We’re almost always wrong about the image of ourselves in other peoples’ heads.
I think that bears reiterating.
We don’t have a stinking clue how the people in our lives see us.
Yet we believe very strongly that we do. We look at the other halves of our relationships–our friends, parents, significant others, siblings, colleagues, etc…–and we form an image of them in our minds based on how they present themselves to us.Thus, we conclude, they must also have an image of us in their mind, which we then feel obliged to live up to in order to maintain the relationship.
This makes absolutely no sense.
If this sounds familiar though, maybe we are ready to drop the facade.
At some point, many of us learned–incorrectly–that we have to earn love. Love is unconditional. If it has conditions, it’s not love. Sometimes, though, it takes many years to learn this. In the meantime, we create false identities, along with a whole lotta trouble.
When we believe we must earn love from other people, we strive to make ourselves lovable to them, presupposing that we aren’t already. We carefully plan our behaviors and appearance to find approval from them.
We do what (we think) they want us to do, say what they want us to say, look the way they want us to look. After all, we’re only being considerate of their feelings, right?
All we’re really doing is lying.
And hurting both of us.
Because, you see, when we aren’t true to who are, we create problems. The more we labor over what to do or say in every situation, the more it will backfire in our faces. We will inevitably say or do the wrong thing, and then we will be hurt because we were trying so hard to make the other person happy.
When we try to be someone else to please others, we get angry. We resent the people for whom we’ve changed, even though they never asked us to change in the first place.
Angry, resentful people are not fun to be around.
Every mask, every facade, every false identity is born out of the fear of rejection. Sadly, what happens is that we reject ourselves before we even give others the chance to do it. We just assume that they will. Then they do, and we feel hurt.
In seeking validation from others, we create our own drama in which we play the victim. This is a nasty, toxic cycle that only ends when we step out of the play and stop acting.
If we were meant to be something other than ourselves, we would have been born into a different life.
Every relationship we have is ours for a reason.
Our task is not to earn others’ love. It’s not even our task to make others happy. That includes our parents, our spouses, and our best friends.
Our task is to relate to each other. That’s it. Everything we say and do is meant to come from our real selves. We will still inevitably do and say things that upset each other, but that’s no reason to fear.
Relationships are meant to make everyone in them grow. Growth hurts (a lot) sometimes, but it’s always a good thing. As living things, we are meant to grow, and we are meant to grow together.
That’s why it’s so important for each of us to be true. When we lie to each other about who we are, we inhibit the other people in our relationships. Our growth is tied to theirs. When we do not share ourselves with others, we deny them the good we could be bringing to their lives and we prevent them from blessing us as well.
Not all relationships are meant to last, but some are. If we are going to have real relationships, we have to be brave enough to invest ourselves in them.
Real relationships are built on love, and love is unconditional. Love encompasses everything, and that’s why, in real relationships, there is room for both people to be themselves completely. When we love and accept ourselves without conditions, then we can know and relate with others as they really are. No filters, no masks. Just us.
No one will ever thank you for being who you think they want you to be, but plenty of people will love you for who you are.
And that’s who you really want to be anyway.