A common misconception in searching for a partner is the idea of finding someone like us.
It’s been planted in our brains that in order to feel fulfilled, secure, and content in a relationship, we need to find someone who matches who we are, what we like, and what we believe in.
It seems quite simple, in that no one knows us better than ourselves, but the concept of searching for someone who fits our needs can soon become the concept of changing who we are to fit someone else's.
As we disregard the cliche “opposites attract,” we also disregard who we actually are in order to protect ourselves.
For women specifically, being told to dress differently, talk quieter, and be more compliant is not something that only presents itself in the face of society, but in our relationships as well.
Since the dawn of time women have been expected to be perfect in a world where perfection has a different face for different people. It’s exhausting to keep up with who we are supposed to be when we aren't sure what that looks like.
In relationships, this notion hinders our ability to be true to who we are, in fear of being rejected or unlikeable.
Relationship or not, we tend to hide and twist the truth around certain people without even knowing it.
Sometimes we try to fit in, sometimes we want to be better than them, but most of the time we do it when we find ourselves in the metaphorical "fight or flight."
This response, although historically connected with physical danger, can also appear during situations where we feel our means of protection is limited. In some cases that may be synonymous with physical harm, but in most cases it's in relation to our past and the state of our today's.
Why Are You Hiding?
The obligation of fitting in stems as far back as our childhood, where we’d be sitting on the playground pretending to like football, basketball, the color green, or video games in order to get attention from our childhood crush. It was an innocent white lie, one that was meant to stay in our past. But subconsciously it was there to stay.
Why do we find ourselves doing it today? Here are some of the most common reasons we hide and twist the truths about ourselves:
Secrets: family trauma, unconventional interests, preferences
Fears: rejection, being unworthy of love, loneliness, anxious attachment
Past failures: relationships, careers, education
Embarrassment: lifestyle, family, friendships
Whether it’s a small anecdote like a favorite music artist or a large one about an event of your past, these secrets will always be easy to hide at first, but eventually they will come out the other end in full force, no warning, with the reaction you were afraid of.
Short Term Success, Long Term Problems
The pipeline of protection to rejection is almost always contingent on the transparency within our relationships, and here’s why.
When we pursue relationships that mirror the way our partner wants to see us, we deem our true selves as unworthy, unlikeable, and abnormal. We place the narrative in our heads that we are only worthy of this person and their love if we become the person they want and hide the parts they don’t.
The beginning of this journey is smooth, everything is new and everything is easy– but the fall is much harder than the climb. Two roads can be taken when we put on a front to protect ourselves.
Eventually, you will slip up, someone else will slip up, and the parts of you that you were ashamed of will come forward, and the damage control will be exhausting.
As time goes on, for as much as your partner adores you, it will not make up for the fact that they don't actually like you, they like the person you're pretending to be. It will be nice but it won't be reassuring.
What Kind Of People Ignite This Response
Although it varies between each person and each couple, when it's all boiled down, the most common reason we do these things is in direct relation with the state of our relationships. Some of the most common reasons include:
Trusting your partner: Do you feel you can trust this person with anything?
Trusting yourself: Do you find it hard to trust your own intuition?
Feeling like you don't belong: Do you feel like your true self is different than your partners expectations?
Differences in relational equality: Does your partner tend to call the shots?
Fear of confrontation: Are you afraid to disagree with your partner?
Although stemming from within our own sense of self and security, the fault does not only fall on you. These fears and worries correlate with the way your partner has responded in the past.
How To Break The Cycle
There are many ways to end the cycle of relational insecurity, but in order to do so you need to find a technique that is best suited for you and your relationship.
If your fear of judgement is rooted in your own personal experience with rejection, follow these steps:
Open yourself up slowly: Some of us may be braver than others, but if you feel that this step is daunting, let things flow naturally. Include anecdotes about yourself in passing conversation, make suggestions about places you like to go. Whatever it may be, do it naturally and at your own pace, this way you can gage your partners reaction in a way that's comfortable to you.
Be direct in your intentions: Once you have a solid understanding of your partner reaction to the nuances of your true self, now it's time to be more direct in your intentions. This step is a step of vulnerability, where you let them know that in order to be closer you need to be expressive of things you're insecure about.
If your fear of judgement is rooted in the actions of your partner, follow these steps:
It's time to say goodbye: If the reason for your fears is in direct correlation with the way your partner perceives you then maybe it's time to reassess the stability and longevity of your relationship as a whole. It may be possible to work through these issues, but at what cost? If this resonates with you in any way, it's time to be selfish. Put yourself first and find someone who accepts you for who you are.
Maintaining Mutual Respect
Once you've tackled vulnerability, you need to create an environment where mutual respect can flourish.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Jean Baker Miller, discovered a way to keep relational equality continuously intact, and it's a lot easier than expected.
In order to keep your relationship mutually secure, you need to make sure these 5 feelings are in constant practice (in whatever way works for you and your partner).
A steady increase of self-worth both with and without your partner
An increase in desire to go more in depth in your relationship
A consistent state of energy and zest for like both within and beyond your relationship
An increase of knowledge about your partner
A desire to be more assertive with your feelings
Finding a balance between these 5 feelings will not be an easy task, but trust that it will be worth it. Don't rush to reach the finish line, enjoy the view of your progression. Each day will get easier and each day will become more enjoyable. Remember, when it comes to your happiness, you deserve to be selfish.
Being a strong woman comes with its downsides and they're often out of our control. Strong women are a threat to those who crave power and it's common to feel uncomfortable when we stand out. Part of embracing your notoriety is finding others who can relate.
Inward is a great place to start. You can connect with other women who are facing similar struggles and work together to support each other. Everyone is equally as important and deserves to feel that way. Join today.