How To Not Let Disappointment Defeat Or Destroy You

image: Terri Swallow

Disappointment is one of the most destructive and crushing emotions we can experience.

As artists maybe it’s even harder.

Feel it once and it’s tough to take, but after even just a handful of minor blows we can feel so wounded and on our kness, we struggle to even raise our head up, let alone stand up and carry on creating.

How often have you started creating a new project or venture, only for it to fall dismally short of what you hoped and expected it could be?

It’s not a pleasant feeling to experience, and one that can make you question your whole worth as an artist, and even the reason why you bother to try and create anything at all.

So what’s at the core of disappointment, and how can we lessen its brutal blows?

Disappointment is the gap between what we expect, and what we get.

That’s it, in simple terms.

Does this mean then to avoid any disappointment we should expect absolutely nothing from ourselves and our creative talents? No, I don’t believe that’s helpful.

As creative people we’re fuelled by a sense of curiosity and striving to create things and do things in ways we’ve never done them before, in ways that no-one has ever done them before. That’s such a fundamental part of being creative, that to remove it would be counter productive and quite possibly drain your creative energy entirely.

What we can do though, is lessen that disappointment gap.

There are two ways – either expect less or achieve more. Or both.

Both of these are about being realistic and increasing your awareness, as well as being open and flexible in your creativity.

Let’s take the “expect less” side of the equation first.

As we’ve just talked about, expecting nothing is likely to be unhelpful and lead to you giving up any efforts to create at all.

But what if you made your expectations a little more flexible? What if, instead of having a very rigid and precise vision of what your latest project would become, you were more willing to let it lead you down whichever paths it wants to?

Instead of already having a clear picture of what you’re going to create and trying to stick to it perfectly with every step (and getting frustrated and disappointed when it doesn’t go to plan), try seeing this new idea as a starting point for a new creative venture.

How can you possibly know what might evolve from each idea if you’ve already decided the moment after it’s been born? It’s like having a child and deciding what its career, house, partner, car and hobbies are going to be as a grown adult before it’s even begun to crawl!

Be there to nurture, to give your creativity and enthusiasm, but let the idea become what it wants to become. Be open to interesting diversions and spontaneous jaunts down unexpected pathways.

The other side of the equation then to help us feel less disappointed, is to “achieve more”, as we phrased it before.

The most effective approach here is not actually about what you do, it’s about how you perceive what you do.

I’d happily bet that you’re far more creative and imaginative than you give yourself credit for. I’d also wager that in the last year – once you sit down and count it all up – you’ve created far more, and in a far more diverse range of areas and media, than you think you have.

Achieving more then, begins with actually recognising and acknowledging how much you already create.

Taking these two in combination – being more flexible and open with your expectations, and being more aware of how creative you already are – will help you drastically reduce the impact that disappointment has on you, and how often and how deeply you feel it.

Start following these tips today, don’t let disappointment defeat or destroy you.

You, and what you create, are FAR too important to lose…

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4 thoughts on “How To Not Let Disappointment Defeat Or Destroy You”

  1. Yeah, good advice about how to avoid disappointment. But what do you do once you’re already disappointed – and have even disappointed others? How do you get their faith in you back?


  2. Thanks Dan,
    it is a very lonely job, and sometimes reading something like this, slightly eleviates the excruciating inner pain that it is to be a struggling artist.


  3. Dan, this post is such a gift to perfectionists! So often, perfectionists expect too much of themselves and give themselves too little credit. Then that leads to all the other things that block our creative productivity…procrastination, overwhelm, fear of failure, etc. I’m bookmarking this post so I can refer my perfectionistic clients to it (and myself, the next time I’m feeling disappointed).


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