On being, and being a, letdown

“Don’t let me down gently if you have to let me down at all” ~ The Wonder Stuff

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Letdown (n): an occasion when somebody or something disappoints expectations or the feeling of disappointment that results


We human beings are fallible. We’d all prefer not to be but we are. It’s not possible to go through life without making mistakes or suffering at the hands of others from mistakes they make. We set standards for ourselves, for others, and when things fail we can be left feeling horribly letdown.

It’s an awful feeling. Even if you can completely understand why a plan has to be changed or cancelled, or something doesn’t come through, being letdown is a kick in the teeth. And it’s impossible to go through life without being letdown. No-one lives that much of a charmed existence. From not getting that puppy or pony or kitten as a child to the sale of your house falling through as an adult, sometimes things just don’t work out.

The greater the expectation, the harder the letdown is. If you’ve looked forward to an event for a long time then a cancellation will be a blow. If we think highly of another and they act in a way we dislike or disapprove of then disappointment is inevitable.

Of course, what’s really horrible is being the one being the letdown. Whether you have to cancel a drink with a friend because something came up at work or you behave in a way that fails someone else’s standard of you, you know when you’ve done it. It’s a little bit of guilt or unease that niggles away inside you.

More than anything, we let outselves down. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t set a higher standard of behaviour on themselves than they do on others. Determined to be the best, the smartest, the most perfect; we can doom ourselves to failure before we even start. That’s not to say it is wrong to have ambition. I believe in striving for more and better. But I also believe it’s important to not view it as a competition but as a means of being the best ‘you’ you can be.

I impose my own standards and I hate to let people down. But it happens. It happens because I’m sometimes selfish, sometimes forgetful, sometimes thoughtless. I’ve let people down for speaking up when they wanted me to be quiet and for being quiet when others wanted me to speak up. I’ve let friends down by cancelling plans at the last minute just because. And I’ve fucked up my love life quite spectacularly at times by making the choices and in doing so letting myself and others down. All these things don’t happen cos I’m a nasty person (I sincerely hope). I’m just human and get it wrong sometimes. I stop trying to be my best me. And in these actions I don’t believe I am alone.

So what about you guys? Do you get that niggle too when you let someone down? And has life kicked you in the teeth with letdowns sometimes too? Do let me know your thoughts, as always, on a comment box-shaped postcard.



12 thoughts on “On being, and being a, letdown

  1. On being letdown, I believe it’s important to understand why. Or to explain if you are the one letting someone else down. I don’t mean make up an excuse, I mean the genuine explanation. Because that sometimes makes it all okay, because it was unavoidable or your priorities were obviously correct. Assuming they were, of course.

  2. I have a friend who is continually a letdown. Sometimes for no reason at all. I often have to change plans with people due to work commitments or just being unable to face going out that day. I feel terrible when I do, and it plays on mind for the rest of the day/night. I can be quick to judge people on their excuses sometimes and believe that they are making it up and just simply couldn’t be bothered, to do what was planned/expected of them, but I guess that is a confidence thing. And maybe people that I am a letdown to believe the same of me!!??

  3. Having been spectacularly let down by two separate persons in immediate succession, to major life changing consequences earlier this year, I feel I can comment somewhat on this.

    First, being let down is a consequence of failure of responsibility. You feel bad if you let someone else down because you are responsible for what has happened and they are suffering something, whether minor or major, as a consequence of what you have done. If you don’t care about that, then you might not feel the pains of letting someone down, but you are a lesser person for that.

    If you feel you have let someone down, you need to stop and think whether you are actually responsible. When the events I mentioned happened to me, I immediately felt as if I had let down other people, but when I stopped and thought it through I was taking on someone elses guilt – nothing I did or did not do caused what happened to those other people, it was down to what someone else had done to all of us.

    If you ARE responsible, then you have to deal with it. You might not be able to fix everything, but you can accept your responsibility, tell the person/people you’ve let down, and try to make it up to them as much as you can. This is something that lawyers in particular are bad at, often with the thought of legal liability in the back of their minds, but moral responsibility need not be the same as legal liability.

    That takes us to what if you are the person who has been let down. If whoever has let you down accepts that reponsibility and genuinely tries to make amends as much as they can, then you should forgive them – not forgive and forget, since there is a lesson somewhere both sides need to learn – but forgive. That’s difficult, because it involves releasing a lot of anger, and not by directing it in major retribution at the other person. On the other hand it can also be difficult accepting foregiveness and that why the efforts to make amends need to be genuine and sincere to try to balance the “gift” from the other person. Ironically this can make the relationship between the two sides even deeper than it was before.

    If the transgressor is not willing to make amends, leaving you feeling let down even after you tell them how their actions have made you feel, then move on. Accept they are not the person you thought they were, drop them and release your anger because you don’t need that baggage involving someone who is not worthy of a relationship with you.

    I’ll maybe let you know what happens with the ones who let me down so badly when we see what they do about it…

  4. Was also very badly let down by two people in what felt like quick succession in very similar ways. The common problem was that neither of them could see that they’d done anything wrong. Many people think they’ve done the right thing for the obviously right reasons. Its a failure of empathy

  5. I hold myself to a much higher level of let-down responsibility to everyone else. I remember stuff that I did which incrementally inconvenienced a passing acquaintance from years ago and am racked with guilt, and yet my best mate can leave me sitting outside a pub with only a vague excuse and I’ll think “Ah, fine”.

    That probably shows some deep and unpleasant psychological hole, doesn’t it?

  6. I was let down as a child in a quite spectacular way. Since then I’ve rarely expected much from other people so don’t feel let down – except by the original person who did what they did when I was a child. That person still leaves me feeling let down regularly.
    Conversely I undertook not to let others feel let down if I could help it. I was doing ok with this (although I don’t think it’s entirely healthy to live like that) until a life changing occurrence. This was something no one in my family or friends had experience of and something no one could or does understand. It has led to me letting friends and loved ones down. A lot. Ive gone from making uncomfortable excuses to simply being plain and truthful. I think it’s best and actually causes least pain in the long term.

    I suppose I would say I am now pragmatic about let downs but I had to be forced into a situation where I was doing the letting down in order to get to this point.

    I hope your let downs don’t cause you too much upset. Everything happens for a reason. I know this.

    • Thank you, Cate. I think when it happens to us as a child then it does set a pattern and a certain mindset within us.
      You’re right about being plain and truthful, though hard as it is as we often want to lie to protect others as well as ourselves.
      And it’s when I’m a letdown that it hurts me most. Really, really difficult. But thank you, again.

  7. Sometimes I think the fear of letting people down can prevent us from doing things that may be necessary. And then again, potentially completely unnecessary. And there’s the problem – how do you know whether you letting that person down is something that has to happen or not?

    Far safest to do nothing at all and avoid other people having any expectations of you …

    I know that sounds terrible, but it was accidentally my mindset through most of my teenage years and adult life thus far – I’m moving past it, but I remain almost paralysed by the idea of causing pain to other people. (Which of course doesn’t exempt me from causing that pain in the first place)

    I appreciate catemoore’s post a lot.

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