4 Ways To Deal With Fitness Disappointment

Disappointment can own you forever, or change you completely—for the better. The choice is yours.

Have you ever gone into something will all of your heart and soul and come up empty-handed for unexpected reasons? Have you ever been preparing for a big competition or event and been struck with a crisis? A sudden trip to the hospital or an injury can leave you sidelined and force you to take time off from the gym.

Next thing you know, all your visions of the ideal physique, and all of the fitness plans you've organized to achieve it, are derailed.

There's nothing more irritating in the human experience than disappointment, especially when it occurs for reasons beyond your control. Worse still, perhaps it's something you caused that could have been avoided in hindsight.

Next time you're groveling in the pit of despair, don't forget how integral—albeit frustrating—a part of life disappointment is. Understand these four simple truths, and you're well on your way to dealing with disappointment like a champ.

Truth 1: Disappointment Happens to Everyone

This isn't a foreign concept to anyone, is it? It started when you were a child. Do you remember wanting that Christmas present from Santa that wasn't under the tree? How about the shattering realization that the crush you had on that guy or girl was unrequited? Can you remember a time that you slaved over your homework, expecting a high grade, only to be devastated when you barely passed?

No matter where you are on the ladder of life, we're all vulnerable to disappointment and change
"No matter where you are on the ladder of life, we're all vulnerable to disappointment and change."

Why, then, does disappointment in adulthood come as such a shock? While we'd all like to think there's a lifetime max capacity for it, that's not the way things work. You can make one of two choices: Duck and miss or swing and try to hit the ball.

No matter where you are on the ladder of life, we're all vulnerable to disappointment and change. So breathe and put things in perspective. Remember, it's not a personal attack.

Truth 2: Disappointment Shapes Character

Disappointment shapes character

Adversity and learning to deal with disappointment in a mature way can lead to insight and wisdom. It can also be your chance to lead by example. Whether it's your co-workers seeing how you handle the unexpected, or your kids looking up to you as a role model, you alone have the chance to shine in moments of misfortune. It's not always easy, but sometimes it's the only choice you have.

I've experienced this in my own fitness career. In 2009, I had to scratch from a show halfway through because I messed up and missed half of judging. It was beyond embarrassing. I had been training for four months to get on stage and in the end, I completely dropped the ball.

Still, I tried to make the best of it. Sure, I wished it'd gone smoother but, by channeling attention away from my loss, I gained a bit more insight on how to triumph over disappointment. Plus, on the bright side, I got to eat pancakes 20 minutes earlier than I was expecting to. How bad could things be?

Truth 3: Disappointment Brings Out Your Leadership Skills

Physique competitions in particular have a way of showing yourself and others who you really are at your core. I have seen it all backstage: tears, swearing, throwing shoes, even sabotage. But I've also seen women who rush to help with a suit malfunction or a smeared contest tan, MacGyver broken shoe straps back together, and provide unwavering support and comfort to competitors backstage. Competing really brings out the absolute best or the absolute worst in people. This again is where disappointment and your ability to keep your composure come into play.

Physique competitions in particular have a way of showing yourself and others who you really are at your core
"Physique competitions in particular have a way of showing yourself and others who you really are at your core."

A disappointing placing after months of dieting, training, and sacrificing your social life hurts—especially when you know you look better than the last time you got on stage. You feel like you earned a higher placement, yet the cards didn't fall in your favor.

Disappointment instills leadership skills to help others in the same position later down the road. You might know how this feels or, if you haven't personally experienced the sting of defeat, you can easily imagine what it feels like. Why not help someone in that situation? When you're in the world of fitness, you have a beautiful opportunity to lead when someone comes off the stage feeling defeated, their shoulders slumped and eyes lowered. It's your responsibility to point out the bright spots and reassure athletes that their hard work wasn't a waste of time.

Truth 4: Disappointment Instills Humility

Hubris has been the downfall of many. Overconfidence and cockiness happen in every pursuit. In the world of fitness, it's almost a daily occurrence.

Nobody should be on a pedestal and, from that perspective, disappointment can be humbling. Disappointment brings people down a few notches. It wipes the slate clean and reminds us that we're all on a level playing field and that we need to treat others with respect and compassion.

A humble attitude, gracious sportsmanship, empathy for others, and ceaseless modesty are all long-lasting consequences of disappointment that end up as the foundation of empires and legacies. The humility learned through unfortunate experiences can be healing, motivating, and inspirational to others who have been slapped down by the hand of disappointment.

It's Your Choice!

Disappointment can own you forever or change you completely; the choice is yours. Whatever you're going through right now, find the lesson, teach others, and keep your head about you. Perspective, especially when it comes to overcoming unexpected circumstances, is everything! Not only can it help you, but you'll have a chance to help someone else later down the line by setting an example. Pay it forward with a humble heart, and you'll find that wisdom always trumps the disappointing times.