Updated: Jun 8
We all have a tendency to interpret the actions of others through a lens that centres around our own wants, preferences, needs, and desires. Whilst Instagram is actively encouraging us to strut around with main character energy, it does have its downsides. This is especially true when it comes to our intimate relationships, where we often make assumptions about what our partner is saying or doing (or not saying or not doing). But what's driving this need to see everyone else’s actions as a reflection of our own worth?
At the root of it all is the fear that we're not good enough. This fear can be so deep-seated and all-consuming that it influences how we see and interpret the world around us. We become fixated on trying to prove our worth to ourselves and to others, and this often leads us to see the actions of our partner as a direct indicator of our value. And, of course, we need to prove our worth if we have been walking around constantly telling ourselves we are not good enough (*waves at people socialised under capitalist patriarchy).
But this way of thinking is not only damaging to our relationships; it also needs to be an accurate representation of how the world actually works. Our partner's actions and words are not about us. They are a reflection of their thoughts, feelings, history, preferences, and values. When we focus on trying to make their behaviour all about us, we're missing out on the chance to truly understand and connect with our partner and also railroading their right to autonomy. To understand why we have this tendency to see the actions of others as a reflection of our own worth, we need to take a look at the way our brain works. Our brain is wired to look for patterns and make connections between experiences. Oh, and danger. It loved hyper-focusing on anything which it thinks could be dangerous. This helps us make sense of the world and keep us safe. Sometimes. Sometimes it gets all lost in its own drama and creates problems which were not actually there.
This tendency to make connections can sometimes lead us astray when it comes to our relationships. We start to see patterns where we tell ourselves something went terribly wrong, but it might (and often is) all based on assumptions. If we believe our partner's behaviour is a direct reflection of our worth, we are going to seek evidence of this. This is because our brains are wired to prioritise information that confirms our beliefs and fears and to ignore information that contradicts them. This confirmation bias can cause us to filter all of our experiences through a lens that reinforces our fear of not being good enough. So, how can we break free from this cycle of these least fun game of eye spy ever? The first step is to become aware of the thought patterns that drive our behaviour. Notice when you find yourself thinking it is all about you and take a step back. Ask yourself if there might be other factors influencing their actions. And have the awareness to ask yourself, rather than Is this something they believe about you, s this something you believe about yourself?
Next, work on building your self-worth from the inside out. When we're secure in our own values, we're less likely to feel the need to seek validation from others. Practice self-care (I have a couple of courses which help; I don’t know if I mentioned that), engage in activities that bring you joy, and remind yourself of your own strengths and achievements.
Finally, consciously try to understand and connect with your partner on a deeper level. Ask questions, listen to their perspective, and try to see their actions through their own lens. By focusing on empathy and understanding, you can strengthen your relationship and break free from the cycle of seeing everything through the lens of what a dreadful person you are.
When we're able to shift our thinking from seeing our partner's behaviour as a reflection of our own worth, we open ourselves up to a world of new possibilities. Our relationships become more authentic and meaningful, and we experience a deeper connection with those we love. What we fear our partner thinks is always a chance for us to learn more about ourselves and uncover a belief system driving our life.