I've been thinking about one of the comments received the other day on Mara's "bra post". An anonymous reader commented on how her husband's porn addiction had altered the way she views herself, feeling a greater need to represent herself in a "desired" fashion, even to the point of considering breast augmentation. She mentioned what a relief it is to see a post encouraging someone to embrace their body as it is naturally. To that I say, Amen!
Her comment got us chatting about how all sorts of cultural, societal, and religious influences impact our view of self and others, and how we impose those views and unrealistic expectations on others, much to the detriment of ourselves and those we say we love.
The fact is, all of us have probably done this at some time. We are all that husband, and we are all that wife. All of us are, in some form or fashion, doing this to our partners right now. In each of our expressions of our individual egos, there seems to be the need to make our partner (or our children) after our own image and into a reflection of what we value. Those who are closest to us (and who form a larger part of our identity and sense of self and worth) are the ones we are most likely to manipulate in order to satisfy that ego and that false sense of identity.
Perhaps one person, affected by habitual pornography use, will demand or manipulate their partner into looking and acting more like their fantasy.
And yet another person, informed instead by deeply held religious views, will manipulate and shame their partner into looking and acting more like their fantasy or ideal, which will be altogether different from the fantasy of someone who views pornography.
And yet another, whose sense of value is influenced or dictated by appearance along a particular social or wealth class, may manipulate their partner on whether or not they meet subjective class or style distinctions, and not according to sexual fantasy or religious restrictions.
The truth of the matter is, no matter where this compulsion comes from, no matter which form of the ego it is trying to feed (sexual, religious, wealth, etc), it is always damaging. It is damaging to be unable to see the inherent beauty in a human being as they are. It is damaging to demean, diminish, and manipulate because someone does not meet your specifications -- to judge their value on something so superficial. It is damaging to the soul that does it, and the soul that receives it.
There are some social ills, like pornography, where it is easier to see how it can lead to this kind of damaging behavior. Most all will recognize the problem in a scenario like that.
What isn't so easy is to look searchingly into our own souls and recognize that we engage in similar patterns of behavior around ideals that are much more socially or culturally acceptable.
Can you think of examples in your own lives or in others where you have seen these unhealthy expectations play out?
P.S. Mara loves the above mid-century inspired illustration by British designer, Paul Thurlby. He's got some really great prints!
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