You may protest and say that it's not you, it's your lack of job, of money, of savings, too much debt, a divorce, a lawsuit, uncooperative family members, a boss who keeps you at the office 24/7, your kids, your car, your post-nasal drip...lots of excuses, but not one among them is the honest answer. We are disappointed when WE reach beyond our means. Not because of- or due to- anyone or anything else. Of course, there are legitimate forms of disappointment that develop because of circumstances beyond our control--things like a cancer diagnosis, a sick child, a natural disaster, or an unexpected death. Managing disappointment in those situations is much more difficult because an individual is faced with nothing but disappointment, but even in such difficulty, even under duress, we can influence how we feel.
Disappointment is a feeling of being let down, of not receiving what we wanted or expected. But in the 21st century, amongst the GenMe's, the Me Generation, and those of us in between, the social attitude toward disappointment has significantly shifted from a place of self-responsibility to that of blame. It always seems easier to blame-shift--to say that the reason for the disappointment is because of a particular circumstance or person(s). But it's simply a lie, one that we tell ourselves far too often.
Part of the reason we lie to ourselves regarding blame is to avoid self-punishment, overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety that may, if severe enough, hinder everyday life. Psychologists tend to agree that self-punishment is a waste of time, but even that aspect--though seemingly a healthier response than walking around catatonic from guilt and shame--is used as an excuse to support blame-shifting.
We do not need to use exaggerated self-punishment; we only need to accept self-responsibility. Once we accept self-responsibility, we can manage disappointment, and our personal goals and expectations, to a much greater degree than when we blame-shift. Blame-shifting, because of its use of artificial excuses, actually creates a more acute sense of disappointment because we perceive that disappointment as a result of deliberate social inequity not our own actions.
Time for an example: You want to take your family on vacation for the upcomig holiday. Perhaps it's to see family or friends--perhaps not. You rationalize that this vacation, though expensive, will count as everyone's holiday gift--so no further expenses will develop surrounding the December holidays: Lie #1. Then, you rationalize, that though expensive, you have all worked hard and deserve the much needed break: Lie #2. You also consider all the sacrifies you've made in the last few years like not buying your daily dose of Starbuck's, keeping your cars longer instead of trading them in, controlling your utility expenses, maybe you even dropped down to basic cable or none at all...given all of these frugal measures, surely, you can afford the vacation: Lie #3.
Lie #1 is a lie, not because you will be running out to the mall on December 24th buying gifts because you feel guilty, but because holiday expenses come from lots of other places outside of your immediate family's needs. You acknowledge friends, far-flung family, local relatives, participate in your office's secret santa program, give to charity, purchase food and drink for celebratory meals, remember those service-individuals like your mail-person, your hairstylist, door-man, nail technician, cleaning help, etc. It all adds up. As does the extra gas and wear-and-tear on your car(s) from going to holiday parties, impromptu gatherings, meals, and visits. Suddenly, you realize days before your vacation that you can't afford to go anymore. Even if you pre-paid for your vacation, the expenses don't stop at airfare, lodging and transportation. You know that once you get there, you have to eat. You'll want to go sight-seeing. You'll want to swim with dolphins or take everyone on that museum tour. And because you used your credit card to defer the flow of holiday monies already, things are going to be uncomfortably tight.
Lie #2 is a lie, not because you haven't worked hard, not because you should not reward yourself for your efforts--but because a reward for hard work does not have to be something as expensive or elaborate as a vacation. It can be something simple like buying a pair of designer jeans, seeing that play or musical group with your spouse or friend, or just going out to a really good dinner. All seem like let-downs compared with a tropical get-away, but you can't really afford that get-away--and not just financially.
We tend to feel like money is at the heart of every problem, when in fact, it's our own hearts at the crux. Think about how financial strains cause tension in your relationships...with everyone. Not just your spouse or your children, but your friends, your relatives, even your co-workers. No one will understand when you say, "Sorry, can't buy you that 50th birthday gift this year because I went on vacation...." Or, "Hey, kids--this vacation means that Santa won't be coming down our chimney for at least two years...." Even family members don't get it: "What do you mean, you can't come to my wedding?" Or, "But you told Mom you were coming for a week this year...."
Lie #3 is a lie because, despite your thrifty efforts, the American dollar is simply worth less--so everyone, from the airlines, to clothing manufacturers, to natural resources like gas, oil and water--charge more because the cost of production has increased. You're not sacrificing to pay for a vacation, you're sacrificing just to live--to keep your monthly expenses down even though the costs continue to rise. And will keep rising. Our global economy is in serious trouble--and a very large part of that trouble comes from a stubborn, sustained lack of self-responsibilty.
Coming from our 21st century sense of excess, where everyone owns at least one computer, a smart phone, an e-reader, a GPS, AND some variation of computer tablet, where the cost of a pair of jeans has reached into the hundreds, where you can't cross the street without spending a $20-bill--social expetations, like everything else--have gone up. And so has our level of disappointment because of it. But we are responsible for our own feelings...including disappointment.
It's more important than ever to manage our feelings of disappointment by being realistic about our own means. The global economy may be failing, but that doesn't mean you should be. And yes, there is going to be a lingering sense of anger and resentment...just more feelings. Manage them by being unapologetically practical. If friends or relatives don't, won't or can't understand your financial limits, you do not need to come up with excuses. You do not need to feel badly. You are working toward self-responsibility and ultimately, you will have less disappointment, less stress, less pressure, and, eventually, more money because of it.
Now that's something to celebrate!