Recently I was having a discussion with a friend who is going through a pretty traumatic experience in his life. One of his best friends has continually let him down, causing him to reconsider the importance
of that friendship and feeling very disappointed at the actions of his best friend. These conversations has made me reevaluate some of my own personal relationships with others. Being let down is a pretty common emotion that many of us experience in our work lives, personal relationships or even brief encounters during the day. Feeling let down can be very painful and can cause us to question ourselves and the strength of our relationships.
Feeling let down can lead us down a path of resentment and frustration. You might find yourself losing motivation to do work and feeling anger towards your employer for not valuing you. You might be tempted to cut off ties to your friendships and walk away without an explanation. Although being let down often feels out of our control, the good news, is that being let down can actually be controlled by us to some degree. Read these tips on how to be more aware of ways that you may be allowing yourself to feel let down.
1. Lack of defining expectations. A couple of years ago a friend was telling me about how one of his close friendships fell apart. A very close friend of his had recently experienced the death of a friend. His reaction was to give her space and approach her in a few weeks to see how she was. He did not realize that his friend did not want space, but instead wanted him to be there for him constantly. She felt let down by his behaviors and decided to cut off the friendship without even having a conversation with him about her expectations.
Often times we are let down simply because we do not communicate expectations. You might feel like your work doesn’t value you but have you made it clear to your employer that you would like a promotion or a raise. Your employees may be letting you down but have you given clear and accurate expectations of what you want from your employee. Statements such as let’s do better this month or vague instructions leave room for misinterpretations in the workplace. Be clear with your employer or employees about what you want.
The same logic applies to friendships and relationships. You might expect that your partner knows when to give you space or when you need her to listen to you. You might start feeling greatly unappreciated when your partner does not seem to return your kindness or pay you with compliments. Yet, when you don’t communicate to your partner or friend your expectations, then you will very frequently be let down. Work on communicating your expectations to avoid feeling let down.
2. Placing too much pressure on people. You may not realize when your expectations are too high or you are demanding the impossible. Nobody is perfect, including you. You will likely let down the people closest to you at some point in your life. That’s okay. Be aware of when your expectations become too great. You might push your partner away if you are constantly nagging at him and pointing out every little way that he has failed you. Your boyfriend may actually want to be there for you, but constantly pointing out every way he needs to improve creates too much pressure for the relationship. Remember that we are all human beings with our own set of desires, goals, commitments and priorities. Your family member has a life outside of you. Your girlfriend has other things in her life that are important to her outside of being a great partner to you. No person can fulfill a fantasy of being the perfect partner, employer, friend or family member. It’s okay to have healthy boundaries and expectations for the people in your life, but understand when your expectations are simply too much. Placing too much pressure on people will ultimately make you always feel let down and will damage your relationships.
3. Failing to understand your expectations. In the past, I had unrealistic expectations but was completely unaware that my expectations were unrealistic. Truthfully, I did not even understand why I had my expectations. Many of my expectations were things I thought I wanted years ago or expectations imposed on me from others. Some of my expectations were downright silly. I might get annoyed that someone got me a gift that I didn’t want or expect a friend or partner to understand what I wanted at various times in the relationship. Some of my expectations were contradictory. At one point I would have one expectation and then a few months later, my expectations would change. I’d even say that my expectations might even vary depending on the mood I was in.
Having expectations for the people in your life is a good thing. We all want happy, satisfying and fulfilling lives. Allowing ourselves to accept any kind of treatment without expectations will likely not make you feel satisfied with your relationships. However, have clear and reasonable expectations. Understand why you have those expectations too. You don’t need a huge checklist of expectations either. Start with a small list of expectations that you genuinely need to have a positive and fulfilling relationship with the people in your life.
4. Failing to connect with people. Feeling let down places the focus on you and minimizes the focus on other people. You might spend far too much time thinking about how someone is letting you down and not actually connecting with what that person may be going through. Let’s say a friend has not been in touch during a time where you are going through a tough time. You may feel let down and start to think that your friend doesn’t care about you. However, your friend may also be going through a rough time and just hasn’t told you to avoid feeling like a burden. The same logic applies in other relationships or in the workplace. I once had a mentor who was acting unkindly towards me for a couple of months. She was always stressed out and a bit curt during that time. Turns out she was going through a pretty rough divorce. Finding a way to connect with her situation allowed me to take her actions less personally. You might be dating a great girl who hasn’t been in touch for a few days. You might start to feel like she doesn’t like you and is playing games. However, when you get in touch with her, you may realize that she’s had a very rough week at work and just needed time to herself. Work to connect with the people who you feel are letting you down. There is likely to be much more to the picture than what you originally think. Connecting with others will allow you to take their actions less personally and to be understanding.
5. Surrounding ourselves with negative energy. Being let down can happen because you are investing too much in the wrong people. When my friend told me how disappointed he was that his best friend wasn’t there for him, I immediately said to him that I never thought his best friend was a good friend to him. In other words, I was not surprised that his best friend was acting in such a way because he actually wasn’t a good friend. Everyone is capable of letting us down, however, there are people who chronically let you down. You need to make the decision to recognize when a person is bringing negative energy and when to let go of that relationship.
You may love your partner but if he is always disappointing you, never there for you and does not listen or respect your boundaries or expectations, then it is time to walk away. Same goes for other type of relationships as well. Recognize when it’s time to start applying for new jobs or letting go of a friendship. In some ways allowing people to continually let you down is a choice you make. Stand up for yourself and be willing to walk away from situations or people that are always letting you down.
6. Failing to forgive. Nobody is perfect, including you. You have let people down. You have disappointed people. Every one of us has let someone down at some point in our lives. Having a healthy relationship with the people in your life should grant people room to make mistakes and let us down occasionally. Sometimes my close friends do let me down. Sure it can hurt sometimes, but I understand, forgive and move on. I know that I likely let down people in my life too and am probably even unaware of when I’m doing it. Work on practicing forgiveness with the people in your life. We all make mistakes and that’s okay.
7. Failing to invest in the right people. Just as there are people in our lives that we invest too much energy in and ultimately end up disappointed, there are people in our lives who genuinely love us and appreciate us. Identify the people in your life who are there for you. Again, these people will let you down at times and may not always act in the way you wish they would, but overall these people give us positive energy and are there for us. Invest in the relationships that are healthy and meaningful.
8. Failing to take care of yourself. In the past, I was not my own best friend. I’d want other people to make me feel better rather than take accountability over my own life. Recognize when your expectations for others are too great because you rely too much on other people to take care of your needs. Ultimately you should be the main person who is looking out for yourself. It’s essential to have an amazing support network, but make sure you are taking care of your physical, emotional and mental needs. Reach out for help when necessary from a therapist or close friend. Find solutions within your own life to feel contentment. Be wary if you often take the giver role in your relationships. I’m very much a giver and feel more comfortable taking care of others than myself. Be aware that taking on the role of a giver can be a weakness in your own life. You can still continue to be a generous person but invest more time in giving back to yourself and nurturing your lifestyle first and foremost.