Relationships and self-identity

by Maxime Durocher, October 20, 2013

We don’t always realize it, but each relation we have defines us in some way, like all of our experiences. However, in a relationship, especially one where there’s heavy emotional investment, you’re not only reacting to your environment, you’re absorbing another person’s point of view, morals, and judgements.

If the relation is shallow, so is the experience. It makes you mostly impervious to its influence. Not so, if you’re swimming deeper waters. In that case, if the other person has positive feedbacks for you, then it’s wonderful, you feel great and you can take on the world. If on the other hand, you’re being judged, it can be quite catastrophic.

Sometime, the negative comments can be rather small and innocuous. Other times, they can be big. If they’re big enough, they hurt, and at the beginning of a relationship, they’re deal breakers. It’s when they come later on, after much smaller negative comments have paved the way, that they can really put a dent on your self-confidence. That’s how abusive relationships are establish. I won’t go into that.

What I want to talk about are the small negative comments that we shrug off at first. Those are the one that later on can become irritating, and can build resentment on both sides. That’s one way a relationship can slowly erode. In the long term, the most damaging effect, though, is on the receiving party.

They slowly shifts your perception. You start thinking and acting differently, if only to avoid the comments. After years of repetitions, you start to doubt the foundation of your values, the way you think. You can’t quite remember why you kept your shoes when you entered the house. Now, when you do it, you do it out of spite.

Those shifts can ingrain themselves and put out deep roots in you thinking process, in your identity. Changing them require a sounding board, because you cannot rely on your own perception anymore, it’s no longer really your own.

A sounding board can be anybody, a parent, a friend, a life coach, a therapist, a companion, but it must be somebody who will not judge you or the situation. It must be sound. It’s not easy to realign your perception and your way of thinking, but it can be done and it doesn’t depend on the person you’re in a relationship with.

I know that one of my ex made me completely doubt who I was to the point that I wasn’t sure I was a good person anymore. It took the help of my therapist for me to get my confidence back.

I’ve always removed my shoes before coming in, but isn’t it simpler to keep them on?