Sometimes we feel cheated on by others.
Sometimes we feel cheated on by our circumstances.
Sometimes we feel cheated on by life itself.
In any case, we are faced with the reality that things aren’t always what they seem – we don’t always get what we expect. And we begin to learn that our expectations are like fine pottery – the harder we hold on to them, the more likely they are to crack wide open.
So what can we do?
Embrace reality, and make the best of it.
The truth is, we were promised trials and tribulations right from the beginning. They were always part of the program. Growing up we were told, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” And I’ve accepted it. The relationships, jobs, and projects that didn’t work out led me closer to the ones that did. The things I’ve lost too soon opened my mind to understandings and opportunities I never fathomed beforehand. So while I’ve rarely gotten exactly what I wanted, I’ve often received more than I bargained for.
Of course, in the heat of the moment, when disappointing things are happening to YOU, not to others, and the outcomes you’re dealing with are REAL, not imagined, embracing reality and making the best of it is not easy.
You feel cheated on.
You feel victimized.
You feel crushed.
Which is why, first and foremost, it’s important to…
Learn to Be Mindful of Your Expectations
Imagine you had a ripe, juicy apple sitting on a table in front of you. You pick it up eagerly, take a nibble, and begin to taste it.
You already know how an apple should taste, and so when this one is a bit more tart than you expected, you make a face, feel a sense of disappointment and swallow it, feeling cheated out of a good experience.
Or perhaps the apple tastes EXACTLY as you expected – nothing special at all. So you swallow without even pausing to enjoy its flavor, and you move on with your day.
In the first scenario, the apple let you down because it didn’t meet your expectations. In the second, it was too plain and unexciting because it met your expectations to a T.
Do you see the irony here?
It’s either not good, or not good enough.
This is how many of us live our lives… unhappily.
It’s why many of us feel cheated on, victimized, and crushed far too often.
Now imagine you try this instead: eliminate your expectations of how the apple “should” taste. You don’t know, and you don’t pretend to know, because you haven’t tried it yet. Instead, you’re genuinely curious, impartial and open to a variety of flavors.
You taste it, and you truly pay attention. You notice the juiciness, the grainy texture of the skin, the simultaneously sweet, tangy and tart flavors swirling around your tongue, and all the other complex sensations that arise in your awareness as you chew. You didn’t know how it would taste, but now you realize it’s different than the rest, and it’s remarkable in it’s own way. It’s a totally new experience – a worthwhile experience – because you’ve never tasted THIS apple before.
Mindfulness practitioners often refer to this as “beginner’s mind,” but really it’s just the outcome of a mindset free of needless and stressful expectations.
The apple, of course, can be substituted for anything in your life: any event, any circumstance, any relationship, any person, any thought at all that enters your mind, anytime and anyplace. If you approach any of these with expectations of “how it should be,” they will surely disappoint you in some way… or be too plain and unexciting to remember.
And you’ll just move on to the next disappointment or unexciting experience, and the next, and the next, and so on and so forth, until you’ve lived your entire life stuck in an endless cycle of things you barely like or barely even notice…
Until you kinda feel cheated on by everything and everyone you’ve ever known.
But if you approach each event, circumstance, relationship, etc. without expectations – and just see that event, circumstance, relationship, etc. at face value – then you will truly see it. You will truly experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t. And you will be able to mindfully respond to whatever happens next.
But (and there’s always a “but”)…
Now that we’ve cleared the air a bit, and established some healthy breathing room, let’s get real about something else:
At some point, even when you’ve done your part to be mindful of your expectations, someone you trust or respect will deliberately hurt you. They will cheat on you in some way by placing their own self-centered agenda ahead of your feelings. And they will do it remorselessly, without an apology.
When you are faced with this reality, and you’re struggling to cope, let me prompt you with some essential reminders that Angel and I often review with our course students who are struggling with similar circumstances:
- The person who cheated on you is likely broken in more ways than you realize. – When people cheat in any arena, they diminish themselves – they directly threaten their own self-esteem and their relationships with others by undermining the trust they have in their ability to succeed and in their ability to be true. In many ways, they are deeply broken. This, however, does NOT excuse their behavior.
- The truth hurts, but it’s much healthier than holding on to the lies you once believed. – The really scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us in the long run than exposed lies. Undiscovered lies erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation to the bitter end. Keep this in mind. The truth heals, even if it hurts at first.
- Arguing with someone who has intentionally hurt you only enflames the pain. – Truth be told, you are often most powerful and influential in an argument regarding betrayal when you are most silent. The perpetrator never expects silence. They expect yelling, drama, defensiveness, offensiveness, and lots of back and forth. They expect to leap into the ring and fight. They are ready to defend themselves with sly remarks cocked and loaded. But your mindful silence? That can really disarm them. That can really give you the space you need to move forward, one way or another, with or without them. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- It’s always best to wish people well, even if they don’t deserve it. – As Gandhi so profoundly said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” If you spend your time and energy hoping someone will suffer the consequences for breaking your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.
- Healing gets easier when you learn to accept an apology you never received. – Forgiveness is crucial for your healing. The key is to be mindful and grateful, despite what happened. It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.” When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self. It has nothing to do with freeing the perpetrator of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- The person who hurt you doesn’t speak for the rest of us. – Every one of us suffers from at least one heart wrenching betrayal in our lifetime. In a backwards way, it’s what unites us. When it happens to you, the key is not to let one person’s despicable actions destroy your trust in others. Don’t let them take that from you.
- A wonderful, life-changing gift may not be wrapped as you expect. – When you don’t get what you want, sometimes it’s necessary preparation, and other times it’s necessary protection. But the time is never wasted. It’s a step on your journey. Someday you’re going look back on this time in your life as an important time of grieving and growing. You will see that you were in mourning and your heart was breaking, but your life was changing for the greater good.
In what ways have you struggled with feeling “cheated on” or disappointed by the outcomes in your life and relationships? How have you coped? Please leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
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Photo by: Volkan Olmez