I was supporting a woman in her process of finding clarity about a relationship that was ending, which made her feel like she was failing, that she was responsible of the way it was unfolding, as if she was the very cause of it.
Her perception of the situation was rooted into the fictitious belief that we are somehow responsible for how another person feels, reacts, thinks.
So after she tried to be the perfect, ideal partner for years and years, she struggled to forgive herself for having exposed her anger in what she considered to have been an ‘extreme’ way in one specific occasion, causing an incurably deep distance from that moment on between her and her partner, and eventually led to the decision to break up.
What she couldn’t see was that the standard of perfection she was holding for herself, the belief that she needed to perfect to be worthy of love, implied to behave in a certain, quite unauthentic way in order to satisfy others.
She had been living in this pattern of inauthenticity for most of her life, since she had constructed this belief within herself as child, and never questioned it, instead trying to live up to the expectations of the people around her, to hold them close, to gain a validation that she wasn’t giving to herself.
Her partner was showing her the weight of her belief, I need other people’s validation, and I don’t deserve love as I am, I should be different, better. She was also interpreting his reaction as result of her own behaviour, not envisioning the possibility that something totally different was going on. Since they weren’t communicating openly, the fog was covering the possibility for true understanding and connection.
The point wasn’t really about how to get back together her with him, but rather how to make peace with herself.
How to finally regain the freedom to simply be, to validate herself by herself, to share sincerely, to give up the impossible task of controlling how others would perceive her.
We try to behave in a way that matches what we assume to be the expectations of others about us, and in doing so we hide what is true within us, thinking that the potential disapproval of others would be the result of our own being and doing. While it’s not. The approval or disapproval of others have nothing to do with us.
It entirely depends on their own way of perceiving us.
In fact, we are so used to believe that the way others see us is about us that we don’t question this, although the way they see us has indeed very few to do with us, and very much to do with their own way of perceiving reality and their own beliefs.
Here’s one last example:
A dear friend of mine was telling me about how difficult he found it not to consider the possible reaction of others to his behaviour. He believes that when we connect to each other, we need to make the effort to appear to be serene and smiley, so that others can feel comfortable in our presence.
It was evident that he wasn’t interested in the Truth of the moment but rather in avoiding discomfort, and since he was convinced that some emotional states such as anger and sadness are uncomfortable to be witnessed, he was asking himself and others to continuously hide part of their personality, showing only the sunny one, the ‘good’ one, the acceptable one, the possibly loveable one.
This friend was trying so hard to please everyone all the time, as, in his perception, expressing a ‘negative’ emotional state in front of other people lacked kindness and generosity. Behind this stood the belief that in order to be lovable, we need to be a certain way, which doesn’t include states such as feeling fearful, fragile, etc. This was his inner story, which he lived by for as long as he could remember, feeling like there was something wrong about a whole part of himself, perhaps of humans in general, that needed to be hidden in order to be worthy of a sort of love that would otherwise prove unreachable.
We are so conditioned to believe that to love is to please, and that to be loved we need to strategically make up our lovability, therefore reinforcing our perception of being inherently unlovable.
The root of the problem lays there, not in what happens in our relationships with other individuals.
It’s in this conditional love towards ourselves, in the impossibility to accept ourselves as we are, fully, as we have been conditioned to believe that there’s something wrong with some aspects of our personality, by people that were believing the same thing about themselves.
So we try to control how others perceive us, hiding parts, holding masks, pleasing to gain validation.
The truth is that we’re truly searching for our own inner validation, that unconditional, radical self-acceptance, and the liberation from the need of trying to get love for our ‘unlovable’ self, which is a war that can never be won.
Because truth always makes its way through, and what we put out is what we get back: if we believe ourselves to be unloveable, then no matter how much we try to manipulate, to make up what we appear to be, reality will somehow reflect our own self-rejection.
This self-rejection, the belief that we should be different from what we are, is rooted in the interpretation that we made about other people behaviour towards us during childhood. We interpreted their inability to flow love and unconditional acceptance as a sign of our inner unworthiness, instead of seeing it was their own inner battle going on.
It starts with a seemingly harmless situation, such as a child crying and the parents shushing him, because they themselves reject their own ‘negative’ emotions, or are perhaps afraid to confront them; but since the child perceives them as being wiser, he’ll start to believe that the parts of himself that weren’t accepted by his parents, such as his tears, are indeed inappropriate.
From there stems the construction of a whole identity, built on the avoidance of some parts of himself.
How others react to your behaviour is completely in their own hands, and it has always been the case.
The love they were unable to radiate in a specific moment is the direct consequence of their inner state of being, of the way they perceive the world and themselves, which is the result of misconceptions they’ve integrated.
It has never meant that there was something wrong with you or your behaviour whatsoever.
Your behaviour was simply triggering what was unhealed within them; to behave in such a way that never triggers other people ends up would be exhausting, if not completely impossible.
It doesn’t serve anyone and it could never work: because every time we’re acting from a need of validation rather than from the expression of authentic self, we cannot possibly be met with anything else then our own self-abandonment.
So here is my invitation for you.
- Can you be honest to yourself, and to notice how often you are hiding, neglecting, manipulating how you are feeling, what is true within you in the present moment, in order to match other people’s supposed or declared expectations?
- Can you see how this is rooted in a quest for validation from outside instead of from yourself, often covered under the seemingly good intention of ‘being kind to others’ and ‘caring about them’?
- Can you be honest to yourself and admit that you are trying to make them love your company, that you are trying to receive love, altering your inner truth because you feel that otherwise you would get rejected?
- Can you notice and observe that you hold the belief that being authentically and radically yourself, that expressing your true Yes and No, your feelings, your truth, is somehow not appropriate, not adequate?
The truth is that the love we seek from others cannot come from a place of self-abandonment: all that can bring is a validation of the mask we wear, which is pretty similar to that of many others since it’s constructed on the same belief that the ‘shadow’ parts of ourselves have to be avoided.
The unicity of our being resides in the rawness, the Truth behind that mask. In the ever-shifting life flowing through us in the present moment, always.
If we can find that unconditional validation within ourselves and share vulnerably, honestly, fearlessly with others from this place of radical self-love, this is the biggest gift that we can offer both ourselves and others. No matter if they like it or not.
Give them the freedom of appreciating you or not, as they please.
Love yourself, unconditionally.
The rest isn’t about you.