One of the great Beatles songs starts with a loud “Don’t Let Me Down!”. If everyone simply lived by this song, then that would be great. Alas, life does not work that way. We have all been the unfortunate recipients of unfulfilled promises, and similarly, we've all let others down too. People are letting each other down all the time.
We do not necessarily have to excuse this behavior because it is not the greatest quality to have. But we must keep in mind that we are only human, after all. But that may be easier said than done. How do you actually deal with the inevitable consequences of being let down?
In this article, I will help you understand why people get disappointed with each other, and how this affects relationships. I'll also offer four simple tips to help you deal with being let down.
Give you tips on what you can do to deal with disappointment in such a way that it will not poison you emotionally and mentally.
How your high expectations could make you vulnerable for being let down
Some people hold high standards of themselves and expect other people to behave according to their ideals.
The problem is, that ‘ideal’ is more often than not just a version of the person you made up in your head.
The concept of incongruence and being let down
In the humanistic school of thought in psychology, there is a concept called “incongruence.” Developed by Carl Rogers, it basically talks about the discrepancy between the ideal self and the real self.
The ideal self is how we wish and expect ourselves to be, and the real self is how we really are. The higher the dissonance, the more we become disappointed in ourselves.
This concept can also be used to understand why high expectations lead to disappointment. High expectations stem from the concept of the “ideal” version we have of that person. The greater the difference between the ideal version of someone and how they really are, the more we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Again, this does not excuse or absolve them for letting us down in any way. This is just a simple explanation of something we can control. We can control our own minds and our own feelings about it, not theirs.
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Tips on how to deal with people letting you down
Being let down by others is something that we can’t always avoid.
Even though we can change our own state of mind about it, there are still some tips that I’ve found useful in dealing with the actual disappointment.
Here are 4 tips that have helped me.
1. React accordingly
As previously mentioned, we cannot control how people act toward us. This is actually a pretty freeing thought. Imagine you were 100% responsible for how others behave towards you. That is a huge weight to carry on one’s shoulders, and 99.9% of the time, it is not even a correct assumption!
All we can do is control how we are going to react to their behavior.
In the words of Maya Angelou, a famous author and poet:
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.Maya Angelou
Being let down by people is a part of life. It is unpleasant and unfair, but it will be more unfair for you if you continue to dwell on it. You were already disappointed in the first place, why increase the negative thoughts and feelings that come with it when you can:
- Allow yourself to feel disappointed.
- Understand that you are not responsible for their behavior, only how you expected them to behave.
- Depending on the context of the problem and the relationship with the other person, see if it is worth communicating or continuing the relationship.
2. Communicate assertively
It may be difficult to believe, but some people are just plainly unaware of their disappointing behavior. Maybe they just lack self-awareness?
Or this may be because they rarely, if ever, get called out on it.
In any case, depending on your relationship with the person, communication helps not only in managing your expectations, but it will also let the other person know yours.
Assuming that people ought to know better is not always wise. The best course of action is to communicate your thoughts and feelings in an assertive manner:
- Use “I” statements to express your feelings
For example, “I felt disappointed when you did not work on the project like you said you would”.
- Listen and validate what the other person has to say about it
For example, “I understand you have a lot on your plate and feel completely spaced out”.
- Set boundaries for your own peace of mind
For example, “I would appreciate it if, in the future, you will let me know that you would not be able to work on the project as we discussed”.
3. Think realistically
The best way to combat disappointment is to manage our own expectations. It is admirable to see the best in people, but we also need to be careful not to mix the ideal version of them with the version that they show to us.
Or better yet, have realistic expectations in the first place. See them for who they are, not how we want them to be. The more we set our expectations based on how people really are, the less disappointed we become.
Observe behavior patterns and ask yourself the following questions:
- Has this person let me down before? What was the context of that situation?
- Did I merely expect them to act that way toward me, or did I communicate my expectations toward them?
- Shall I continue to invest in a relationship with this person if they continuously set me up for disappointment in the first place?
4. Know when to stay or when to let go
Think about the person that let you down, how they have treated you, and how you felt about it. Then decide for yourself if that is something you can tolerate.
If not, then it may be time to slowly sever ties with them. Or at the very least, minimize contact with them.
Negativity can spread from one person to another, and you want to minimize the impact this has on your own happiness.
If you're looking for tips on this topic, here's our article on how to let go of a friend.
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Remember, when dealing with people that let you down, the only thing that is within your control is yourself. You get to decide how to react toward them. It is not selfish to think of yourself first and foremost. After all, when other people disappoint you and you dwell on it, you only end up disappointing yourself, which is an additional hurdle to tackle.
What did I miss? Are there any tips you want to share? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!