May 7, 2011

Good Self-Perception

I was taught to be nice, courteous and understanding.
My upbringing, friendships and tangential relationships have all reinforced these qualities within my persona. However, I became -to say it lightly- a doormat in a previous failed relationship. In an attempt to appease the crumbling relationship, I became agreeable, nauseatingly-tolerant and steeped in so much denial, I still surprise myself thinking back on it.

The most difficult part of the situation was that no one seemed to acknowledge my attempt to improve my romantic relationship with niceties as valid or natural.

My saccharine approach to appeasing the relationship was often misdiagnosed as a side effect of low self esteem on my part and manipulation from my partner's end. However, that never sat well with me. Although we were not meant for each other, I knew he was not a person of malice and that I was not lacking in self-love.

I had an epiphany when I realized that my attempt to salvage the relationship had been an acknowledgement of the good and an effort to sustain a close friendship I had cherished and benefited so much from. But this realization came only after I read an article in Psychology Today called "Counterintuitive Secret to a Glorious Relationship."

Corny title aside, what resonated with me was the article's notion that a "good" relationship is perceived as such either by actual good chemistry and interactions or by the delusion of having these great attributes. If you have the delusion that the positive attributes of your relationship outweigh the negative, then you are more likely to become tolerant (or turn the blind eye) from the bad aspects of your relationship.

So how do we know the difference between being "tolerant" or if we're stepping into "denial" zone? It all comes down to a matter of perception and context, and Sherman sums it up best:

"[What's] the difference between being forgiving, letting stuff slide, ignoring, getting over it, being strategically gullible, insensitive, or calculatedly oblivious? Other than the positive and negative connotations, I would say, not much"

They both look delusional, don't they? 

Although others misdiagnosed my optimistic response to the crumbling relationship as a sign that I didn't value myself enough to get out of a hurtful situation, I now know that I reacted this way because of my appreciation for the good things the partnership brought me and the potential for happiness I believed it still carried.

It seems as though these days, if you are optimistic, hopeful, and motivated to maintaining a relationship, you are type-casted as pathetic and sad, especially if you're a woman. In reality, however, this unconditional love and drive is what makes women socially savvy and approachable. Who other than women would go out of  their way to optimistically downplay problems because they know there is innate goodness in the "other"?

Sherman's point about the positive and negative connotations of emotional states is going to be running through my head for a while, but I'm glad that I will no longer doubt myself and my approach to navigating the world.

Realizing that I innately seek the best in relationships- even within a faulty one- makes me feel emotionally intelligent and more well rounded than a pathetic, sad, twenty-something with low self esteem.

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