It can be pretty uncomfortable to acknowledge that sometimes we’re more superficial than we imagined ourselves to be. When we reflect, for instance, on our attraction to someone we experienced a great deal of pain with, we were often drawn to the appearance of things, not how things were. Physical appearance, popularity, status, power, how much money they had, their background, the job they did, their interests, how they appeared to move through the world–whatever it was, it was a big draw for us. We thought it was shorthand for They’re A Really Desirable Person Who Will Make The Perfect Partner/Friend or whatever.
These superficial aspects don’t tell us a great deal about someone’s character, though. They also don’t communicate their ability to co-create a mutually fulfilling relationship. Superficial qualities are not core values.
In any situation where, with the benefit of hindsight, we recognise that we didn’t go too deep and that we valued appearance more than reality, it’s a cue for us to go much deeper with ourselves. It’s a push for us to like and trust ourselves for more than our physical or social appearance.
We only value people at a superficial level when it’s also how we value ourselves. We are more than our output at work, our ability to work a room and charm the pants off someone, and how we look relative to society’s unrealistic and often abusive standards, though. There is a depth to us that we can only value through developing an intimate relationship with ourselves and others.
Attaching ourselves to people primarily because they ‘look’ good in some way is about trying to meet emotional needs for recognition, acknowledgement, achievement, status and power.
When these are our primary driver, it deprioritises our deeper needs and true self.
While we can pursue popularity, reputation, power, recognition, etc., that shallow depth only makes for relationships with similar people. They drive us to situations where we seek validation. An unavailable relationship allows us to, for instance, push for recognition and status. We try to make the person change or choose us over something or someone else. If we didn’t have an underlying belief that we needed ‘more’ of these before we could be ‘enough’, they wouldn’t be our primary driver. We wouldn’t put, for instance, status or recognition ahead of love, care, trust and respect.
Deep, intimate relationships and fulfilling choices require us to know and value ourselves beyond the superficial. We have to embody and work towards our values. When we know it within, we recognise it outside of ourselves. It helps us to differentiate the people who talk a good game from those who take action. Not everyone who says that they value monogamy or integrity, for instance, practices the character values to back these up!
Allowing ourselves to feel and to know ourselves creates intimacy that paves the way for genuine intimacy with others.