We've all been there - watching somebody with disdain as they flounce about on their high horse.
How's this for a plot twist, though: what if you put them there?
I've talked a lot about self-love before on my blog. In fact, I'm forever talking about its benefits to my friends, who normally react with gratitude and positivity but who I know are probably secretly sick of me banging on about it. What we need to be careful of is crossing the fine line that sits between self-love and narcissism, although I'd argue that narcissism is part and parcel of someone's personality. Unfortunately, it seems to be a lot easier to big up someone else than to big up yourself, and all too often we end up placing that person on a pedestal. This could be for a multitude of reasons and sometimes we don't even realise that we're doing it.
I've discovered that it's possible to do this even as someone who regards herself highly and sets high standards for herself. It's a bit of a weird paradox, if I'm honest. If I look back at my relationships - my situationships, rather - I see a bit of a pattern emerging, and this pattern probably explains why, at the time of each situationship collapse, I felt damn crappy, crappier than perhaps I should have felt. It was because I had a tendency to idealise either the person or the relationship itself, and neither of those things are healthy foundations for a long-term rapport.
Placing someone on a pedestal may not be a conscious act. You might not even realise how much you're elevating someone until the relationship ends and you're left feeling like they're going to be absolutely fine without you, because they're funny and have loads of friends and are attractive and float through life like a helium balloon whilst you're navigating your way through the mud on the ground, more lurching than gliding.
But guess what - you are both balloons. Bet that's one object you've never been compared to before! Let's take a look at this notion a bit more (not the balloon metaphor...this whole 'idealism' thing. Will save the balloons for another post.) Idealism is the unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection. If you're like me and you're a perfectionist, unfortunately you and idealistic beliefs will cross paths on a daily basis. We've all got images in our minds about how we would like things to be. This is a natural human activity - to daydream, to fantasise, to strive for better things. The key word in the definition of 'idealism', however, is 'unrealistic'. It's all well and good having reasonable goals and reasonable expectations, but idealising something or someone is setting the bar way too high. It's giving that thing or person a fabricated persona. In other words, you're creating a narrative that doesn't exist. This can be dangerous for both yourself and the other person. You
will not be seeing or hearing the person as themselves - you will be seeing or hearing a perception of them.
will have higher expectations of the person and will feel disappointed when they don't live up to these expectations. may then turn to yourself and begin an unhealthy cycle of criticism for not a) being good enough or b) figuring out why they are treating you differently to others (even though you have single-handedly formed an idea of what this behaviour is like!) They may be unaware of this imbalance in the relationship and will therefore, in your eyes, make no effort to resolve it. may find it bewildering to deal with the pressure of feeling grateful for flattery, a pressure that you have put on them because you believe they should love you for making them feel loved.
may not be able to truly connect with you because they've realised you are not on the same wavelength.
In my own experience, having high expectations of someone is usually what leads to disappointment, and this is where it's important to be aware of how much work your brain is doing. The brain is an infinitely mysterious and powerful organ; it can alter our perceptions of reality. When we have high expectations of someone or idealise them, we are taking away much of what makes them human - their complexity, their flaws, their unpredictable nature. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media. You, most likely, will never meet the influencers you follow on Instagram, but how many times have you found yourself knee-deep in their personal lives, laughing at their stories, admiring the places they have been or the things they have done, wishing you could have relationships as wholesome as theirs? Social media is incredibly powerful because it sits somewhere between reality and imagination. It's not something you imagine, but it's not something tangible, either. It crosses the boundaries. We become invested in it because it is a space for creation and expression. You can post an idealised version of yourself and your life; equally, you can selectively choose whose idealised lives you would like to view.
Obviously this is a generalisation; it is a vast, complex landscape that often gets a bad rap for encouraging comparison. And guess what? You don't have to be a part of it. It is not real - it is a lens through which we can view fragments of reality. Anything that isn't real we can get rid of. This includes our idealistic beliefs. Am I right? We need to put a stop to our pursuit of perfection. The easiest way to do that (and this sounds blatantly obvious) is to spend more time with people in the flesh. I never thought I'd be encouraging people to do what is natural to them as humans, but here we are! In 2021! Spending more time with people online! Than in! Real life! The pandemic hasn't helped AT ALL in this sense, but simultaneously it's given us a harsh reality check, which is never a bad thing. You know when people say, 'never meet your heroes'? It's because if you do meet them, you'll be meeting a different person entirely. You have created a perception of them.
I wish I had more advice about getting rid of idealistic beliefs, but obviously this is something that I'm still working on, and maybe there's something to be said about the fact that I'm very young and still have a lot to learn and am also a writer, which means I'm constantly making things up. I do know that spending more time with humans is definitely the way forward, though. I'd also suggest maintaining that level of self-love you worked so hard to build, or are working to build. I mentioned earlier in this post that it's possible to have high standards for yourself and still place people on pedestals. Well, I guess that's because if you know what you want, you kind of end up meddling with what some people call the law of attraction - you think you can entice your idealistic situation or person because you are so comfortable with yourself and what you want. Don't change who you are. It's definitely better to have a strong sense of self-assurance than to use other people or things to fill the void that you need to close yourself.
Perhaps some people think that by idealising someone they are overlooking their flaws. This isn't the case, because to them, those flaws never existed in the first place. We need to make sure we are picking up on red flags, making a decision about whether or not those red flags can be overlooked, and maintaining an attitude of assessment rather than judgement. Let's keep an open mind.
It's hard, certainly. Maybe not for everyone, but I definitely struggle with keeping my overreactive imagination at bay! Just remember that you are fabulous, and concentrate on finding an environment in which you can be a better person, and thrive. Let's keep an open mind.