How to Free Yourself from The Pain Prison of Disappointment

Have you ever been paralyzed by this thought?

My _____________ will be so disappointed
(fill in the blank–family/friends/boss, etc.)

I have been.

The pain of disappointing those we care about is devastating and it can keep us chained in life, unable to move forward.

Debilitating Disappointment

My heart was racing,  pounding in my chest. I gasped for air with every breath I took.

I’m going to pass out! I thought.  This is crazy, Steve.  You’re a grown man, not a kid.  Pull it together.

It didn’t matter. I felt like a little kid. I felt cornered and trapped by the fear of my own identity.

I had begun to face my sexuality and I had finally said the words.

I was terrified of what others (parents, siblings, church friends) would say or think about me.  I was so afraid of rejection.

If you are paralyzed by fear–trapped in a prison of pain caused by the disappointment of others–there is hope!

You will free yourself, as I did, when you recognize the following truth.

You are not responsible to fulfill another person’s expectations.

“It’s My Life”

I love the lyrics to this song by Bon Jovi.

Recognizing that your life is your life, is the key to releasing yourself from the “Prison of Pain” created by disappointing the expectations of others. You must take your life back.

And here’s how to do it!

1.  You Can Never Fully Fulfill Someone Else’s Expectations

You can never fully fulfill the expectations of others. The truth is that they can’t even fulfill their own expectations!

Think about this in relationship to your own experience. Think about the times that you have missed the mark of your own expectations.  It is impossible to fulfill someone else’s expectations 100% of the time!

Each of us is inconsistent and hypocritical occasionally.  And if you think you’re not, ask your spouse or partner (or best friend)!

2. Someone Else’s Disappointment Rises from Their Own Unmet Expectations

Your expectations are in your own head. Everyone else is the same.

Unmet expectations lead to disappointment, which leads to pain.

Therefore, freeing yourself from the Pain Prison of disappointment requires freeing yourself from the burden of unmet expectations.

To truly free yourself, you must release the burden of unmet expectations.  
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Now is the time to apply the knowledge you have gained.

Your homework for this week is to ask the question:

What expectations are creating pain for me?

Are you willing to release the expectation that you always have to get it right?

Will you let go of the expectation that you have to succeed (in a certain way)?

Will you free yourself of the expectation that a “good” son/daughter does ____________________?

What is the big expectation that you’re willing to let go of in order to craft a well-lived life?

If you can’t share publicly, then write it down somewhere. Journal it…and begin to free yourself from the prison of pain.

If you’re comfortable sharing, post it in the comments here so they can help others. Then let it go and begin to walk forward in freedom.

Check out this week’s related podcast.

Photo Credit: VectorPortal

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve Rice and my goal is to transform simple philosophical truths into practical fuel to revolutionize your life. It's not about self-help, it's about self-reliance. I show you how. Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can help you.

  • As a recovered perfectionist, it was my own unmet expectations that kept me chained by disappointment and misery. I am so grateful that I learned to let go of expectations and celebrate myself and my accomplishments from small to large, regardless of the outcome!

    I’ve heard it said that expectations are premeditated resentments. This idea really sticks with me and when I find myself harboring expectations of myself or others, I remember it is not my place to determine the outcome. All I really have to do is live my best life and I can let the rest fall as it will.

    Have a grateful day!


    • That’s a unique perspective, Chrysta. I’ve never been a perfectionist, but I imagine the prison of disappointed expectations is enlarged even more with that character trait…especially the disappointment of one’s self.

      As a perfectionist, did you then find yourself turning that personal disappointment outward as well and projecting it on others? (i.e., another person’s efforts were never “good enough”?)

      • My perfectionism was directed inward and it was only my expectations of myself that were unreasonable. In fact I often expected others to do poorly and believed it was my job to pick up the slack. I didn’t worry much about what others expected of me as my own expectations of myself were far above what anyone else expected of me.

        Life is much improved since I gave up my perfectionism and let go of expectations!


        • I am grateful that you were able to see your way out of the trap of your perfectionism to create a better life for yourself.