(sorry, but they already are)
*Blog written morning after England beat Germany in Euro 2020 (in 2021 – what a farce)*
Hello dear reader,
I’m writing this blog the morning after a rather momentous footballing moment. We beat Germany, our footballing nemesis nation, in the knockout stages of a major tournament, in open play, no extra time, no penalties. It was all rather unchartered territory. (STOP PRESS UPDATE IN THE FOOTNOTES)
We were watching with friends (just one family, covid secure), with the obligatory BBQ and beer to accompany. The conversation between some of the contingent early on went something like this.
We’ll probably go out
Lose on penalties
They’ll make us endure a hideously drawn-out affair with no imaginative play and then we’ll go out anyway
It’s a win-win for me because I’ve got Germany in the sweepstake
Just can’t bring myself to believe we can do it
To be fair, the first half felt like the prophets of doom were right on track.
But not this time. The unexpected happened. The game was won, fair and square, the outcome was positive for the English fans, and the naysayers were proven to be just that. An unprecedented win (nice to use the word unprecedented for different reasons, hey?).
But, as these moments of life often do, it got me thinking.
We protect ourselves over and over from disappointment. Or at least we think we do.
I was with a client the other day who was in an amazing (but challenging!) position of having three possible job opportunities. But one of them, I could tell, she especially wanted to work out. She told me how she was trying not to get her hopes up or put her whole heart into the process *in case she was disappointed*. I listened to her, understood what she meant, but challenged her thinking a little. I asked her how she would feel if she didn’t get the job. Pretty devastated, was her retort. So then I asked her, do you really think that ‘not going all in’ protects you from your disappointment?
Or does it rob you of the hope in the process?
I remember growing up, my amazing mom (I’m from the Midlands – we spell it with an ‘o’) used to straddle a really weird viewpoint when parenting me. On one hand, I could hear her telling me, encouraging me, ‘Of course you can do it’. But then in her very next breath she would remind me that it probably wouldn’t work out anyway and not to get my hopes up.
This is what we do.
We try and avoid the pain of disappointment because having dashed hopes is totally awful. It’s possibly even harder to watch someone you love go through that process. I get why we do it. It makes sense to us.
Except, I want to argue today that it doesn’t really work.
Who do we think we are kidding? Are we any less ‘all in’ because we say we’re not? Are we missing out on full experiences of hope and joy and expectation? Is there anything more wonderful than a hope realised? (Granted, is there also anything more awful than suffering the heartache of disappointment?)
Whether we protect ourselves from disappointment or not, we will be disappointed.
Either a full-on disappointment, or a heart that is slowly getting hardened to hope.
Yes, you’ll be gutted if you go for that dream job and it doesn’t work out.
Yes, you’ll be devastated if you fall in love only for it to fall apart.
Yes, you’ll be heartbroken to find a closed door at the end of a long journey.
But, you WILL get over it. You have a one hundred percent track record of getting over it. And disappointment isn’t without merit. It shows us how much things really matter to us. Are we really ‘all in’ or is this just a safe compromise? How can I do better next time and experience a different outcome?
Of course, faint hope when we have very long (or no) odds is not wise. There would be little point in my hoping to be selected for the Commonwealth Games (hosted in my hometown, I’ll have you know). This would be a misplaced hope that is bound to end in disappointment*. We have to be realistic to some degree, but then push ourselves just that little bit beyond the easy reach. Go for the challenge, set your sights on hope and positive outcomes, and deal with the fall out afterwards.
Cautionary note: there are times and places for not shooting for the stars. If you’ve just suffered a run of setbacks and your heart needs a break, rein it in. But if you’ve got it in you to try again, to hold on to hope, then don’t let some misguided cynicism and self-protectionism hold you back.
I also think that disappointment, like rejection, can redirect our lives in the right direction. It looks like it all went wrong, but that thing that we thought was best for us, wasn’t best for us after all. Just before I started my business it looked like I was being offered my dream job. On paper, at that time, it was the dream job. It didn’t work out (very long story). I remember getting the phone call, whilst in the hospital waiting for my son to come round from an operation. I had a little sob to myself. But I got over it. And was redirected towards exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
So, on that note, I am going to be chatting with some incredible people about dealing with disappointment over the coming weeks. I’m calling it The Disappointment Diaries. I’m going to be using Instagram Live to talk to these individuals who have faced all kinds of disappointments. Don’t worry if you can’t make it live – they will be recorded and saved to my page (follow me here if you don’t already — @hannahloumiller)
There’ll be a lot more detail on the guests on my Instagram, but for now, here’s some dates and times for you…
Get ‘The Disappointment Diaries’ in your diary
I promise they will be honest, vulnerable, hopeful.
I look forward to you joining us.
Keep hoping, (because, honestly, what other option do we have?)
STOP PRESS: England are another step closer since writing this blog… and tonight is the big game! Like Gary Lineker says, it’s the hope that kills you!
*Having said that… I do remember Cool Runnings… stranger things have happened in sport…
P.S. Podcast alert: I’m featuring on Limited Time Only podcast tomorrow. Haven’t heard it myself yet but the podcast is usually excellent. My episode: It’s Time to Toot Your Own Horn!
P.P.S. Interview Alert! I am also interviewing Lucy Werner this week! Lucy Werner runs the The Wern PR agency and is author of two books (‘Hype Yourself’ and ‘Brand Yourself’ – the latter is due out very soon & you lucky readers will get a discount code in next week’s sidetrack). I’ll be chatting to her about branding, hyping ourselves, and how to do it well! Join us on 15 July, 1.30PM for a lunchtime chat about business, life, motherhood, PR and branding. I’ll ask her about her own disappointments, too. Hx