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Relationships and self-identity

AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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In the various relationships I've been in I've often chosen a partner who has a strong interest or passion about something, something that interests me too to a degree, but is their thing (sport, art, politics, ideas, hobbies etc) . I've got involved to varying degrees, even when it hasn't seemed like my sort of thing, but it's ended up being something I've found I'm interested in too. I've wondered at times what my passion is, why don't I have something that I consider my life's work, that I want to devote myself too? Most things I'm only interested in up to a point, and then it's just meh, that's enough of that. (But actually, now I think about it I suppose my main abiding 'hobby' is something I've kept the momentum up with for years, and is something I've increasingly got my husband and family more involved in, so maybe there is more self-direction in this than I thought).

Another thing I used to do was end up wearing my partner's clothes, one boyfriend I had who wore a certain style of clothing, well I ended up buying the same sort of thing too, and we ended up looking very similar! I don't do this any more, but there was a period from about mid-teenage years to mid-twenties where I did this.

And now, another area I struggle to find 'who I am' in is with my home environment. When I lived alone, I felt I could express my tastes and personality through how I arranged my home, but now that I've been in a relationship for a long time I feel I've lost that. Like I've lost who I am. Am I a tidy person, or am I messy? I used to be tidy, but was that just how I was brought up, in a very strictly tidy home, with very little individuality or self-expression in our surroundings? Now I live in a mess. I don't like it. Sometimes I resent the fact that I used to be able to be tidy, and I seem to have lost that ability, and to have taken on the characteristics of my husband and his family. I have become like them, not just in tidiness, but in many ways :eek: Who am I? What do I like? How much can I impose my preferences on those around me, and on the shared environment? I like to be in control. I like to think of myself as easy-going and accommodating, but I'm not sure I am really.

It's not that I'm always a follower, I'm quite independent in a lot of ways, I don't always follow the crowd. But I do find it hard to express disagreement with people, and find it hard to believe I am entitled to my own opinion, and that it is as valid as anyone else's. Basic lack of self-confidence.

I used to want to merge with a partner, lose all my individuality in a relationship, or rather, be so close that we were mind-melded in some way. I don't have that yearning now, I don't feel anywhere near as boundaryless/borderless any more. It's not possible or healthy anyway. I suppose as the years have gone on I've got more self-contained, or less threatened by other people's personalities in general, maybe that's just a feature of growing older. I used to feel very critical of myself, and frustrated, for feeling such a blank canvas, now less so.

So I suppose what I'm asking is, do other people have trouble knowing who they are? Separating themselves from the goals and preferences that those around them have? Is self-identity and self-determination an issue for other people? And if so, how much does it bother you, and how important is it anyway?
 
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T

tornadoesofthoughts

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Sep 29, 2014
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England
Hi

I can completely relate to you. I have a hard time knowing what I like!

I don't really know what career I want, and if I meet someone who is a lawyer......I end up wanting to be a lawyer.

My husband like sci fi and I got into sci fi because he was.....

It's confusing for me to know what I like or is it just what he likes...kind of thing!

:)
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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It's tricky, isn't it?
Because I think to a certain extent it's good to be open-minded about another person/partner's interests - having shared interests really helps relationships.
But I suppose losing yourself is not so good.

I'm not sure where I stand on this, because on the one hand I know who I am and have my own interests - living alone probably helps me know myself.
On the other hand, I am a chronic people pleaser and I think due to wanting to be liked so much I do find myself holding back and not expressing my likes.

Hmm.. it's an interesting one.
 
J

jimindigo

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Jan 13, 2012
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Ah,Scorpio! Thought you may like to know about people pleasing origin?
I was like that for years,and by God did I suffer for it,as others just look down on you.
Anyway,then I discovered where it came from;it is a throwback to our childhood,when
we were trying to get some affection/love from parents,and when we grew up,the
world became our surrogate parents! And so we keep pleasing others in vain hope we
will get affection/love/approval from everyone we meet. Hope this is useful to you.
Kind Regards,
jimindigo
 
B

broken1

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Jan 23, 2015
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I, too, am like you. I change constantly. The chameleon description fits me. I'm a little more confident at home but say at work....I blend into opinions, thoughts, attitudes. I don't really know WHO I am or what I want out of life. I used to pick very abusive men. Now I have one who treats me well and I like it. I am a people pleaser too and I bend to my hubbys wishes a lot.
 
Jimny

Jimny

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Essex
This is an interesting topic. I have had a problem losing myself and my identity in some relationships although not all, the much more successful and fulfilling relationships have always been where we have both kept up our own interests whilst combining others.
For me the importance of maintaining personal friendships as well as mutual on both parts was just as important.
This enabled either of us to have choices which we respected.

The similar clothing reminded me of a school friend we would often dress in the same clothes. A few months back I was out on a couples night where I was almost dressed identically to my friend we both found it very funny he ended up turning his blazer inside out to look 'different'.
 
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AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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I can completely relate to you. I have a hard time knowing what I like!
Yeah, me too, or at least in some contexts, others I think I have quite definite preferences. Just struggle with expressing them, or feeling I'm entitled to have them. With work, yeah I've always been vague and uncommitted about what I wanted to do. The only 'career' I was ever in danger of having was a sort of default choice that I went for cos I couldn't think of anything better (then mental health intervened and nothing ever came of it anyway). It would have been easier if I could have gone with my Grandma's advice of 'be a teacher or a nurse', but I hated the thought of being a teacher, and felt blah about being a nurse (very 'traditional' advice anyway :rolleyes:). One thing I really wanted to do at one point, social work, well someone pointed out to me they didn't think I was tough enough for it, and I had to agree with them, I think I would have coped badly with that.

On the other hand, I am a chronic people pleaser and I think due to wanting to be liked so much I do find myself holding back and not expressing my likes.
I wonder what it means to be a people-pleaser (genuinely asking, not doubting how you feel)? It sounds like a judgement of weakness in some way, and imo you don't come across here as someone who always tells people only what they want to hear. I mean, you have the confidence to say if, in your opinion, you think someone needs to do something differently from what they are doing.

I know what you mean about wanting to be liked though. I think I hold back too, and don't express my opinions, especially if it's likely to lead to conflict, mostly I feel it's just not worth it if it's likely to lead to an argument. Often I just keep quiet if someone says something I don't agree with. I often don't feel very motivated to get my view heard. Or maybe I'm just not very confident in my view.

I, too, am like you. I change constantly. The chameleon description fits me. I'm a little more confident at home but say at work....I blend into opinions, thoughts, attitudes. I don't really know WHO I am or what I want out of life. I used to pick very abusive men. Now I have one who treats me well and I like it. I am a people pleaser too and I bend to my hubbys wishes a lot.
Same for me in having had abusive relationships but now being in one where I'm treated well. It's hard to say how much I bend to his wishes. One thing is television, he can happily watch a programme I'm not very interested in, and I'll go along with it just for the sake of watching something together. But if there's something I really want to watch that I know he would find boring, I would often rather watch it another time, I find it more uncomfortable than he does knowing that the other person isn't enjoying it. Maybe it's that I'm a bit take it or leave it with TV, it isn't my thing as much as it is his.

For me the importance of maintaining personal friendships as well as mutual on both parts was just as important.
Yes, definitely.

Another thing I remembered, along with the clothes, is the way I adopt the drinking preferences of my partners. So I've been through phases of drinking regular lager, strong lager, stout (don't think I even like stout :LOL:), and whisky as my usual drink of choice. Maybe again, it's because I'm not really much of a drinker, that I haven't been very motivated to decide on my own preferences, and have just fallen in with someone else's. Funny though to just adopt what someone else does, without whether you really like it coming into it much. Same goes with food really, cooking meals for the family. We certainly don't eat my preferred type of food. When I met my partner I was a vegetarian, non-television/computer owning hippy :D How things have changed! It's hard to know though how much of a 'chameleon/blank slate' I've been vs how self-defining I've been. How to weigh being accommodating and flexible, against knowing your own mind and preferences. When I talk about the things I've done to fall in to other people's way of doing things, it sounds like I'm really malleable and impressionable, but I don't think it's as bad as all that really. I'm happier with the way things are now, than when I was much younger. Maybe I'm just not a person with strong preferences, but no, I don't think it's that really. Ok, I'm back to where I started, asking 'who am I', 'what do I like'? I guess it's a lifelong question :unsure:
 
Jimny

Jimny

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Alice, i guess it would appear that all that have replied have very similar traits to one degree or another.
I am aware of being a chronic people pleaser, but it just comes so naturally. When looking back I think at the time I view myself as very easy going and open to new ideas and experiences.
On my own I have never liked football, but there I am at a football match, watching televised games and looking for teams scores.
On my own I am tea total, but there i am mixing drinks, trying drinks I had never tried before and consuming more alcohol than I would be comfortable with.
There are so many examples, I have viewed them as being open and trying new things which has some truth.
Stepping back and viewing these actions I am going against my 'grain', I think that's where perhaps our needs are muddied and not met. We are subconsciously fitting in and pleasing without realising, do it for long enough and you have a new identity, remove the other person and there goes your identity.
 
AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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Yeah, I find myself in these situations too, thinking 'what am I doing here? This isn't me'. I agree it's ok to go along with something that wouldn't be your natural choice if it gives you other benefits like company you otherwise wouldn't have, or makes someone else happy, as long as it isn't all the time that your own preferences are sidelined. There have to be times we are going 'with our grain' as well, or you're right, we lose a sense of who we are. Yes, it's good to bear in mind that everyone needs their needs met, in relationships, and in their interests in life in general.

Thanks, it's been useful to talk about this!
 
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Jimny

Jimny

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Thank you Alice, has been very useful.
To put it in to practise for me is the challenge. I read an Ebook called 'Toxicity' by Jeff Reynolds, whilst I didn't agree with all he writes the sections where he describes 'Unshakable core values' I found helpful.
I thought my core values were quite strong, they weren't.
I realise now the value of making them as strong as possible without being stubborn and still open to try new things, open but unwilling to alter my core values, me. Keeping my identity.
 
BlueBerry

BlueBerry

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I can relate very much to this Alice!

I think I've mentioned this somehwere before, but I've always felt that my personality was a bland, blank slate. I'm always either moulding myself to resemble other people, or I'm just acting out a fake persona resembling whatever kind of person my mood feels like wanting to be.

I don't know what to do when people say "just be yourself" because I don't know who I am. A lot of my shyness and self-consciousness is related to my fear that people will see past my persona and they'll see that I don't really have a personality. I'm just achingly dull, boring and empty. I think that's one reason why I don't talk a lot. Another reason could be that I just don't have anything interesting to say. :unsure:
 
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