How to let go of disappointment and embrace imperfection

This is the final post in a series on embracing imperfection. If you haven’t already, be sure to read parts one and two

If you’ve been following the blog recently, perhaps you’ll recall this picture of me clinging to a climbing wall.


I originally shared this photo in my 3 ways to find clarity amid life’s chaos post. What I didn’t share about this photo, however, was the fact that I never actually made it to the top of the wall that day. I tried multiple times, but every time I climbed about two-thirds of the way up, I’d get stuck in the same spot. Eventually, after several tries, my strength was gone and I had to walk away. I just couldn’t do it!

It killed me not to reach the top of that wall because, to me, it embodied two things I fear and loathe: failure and unfinished business. It’s embarrassing how long this wall haunted me. Over and over, every time I thought about it, a tidal wave of disappointment washed over me.

At this point, you’re probably thinking how foolish I was to concern myself with something so trivial. And you’re right. But the truth is that we all experience disappointments and failures – much more serious than a climbing wall – that we just can’t seem to shake.

The great news is that I have learned a powerful trick for overcoming past disappointments. I can’t recall exactly where I found out about this trick. I’m sure it’s probably from one of the podcasts I listen to. Nevertheless, here is the technique in a nutshell.

Step 1: Think of something disappointing that happened in your life that you believe has caused you to experience an emotional setback. It could be a business failure, a betrayal from a loved one, disappointment regarding weight gain, etc.

Step 2: Set aside five minutes of “whine” time. Go to a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. (I did this on a park bench by the lake during a long run.) Spend this entire five minutes talking to yourself about how awful it was that this experience happened to you; how it was unfair; how it makes you feel like a failure and makes you want to quit; how you don’t understand why … you get the picture. Make these five minutes count because they will be the last moments you allow yourself to go down this road with this experience.

Step 3: At the end of the five minutes, say out loud to yourself, “I can’t control everything and I can’t change what happened in the past. It’s time to move on.”

Step 4: Get up and literally walk away. As you leave, vow that you will not bring this disappointment up again. When you feel those emotions surrounding the situation come up (they are relentless), remind yourself you’ve had your “five-minute whine time” and you’re not allowed to revisit this disappointment anymore or allow it to control you.

Maybe these steps seem a bit simple, but I can’t express how profoundly they have impacted me personally. When those old feelings come up in my mind and I want to wallow in them, those five minutes on a park bench by the lake are a reminder that I can’t change what happened and it doesn’t benefit me at all to waste today’s energy and passion on yesterday’s failures and disappointments.

Try this technique for yourself! If you do, I’d love for you to leave me a comment and let me know how your experience went.

By the way, I’m already training for my next climbing wall. And this time, I’ll make it to the top. 🙂

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2 Responses

  1. Carol Leslie says:

    Very well said Susan! Your advice sure hit home with me. And yes….I have no doubt that you’ll get to the top of that rock wall! May you be blessed always. 🙂

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