6 Signs You May Be Secretly Disappointed With How Your Life Is Going

Max Phillips


I wonder, have you ever been truly satisfied with your achievements? Even if you’ve done well in life, is there a lingering feeling of disappointment? I’ve been there. People may shower you in praise, but if you don’t believe you’ve earned it, it can feel sour.

Feeling secretly disappointed with how your life is going can taint your memories, affect your day-to-day activities, and give you a bleak outlook on the future. As people’s achievements are broadcasted on social media every day, it can be challenging to admire yours.

To attack life with a bit more optimism, you need a base layer of self-assurance. That all starts with identifying and understanding the signs you’re secretly disappointed with yourself. Once you do, you can cut yourself some slack and pat yourself on the back once in a while.

1. You Struggle to Accept Compliments

I have been on both sides of the coin. On one side, it’s incredibly frustrating when someone you care about won’t accept the praise and downplays their achievements. On the other side, it isn’t easy to take the laudits if you don’t believe you’re worthy of them.

Of course, you will be able to tell through your general demeanor if you’re secretly disappointed in yourself. For instance, if someone says I’ve done something well, I tend to reply with “Yeah, I guess” or “yeah, but…”
If anything, you’re agreeing for the sake of agreeing but are quick to offer up reasons why you don’t feel like you deserve praise.

How to avoid this:

Writing on Entrepreneur, the author of Business Etiquette Expert, Jacqueline Whitmore, offers some easy ways to accept a compliment. Firstly, you can share the credit with your team, as every Oscar winner seems to do. Secondly, she advises you not to downplay a compliment. Seemingly harmless phrases such as “thanks, it was no big deal” might inadvertently “make the person who gave you the compliment feel personally rejected.” Lastly, avoid a compliment war. Instead of bigging someone else up, accept yours. A simple “thank you” will suffice.

2. You Are Your Harshest Critic

I exhibit this habit regularly. Even though I got a good grade from a respected university, it wasn’t the best one, so I wasn’t satisfied. I then struggled to get a job afterward, so I downplayed the achievement even further.

If you are your harshest critic, you are always looking for other people to compare your achievements with. This is damaging, as you begin to forget that everyone is different. Moreover, the people you are comparing yourself to are likely going through a struggle of their own — you can’t see it. However, psychologist Ellen Hendriksen says there are benefits to critiquing yourself:

“It is necessary that we each have this inner critic because a healthy dose of self-doubt helps us monitor ourselves and our behaviour. I like to say: “We doubt ourselves in order to check ourselves.” And ultimately, that means we get along better with our fellow humans. A total lack of insecurity is actually a sign that things have gone wrong.”

Critiquing yourself will help you keep two feet on the ground. But, there is a line. You won’t be able to lift those feet forward if you never think you are able. Be your own worst critic, but be your best one too.

How to avoid this:

Start by changing the way you view vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown’s research has revealed that it is a sign of courage, as people are more willing to evolve if they accept their vulnerabilities. Here’s a quote from her book Rising Strong:

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Look at your past results, and admire how far you have come. Imagine yourself a year ago. That person would likely bite your arm off to be where you are now. While only a small countermeasure can help you visualize your success and act as motivation in the future.

3. You Suffer From Analysis Paralysis

When I first started writing, I would check my stats every single day. It quickly crushed my confidence. In the quest for a feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small, you might relentlessly check your performance, even if there will be no measurable difference.

Constant over-analysis will inevitably lead to harsh criticism. Which, as we know, is another sign of secretly disappointed people. Happy, satisfied people will analyze their performances when it matters. They realize that they don’t need to keep checking for positive results, as with time, they will come.

How to avoid this:

Allocate a specific time to analyze your performance, as it will give you something to look forward to. Moreover, you can give yourself more data to look at if you leave it for longer, making it more actionable.

Psychologist Dan Gilbert says that people “overestimate how unhappy they will be after receiving bad test results, becoming disabled or being denied a promotion, and […] overestimate how happy they will be after winning a prize, initiating a romantic relationship or taking revenge against those who have harmed them.”

So, we are not very good at understanding how we will react to something. Instead, talk to someone else. Besides, various studies have shown your coworkers will likely know how your personality will affect your job performance better than you do.

4. You Struggle to See the Big Picture

Studies have shown that your brain stops thinking about yourself altogether when you think about your future self. This has damaging effects, as research has found that the more you view your future self as a stranger, the less self-control you have today.

However, when you’re secretly disappointed in yourself, all you can think about is your current failures. Your future self becomes even more of a stranger, leading to increased pain and frustration down the line. As UCLA psychologist Hal Hershfield puts it:

“Why would you save money for your future self when, to your brain, it feels like you’re just handing away your money to a complete stranger?”

How to avoid this:

Game designer and author Jane McGonigal suggest writing down a list of your favorite things, whether games, food, or fashion. Then, enter “the future of ____” into Google. Read an article, listen to a podcast, or watch a video to better understand the future for things you like. This can help you formulate a mental picture going forward and perhaps view your future self as well.

5. You Procrastinate

Professors Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney Levy found that one reason we re-watch old shows and films is for “emotional regulation.” New media might waste our time, but we know that our favorite show won’t disappoint us.

When you’re secretly disappointed in yourself, you don’t want to disappoint yourself further. So, you may procrastinate and watch The Office for the fourth time. Essentially, you are wrapping some cotton wool around yourself, hoping to prevent any bruises.

How to avoid this:

The Ivy Lee method is perhaps the most straight-forward one out there. It works like this:

  1. Write down the six most important tasks you need to accomplish the next day—no more than that.
  2. List the tasks in order of importance.
  3. When you start tomorrow, only concentrate on the first task. Once you’re done, move on to the next.
  4. If you don’t finish any, carry them over to the next day.
  5. Repeat every working day.

6. You Make Excuses for Not Trying New Things

A disappointed mind will set up a base-level of thinking, where it assumes all new experiences will fail. Let’s say you have tried to write a book, but every publisher you sent a copy to rejected it. So, you get told about online writing instead. You assume you’re going to fail due to your previous rejections, but this time it will be public. You don’t bother and end up back where you started.

When this is your default mindset, it is challenging to open your mind to other ways of thinking. Instead, you make excuses. You don’t want the responsibility a new challenge may bring, or you fear what others may think of you. This leads to an “I can’t” mentality.

How to avoid this:

Don’t brush something off immediately because it is new. Instead, note down the worst possible thing that could happen. If you want to ask someone you admire to be on your podcast, what's the worst that could happen? They say no. That’s it.

Break down the worst-case scenario and try to rationalize it. You will allow your brain to move out of the default setting, even if just for a short moment. All you need is a catalyst.

Being secretly disappointed in yourself is crushing. Sure, you can listen to as much praise from your family as you want, but at the end of the day, it’s your voice inside your head. That’s the one you hear the most. If that voice is always negative, then it’s going to seep over into your overall demeanor.

The first step to a little self-pride is self-acceptance. It’s as simple as identifying the habits you exhibit. Once you’ve done that, you have effectively diagnosed yourself. Then you can work on the treatment.

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