Don’t get your hopes up.
We all hear this warning often. We hear it from other people, who don’t want us to feel let down. We hear it from ourselves, as we try not to race too far into optimism only to have things fall through. We hear it from people who care about us, and people who are trying to keep us in check. If we get our hopes up, the wisdom goes, then we are asking to be disappointed.
I’m afraid that my hopes refuse to stay down. Maybe I’m just a natural optimist. Maybe I lack adequate self-control. Maybe I haven’t experienced enough disappointment. Sometimes, I regret it when I let myself get carried away imagining an outcome that never comes to pass. But I think that, in the end, there are two ways to go on this:
- You can get your hopes up, and experience the thrill of hope and the agony of disappointment.
- You can not get your hopes up, and experience only the agony of disappointment, because you’re anticipating it from the beginning.
Disappointment sucks, there’s no two ways about it. But you’re going to feel it whether you get your hopes up or not. The only difference, I think, is that you don’t get to experience the happy excitement of optimism if you refuse to allow yourself to fully embrace the possibility. What’s more, if you don’t embrace the possibility, you may shut yourself off from some pretty good things, because you’re too busy thinking about what probably won’t happen to consider what could happen.
Allowing yourself to get your hopes up doesn’t mean that you behave irresponsibly. You shouldn’t take irreversible actions based on a possibility alone. At some point, you do need to consider the solid practicalities of life. But dreams are free, and optimism is free. It costs you nothing to think about what you could do, or what you would very much like to do.
Let’s say you allow yourself the space to dream and hope. What about when disappointment comes? After all, life is sometimes disappointing, whether you get your hopes up or not. When your hopes don’t pan out, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the sadness. Suppressing your emotions simply isn’t going to make them go away – they’ll just come out in less productive ways. So own your story, as best you can. See if you can take something good from the situation – a lesson, a new idea, a connection. As you do, be sure to give yourself credit for the dreaming and growing you’ve done.
As I said, I continue to get my hopes up. Sometimes I’m disappointed, but I persist. The disappointment will come no matter what, but the dreaming is something that I have control over. I dare to dream. Do you?
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