When Things Don't Go Your Way: Effective Ways to Cope with Disappointment

Dealing with disappointment is never easy, but how you respond will determine whether it becomes a minor stumbling block or a career-derailing obstacle.

As a freelancer, graphic designer, or creative professional, disappointments are an inevitable part of the job. Maybe you lost out on a big project to a competitor. Perhaps a client ghosted you after months of hard work. Or your passion project wasn't as well-received as you'd hoped.

Whatever the letdown, it can be tough to pick yourself back up and push forward. Disappointments have a way of planting seeds of self-doubt and draining your motivation. But the reality is that dealing with setbacks is simply part of the creative entrepreneurial journey.

The good news? You're far from alone in this experience, and there are plenty of healthy, productive ways to cope when things don't go as planned.

😥 Allow Yourself to Feel

When that disappointment first hits, it's okay to feel sorry for yourself for a little while. Wallow in it, cry it out, or indulge in ice cream—whatever you need to do to process those initial feelings of frustration, sadness, or anger. Validate your emotions instead of bottling them up.

Just be careful not to get stuck in this stage for too long. Give yourself a set timeframe—24 or 48 hours, for example—to genuinely feel your feelings. Then make a conscious effort to move forward in a more positive direction.

🧘‍♀️ Maintain Perspective

Once you've gotten those raw emotions out of your system, work on maintaining a healthy perspective. It's easy for one disappointment to spiral into a cycle of negative self-talk and feelings of despair about your entire career.

To avoid that, remind yourself that this is just a single, temporary setback. It doesn't negate all the hard work and achievements you've accomplished. Nor does it define your worth as a creative professional.

One effective way to do this? Make a list of all your past successes, big and small. Refer back to it as many times as needed to counter those unhelpful negative thoughts.

💡 Identify Lessons

Even the most disappointing situations can be opportunities to gain valuable lessons and grow as a professional. With the benefit of hindsight, can you identify any areas where you could have done things differently? Are there any red flags you missed or skills you need to develop further?

Try to glean insights without harsh self-criticism or blame. Focus on the objective process rather than perceived personal failings. View it as a chance to refine your approach for next time.

🫶 Seek Out Support

Don't let yourself sink into harmful isolation. When you're in the midst of feeling let down, seek out support from fellow freelancers, creatives, friends, or loved ones who can offer sympathy and encouragement.

Whether it's chatting with others who've been in similar situations or simply surrounding yourself with positivity, a strong support system can be a powerful salve during difficult times.

🎯 Recalibrate Goals

Perhaps this disappointment was the universe's way of nudging you onto a different path. Maybe you were pursuing the wrong goals or trying to force something that wasn't truly aligned with your values or interests.

Instead of fixating on that specific loss, focus on re-evaluating your priorities and setting new goals that inspire and motivate you. Pursue opportunities and projects that are a better fit for the creative life you want to live.

⏩ Keep Moving Forward

Above all else, don't let one disappointment bring all your forward momentum to a grinding halt. While you should absolutely pause to process the situation, avoid getting trapped in an unproductive spiral of self-pity or inaction.

Make a plan to get back on the proverbial horse, whether that involves doubling down on marketing efforts, developing new skills, chasing fresh opportunities, or allowing yourself to move on to brand-new creative pursuits. The key is maintaining forward momentum.

Dealing with disappointment is never easy, but how you respond will determine whether it becomes a minor stumbling block or a career-derailing obstacle. By exercising healthy coping strategies, extracting key lessons, and realigning with your purpose, you can bounce back and continue blazing your creative trail.

Here's to embracing life's disappointments as opportunities for growth and redirection. Stay resilient, keep creating, and know that brighter days are always on the horizon.

Until next time,