What if someone we care about is disappointed in us? Let’s explore how to know whether someone is disappointed in us because we actually did something wrong, or if we are being unfairly judged or criticized. Sometimes it’s our responsibility to course correct, and sometimes it’s all about their baggage.

How do you know the difference? Try this 4-step process to figure it out.

1. When you disappoint someone examine your reaction.

If you disappoint someone, the first step is to examine how you react to the disapproval of another. Get into observer mode and watch your reaction. Some people have a default mode of defensiveness. Maybe you get angry at that person. You might feel criticized and afraid to look at yourself, and so you automatically lash out. Alternatively, you might feel riddled with self-doubt. When someone judges you, you immediately think, “Oh no! I shouldn’t have done that!” Others might get passive aggressive. They might not confront the individual, but their internal process might cause them to emotionally cut off the person and move into rebelliousness.

There are many ways you might react to disapproval, judgment, disappointment, of criticism or another. Without letting the reaction take you over, try to simply observe your reaction without jumping right into the weeds of conflict with the other person. You might try journaling out your thoughts and feelings to see what your reaction is.

2. Try to understand all perspectives.

Once you’ve taken the time to reflect on your reaction to judgement and to get curious about your default mode, you are hopefully feeling a little less reactive. Now it’s time for further self-reflection and attempting to understand others perspectives as well.

We all have our version of the story. As the saying goes, there is your story, the other persons’ story, and then there’s the truth. And rarely do all three align perfectly. Try to remain neutral as you try to understand your perspective vs. the other person’s to try to make sense of what might actually be true. Let’s look at some examples to see how this process might work.

Let’s say a parent is disappointed in their adult child over a career change. Perhaps the parent is a little bit narcissistic and likes how a certain career of the child would reflect on the parent. Maybe this parent likes bragging to their friends about their child’s prestigious career. And if you decide to switch careers, this parent loses the egotistical feather in their cap and becomes disappointed in the child.

A different perspective on this same situation could be that the parent is genuinely concerned for the child’s wellbeing. Perhaps they fear the child will struggle financially in a different career. Maybe the parent’s concern comes from a good place rather than for selfish reasons. In this case, the child could consider the possibility their parent could be at least partially correct. Perhaps this adult child would benefit from looking at how to stabilize their financial situation as well as follow their dream of the career change.

In a different case altogether, perhaps you invented an invisible line that you feel people should not cross. And if someone crosses the unspoken boundary, you flip into victim mode and get upset. It helps to try to see yourself with as much truth as possible and raise your perspective about the situation. Don’t believe everything you think. Instead, examine your thoughts and try to seek a higher truth. To learn more about this, watch The Journey to Your Divine Power.

3. When you disappoint someone, analyze your actions.

Next, take a look at what you actually or did not do and how that might have impacted others. Perhaps the other person is wrongfully flipping into victim mode and pointing fingers. Or perhaps you truly did something wrong. What should you do, in either situation?

What if they are right to be disappointed? There are times we all have behaviors that are less-than-ideal. Maybe what you did truly harmed or hurt another, because what you did was wrong. If we take a moment to examine our own actions and how they impact others, we might decide that there were better ways we could have behaved. If you decide you have done something wrong, then you need to course correct and fix your actions.

You might decide to apologize—if the person is a safe person to apologize to! Some people would take an apology as a sign of weakness and beat you over the head with it. Others would lovingly and graciously accept your apology and your relationship will be healed and strengthened. So, know who you are dealing with and decide whether an apology is a good idea. But either way, it’s important for you to internally acknowledge and take responsibility for your actions, and fix them if they aren’t great.

What if you did nothing wrong? Let’s take the example of a major life change such as a divorce or a career change. Perhaps with this major change, you would reasonably expect the support of your family. But what if they react badly? What if they take your decision to change your life for the better as an excuse to attack you and bring you down?

In this case, the most important thing to understand that their disappointment is their own baggage. You cannot take their reaction personally—even if they are directly insulting you! A reaction like this has nothing to do with you, as it is a sign of their own twisted perception of your situation. If you clearly did nothing wrong, then the best thing to do is dust yourself off and distance yourself. You might need to have a straight talk with this person. You might decide to go no contact, at least until they stop the personal attacks, or longer depending on their history with you.

4. Go inside and follow your heart.

Don’t take other peoples’ disappointment on board if you decide you did nothing wrong. It’s not always the right thing to do to take others’ feelings about your choices to heart. You need to get clear on whether this choice, this action, this decision in my life—is it good for me? Does it make my heart feel open? Do I feel excited about this? Is this the right direction for me, despite what others think? One of the most important things in life is to learn how to follow your passion if that’s the right thing to do, no matter what other people say about you.

When someone else expresses disappointment in you, it’s best to get in touch with your own feelings. You must shed the expectations of others. Whether they praise you, or criticize you for your choices doesn’t matter. Don’t live for other people or to avoid their disappointment. What matters is whether you are on the right path of your soul’s journey.

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