My New Mantra: It’s OK to Disappoint People
By Carly Gelsinger
I stood in the shower, hot water pelting down my back. What have I done? I thought.
2018 began with the promise of excitement and the hope of tenderly held dreams coming to fruition: I was publishing my first book in October. My book is my raw, personal story of finding and losing a radical faith. It is a book that I very much believe in. But as the book’s launch date crept closer, I suffered from severe anxiety.
Haunted by the Faces of Disappointment
I was haunted by the faces of people this publication would disappoint: family members, old friends, old pastors. People who don’t come off favorably in my story. People who did bad things but aren’t bad people. People who aren’t in my story but will be disappointed in my loss of faith. There were so many people this choice to publish could potentially disappoint.
“I cannot believe I’m doing this,” I thought. “I cannot believe I am disappointing all these people in this big, public way.” I cried in the shower, as I had many times before. Make. It. Stop.
But it was too late. The cover had been designed. The early reviews were in. The books were off to the printers. There would be no chickening out for me.
My Self -Talk Became a Mantra
I shared my feelings with my husband and some close friends. I practiced deep breathing. When a wave of panic would hit me, I would recite my new mantra:
It is okay to disappoint people.
It is okay to disappoint nice people.
It is okay to disappoint people who love you.
It is okay to disappoint people who have done something kind for you in the past.
It is okay to disappoint people who you love.
It is okay to disappoint people.
I had to ask myself why I was so afraid of disappointing these people?
I am, for the most part, an independent, strong woman. I live boldly in my own convictions and don’t feel obliged to please everyone. And yet I was losing my cool over this book. My reaction didn’t match how I perceived myself.
I think sometimes this happens because all of us carry pieces of our old selves, for a multitude of reasons. They no longer serve us, these pieces of our former selves, but we keep them out of habit, duty, or nostalgia. We may not realize we are carrying them around with us until an event brings them to the surface.
The paralyzing fear of disappointing people is the Old Carly. The choice to publish my story despite what people will think is the New Carly.
The Power of Making a Choice That’s Right for Me
The choice to do what I know is right for me despite risking disappointment from others is a choice that reflects who I am now, after all the work I’ve put in to become me. It is also a choice that honors the old Carly. It reclaims what fundamentalism took from her: her voice, her autonomy.
It acknowledges that their reaction isn’t my responsibility. They might be disappointed, and that’s just fine. They are entitled to their reactions, and their reactions should have no bearing on me.
In a way, being willing to disappoint people from my past gave me the closure I needed. I’m no longer that fearful little girl. Not that I live without fear. But when fear strikes, I breathe deep and repeat:
It’s okay to disappoint people.
Carly’s book, Once You Go In, A Memoir of Radical Faith is the story of a young California girl who finds her way into a fundamentalist Pentecostal church and needs about a decade to find her way out again. Learn more at CarlyGelsinger.com.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was submitted in response to the theme: When is it OK to disappoint people? We choose it for the clear and direct writing and the way Carly summarized what she has learned from her experience. Thank you to all who submitted essays and poems on the theme. Please note that we no longer accept poetry and only review essays that do not exceed 800 words.