions and heartache, and start afresh with realistic hopes and desires.


• We will not be disappointed unless we lose faith in ourselves – or others.
• We may only take responsibility for our own expectations, and should strive not to impose our standards on others.
• It is good to have a dream and to anticipate success. Challenges along the way only sweeten the ultimate taste of success, providing our goal is ‘in sight’ and our conviction comes from the heart.

Examine the fundamental things which are giving you cause for disappointment at this moment in your life:


• You are dissatisfied with your career, or your appearance
• You are angry and disappointed with your partner
• You are frustrated with your teenager’s school results
• You feel ‘let down’ by someone or some situation.

Here are some suggestions to help you deal with your dilemma:

Write down your cause for disappointment, and the apparent reason.

Then look at the level of expectation, and who is responsible for setting that level.

If you feel you have disappointed someone else, ask yourself if you did your absolute best within your limitations. If the answer is yes let it go and be at peace.

If you are the one who has been disappointed, ask if the intention to please was there, and if not, ask if the level of expectation was too high.

(Remember that each person’s degree of expectation is relative to his or her perception!)

Ultimately, focus on the intention. This will help you to realize whether or not the goals were realistic!

Finally get a perspective….. we all must learn to learn to cope with our disappointments to fully enjoy and appreciate our triumphs!

You will be happiest if you will just focus on your blessings!

Author's Bio: 

Vivienne began classical training at age nine, and became a professional dancer at the age of 18, performing throughout her native country, England, until her marriage in 1968.

She then directed her own school for 10 years, before moving to the South of London. At Elmhurst Ballet School, Surrey, she developed the Musical Theatre 3 year program and served as Head of Musical Theatre .

During this time, Vivienne was also invited to become a Children's Grade Examiner and ultimately, a Major International Examiner for the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She was also invited to adjudicate and teach at Festivals throughout the UK.

In recent years Vivienne has organized Examination tours for the Royal Academy of Dance, UK., and was official host of their Summer Program in California for two consecutive years.

She has lectured and taught extensively throughout USA, Canada, and Europe.Counselling students and teachers has played an important role in her work.

Vivienne is also a fully licensed therapist specializing in the field of neuromuscular therapy. Realizing the body's amazing capacity to regenerate healthy muscle tissue, this inspired her to devise and create the 'Myokinetics' program to assist young dancers to reach maximum flexibility and strength... without risk of injury. This work has been presented to numerous colleges, high schools and conventions throughout Europe and USA, and also to professional dancers, including Miami City Ballet.