When was the last time you were disillusioned? Was it when that person you admired turned out to be less than admirable? Or when you discovered that your long-held belief turned out not to be true? Or when someone you deemed trustworthy betrayed your trust?
It feels horrible to have your bubble burst. To be disappointed. Disenchanted. That’s why we try to avoid it whenever possible. It’s painful.
But becoming disillusioned is not the problem. It’s the original illusion that got shattered that causes the heartache. So it’s time to re-frame our thinking around disillusionment.
Sometimes illusions are great fun - such as magic tricks or optical illusions. We enjoy those perceptual illusions because at some level we know they are illusions and they do us no harm, so we can marvel at the quirks of the human mind that allow us to be fooled.
But nobody likes to be fooled without their knowledge or consent. And when we find out later we had been deceived, we feel angry or deflated. Disappointed at the least. That’s disillusionment.
Think of it this way - what you previously believed was an illusion all along. You only recently became aware of its falsity. Your eyes were opened to the truth. Your mind has corrected a misperception - and that’s a great thing!
Ignorance may be bliss, but it doesn’t lead to long-term happiness, better decision making or credibility. Disillusionment can contribute to all of those.
To clarify, “illusion” in this context is a false idea or belief we perceive as real or true. Illusions can cause us to make bad decisions about our health, financial situation, or other critical situations. They can also cause us to act out of alignment with our values without even knowing it.
In 2020 I had to pivot from presenting my speaking programs in-person to doing them remotely. I thought I had transitioned well and was doing a good job in the virtual format. When I found out otherwise via some less-than-positive attendee feedback, my confidence in myself was shaken. I was disillusioned and it hurt.
What did I do? Through the encouragement of friends and colleagues I didn’t give up, but focused more of my time on improving my virtual chops. After a while I started getting some of the most positive feedback I’d ever received.
Without that disillusionment, I would not have been as motivated to improve because I was under the illusion that I was good enough already.
Disillusionment goes hand-in-hand with regret. They both feel bad but are proof that you know more now than you did before. They both reflect self-awareness and you are smarter because of it.
Don’t worry - be happy
I urge you to keep the positive benefits of disillusionment top of mind, because the short-term discomfort can make you want to give up or lose confidence in yourself or others. It can make you cynical and less trusting of others.
It’s okay to feel bad that you had that false belief, but remember it’s part of growth and improvement. Celebrate your disillusionment! It is a step in the right direction - toward clarity, self-improvement and happiness.
Think well - live well.
- Steve Haffner, mind performance strategist
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