Disappointment Lives in the Space Between Fantasy and Reality

a concrete train platform. It has the following stamped on it in blue letters "BEWARE GAP WHEN BOARDING"
Image by Laurence Grayson / CC BY

Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping we won’t find in another what we know is in ourselves, all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise, and stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one and decide that everything within it will somehow be free of our faults. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through our union with the beloved hope to maintain (against the evidence of all self-knowledge) a precarious faith in our species.

Alain de Botton

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Plenty of things have become easier over the years, but there’s definitely one hold out: Disappointment.

I don’t know that I’ll ever really¬†get used to disappointment. It never stops being an excruciating experience.

The first time someone new disappoints me, it always comes as a complete shock. And makes me feel utterly foolish. Because while it might be easier for some to blame others, I know that disappointment is really my fault and not theirs. I’m to blame for forgetting that they’re human, too. That they’re going to have roughly the same number of flaws and neuroses that I do.

And instead, I’ll have walked into the situation seeing perfection, when really they were just another human like myself. Struggling to make the most they can of this existence. And doing an okay-ish job at it. Maybe. Sometimes anyway.

The only perfect person is one we don’t know well enough yet.

So the pain of disappointment isn’t really about them. It’s about me. Disappointment is my reminder that I have inappropriately put someone on a pedestal. Once again.

Because disappointment is less about the reality is… and more about what the fantasy was.

It’s about the distance from the pedestal to the floor.

Disappointment is about the drop.

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