Note to readers: I first presented the concept of personalization in a previous article. This is a further expansion of how personalization can influence us in relationships.
It’s no secret that we become the product of our environment. What people say or do to us influences our development. In fact, some of us internalize messages from our families that can be daunting to deconstruct. Be it from our family or elsewhere, once we are taught that other people’s feelings are more important than ours, we set ourselves up for personalization and rumination patterns that can last for the better part of our lives.
Maybe you’ve noticed it when you start to think about your own sibling estrangement, and get caught in a thought spiral that causes you to think that you may have said or did something wrong that caused this, or put undue pressure on yourself because of your circumstances with them. Where did that come from exactly? At some point, it becomes important to ask if we became conditioned over time by a narcissistic parent, a partner, or someone else.
Parents that require love and admiration at all cost (ie, narcissists), will strive to make their love and approval conditional on how you make them feel. In moments like this, you are taught over time that your feelings matter less, and that other people’s feelings matter more. This can cause you to erase yourself and diminish your sense of thriving at your own expense, as we’ve mentioned before in previous articles and videos.
Other times, it can manifest as roles assigned, formally or informally, in families, in which you are made to feel “less than” in comparison to your sibling. This can generalize itself with other relationships in your life. It can be that you adopt a people-pleasing pattern in a romantic relationship that causes you to put your needs on the back-burner in favor of your partner’s. Unfortunately, as with other opportunistic and selfish people, this is not returned back to you, which causes you to put pressure on yourself, as though you are doing something wrong.
Personalization happens as a means of somehow wanting to gain control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation. When someone you love distances you, or negates you, you will work harder at gaining their approval, especially at a young age. Thus, starts the cycle that can continuously cause you to conclude that you’re somehow not doing something to make it work.
If only you could find out what that is. Do more of this. Do less of that. You end up playing mental algebra because you’re working with incomplete information. All for the sake of getting that much-needed validation of you, which is taken away when someone distances themselves through estrangement.
A good thing to do is to look back to see if you were made to feel as though you were walking on eggshells for a better part of the relationship with that someone. When did that happen exactly? What did that leave you with? Notice in which instance that was manifested with others. Now, what if you decided to prioritize your feelings? What if their feelings mattered less than yours? How would you look, feel, and act? Thus starts the process of gaining knowledge of you, becoming conscious of your actions, and choosing differently.
Prioritizing your feelings is an important process to help curb personalization. It does not mean avoiding being self-critical, but rather, helps us in understanding that the outcome isn’t all about us, nor is the burden of fixing things. Empowerment comes through answering your needs, and accepting you for who you are. Isn’t it time you put your feelings first?
Ali-John Chaudhary is a Registered Psychotherapist with offices in Ontario and Quebec. He helps clients from different parts of the world going through sibling estrangement issues, and produces YouTube videos on the same subject, with author Fern Schumer Chapman. He also hosts a twice-monthly online support group on zoom for those looking to empower themselves with this rarely discussed subject.