Here’s the short version of what’s on my heart these days: I wear your disappointment with me as a badge of honor.

Now for the longer version.

I disappoint people. You do too. And so does he. And she. And everyone else.

Except, no. Actually you don’t disappoint people. And I don’t either.

“Huh?” That’s what I thought when my counselor told me that. How can that be?

She went on to explain that disappointment is a reaction, not an action. We can be disappointed, but we cannot disappoint. Well…that blew my mind. Decades of people-pleasing and conflict avoidance had left me feeling it was my responsibility to manage people’s disappointment. I viewed disappointment as a sign I done something wrong and when I felt I couldn’t do anything to change the situation I reacted in anger that people were setting expectations I couldn’t meet.

So, I am disappointed. You are disappointed. We are all disappointed in each other. The disappointment comes because our expectations were not met. That’s what disappointment is – the gap between our expectations and reality. When you don’t meet my expectations I am disappointed. When I don’t meet your expectations, you are disappointed. So simple and so complex.

Disappointment gets sticky and ugly fast when we start to blame others for our disappointment (which is what almost everyone does). And then it gets stickier and uglier when we react to others blame by either 1) taking it on and accepting it or 2) refusing it and getting angry at them in return (which are the two most common reactions).

I would like to posit a third option with two parts. We can accept our own disappointment without placing the blame on anything but our missed expectations. And we can live a life of action that does not react with shame or anger to others disappointment because neither are healthy.

I am actively practicing this in my life these days. I single-mindedly pursue a life that works well for me, my husband and son, the only three people I am responsible for. I honor and respect those around me who deserve honor and respect. And I try to give of myself to pursue relationships with people that are happy and healthy. Surprisingly, this leaves a lot of disappointed people in my wake. What a happy, healthy life looks like for me is often not what others expected it would be. There are ever so many opportunities for me to react with shame or anger or a shame-anger cocktail when I am made aware of others disappointment and I am actively choosing to walk away from that type of reactive living.

This is hard, but getting easier. And it is so worth it. The peace of mind I have knowing that my choices are only active, not reactive is priceless.

And the reason I wear your disappointment with me as a badge of honor is because it is a sign that I’m no longer living in reaction to others.