We know that babies develop their sense of self, their sense of who they are from the people around them, particularly their primary caregivers. Similarly for adults we continue to develop our own understandings of who we are, as well as a sense of our worth or value, from the people around us. Like babies, we see ourselves reflected in the people around us. We learn from the response to us how they feel about us. We learn from the things they say to us. We learn from their body language. We learn from what they say.
That reflection of ourselves in others can be helpful or unhelpful. If it is a positive reflection that we see we can feel positive about ourselves, have an enhanced sense of self, identity and hope for the future. If the reflection we see back is negative it can be hurtful and rejecting. We can feel bad about ourselves, worthless and helpless. If the response is ambivalent or distant we can be left feeling confused and uncertain.
When we become parents we really can become aware of how this works. The way in which we see our child reflected in ourselves as they mimic us, as they take on our expressions, as over time they begin to say the things we say. This can be incredibly satisfying but also incredibly confronting and frightening. We can realize the power we have over another person. We can see ourselves in a new light, notice things we havenít noticed before, things we might not particularly like about ourselves. If we are tuned in and want to use this information we can make some changes based on this reflective feedback as we continue to develop ourselves.
People as social creatures will usually seek out connection with others. With that search for connection comes risk. Risk of how that connection with support us or not. How the connection may be rejecting of us. How the connection may teach us things about ourselves that we hadnít previously known about. On the other hand connection can be life saving, life fulfilling, life giving. Connection that can give our lives meaning and purpose. Connection that can prove to be helpful to another. Bringing humanity together at a very personal level.