When it comes to looking for jobs, many of us are familiar with the importance of power. When applying for a job, who has the power? The employer. They are the ones who decide whether or not they will look at our application, if they will interview us, and ultimately if they want to hire us. For those of us applying, we can only hope that something about our application stands out.
Because of this, we may often feel the need to hide who we really are on our application. Maybe we try to anticipate what the employer is looking for and word our answers to questions accordingly. Maybe we try to put a positive spin on previous jobs to match the job we are applying for.
In relationships, we may experience something similar. If we think our partner has all the power for making decisions in our relationship, is it possible we pretend to be something we're not because we want our partner to choose us? If so, will this help or hurt our relationship?
Clifton Oyamot of San Jose State, along with Paul Fuglestad and Mark Snyder of the University of Minnesota have found the answer to your question.
Mask-Wearing vs. Self-Acceptance
In social settings, there are often two people we will come across. Those who hide who they really are by adjusting their behavior to match what others are doing or those who don't care what others think and are able to be themselves. We could think of the first type as those who put on a mask.
Those who wear masks in social relationships are often trying to gain social influence by impressing others and trying to fit in. Because of this, they may seem like two very different people in different situations. This can make it difficult to feel satisfied in those situations because mask wearers are more concerned about what others think about them than how they feel about themselves.
The truth is, trying to impress others by being something we're not is often more harmful than helpful, and eventually they will probably see through the mask. The same is true in relationships.
In relationships, the tendency to try to impress our partner is more likely to be associated with a lack of closeness and stability in the relationship. Those who wear masks are more afraid of the relationship ending. Because of this, they may be more likely to do something for their partner out of fear rather than any true devotion. They also avoid full emotional investment, which then interferes with their ability to feel close to their partner.
Those who are accepting of themselves often have more satisfying relationships. Self-acceptors are more likely to feel they have just as much power as their partner, so they invest more emotionally in the relationship because they accept that a failed relationship is just as much their own responsibility as that of their partner. Rather than trying to figure out what their partner wants, they figure out what they want and take action to reach their own relationship goals.
Taking off the Mask
If you feel like you are wearing a mask in your relationships, there are some things you can do to take it off and be more accepting of yourself.
Focus on your good qualities and help your partner see them.
Figure out what you want from the relationship and express that to your partner.
Instead of trying to impress your partner, impress yourself by doing something you care deeply about.
Determine if your relationship is based more on a desire to impress others or out of your own desire to feel connected to your partner.
Take charge of one aspect of your relationship that is important to you. Discuss this with your partner.
Talk to your partner about what they really want from the relationship rather than what you think they want.
Whether in romantic relationships, or business relationships, take the time to figure out if you are just trying to impress someone else, or if you are acting in ways that represent who you really are. You will find that being yourself is more likely to make you satisfied in your relationships. Accept yourself and find the power you have to offer.
This article was originally published on The Relate Institute. It has been republished here with permission.
The Relate Institute is a not-for-profit organization that revolves around the aim of distributing the Relate Assessment - the most comprehensive premarital/marital assessment available - to as many couples and individuals as we can reach. We believe that all may benefit from assessing personal strengths and weaknesses as relationship partners, and work to help make relationship success a reality.