Many people think that by adopting the opinions and values of another person, they are strengthening their relationship. The more we agree about, the better off we are, right?
Agreeing on things is great, but when it comes to relationships, authenticity is more important than similarity. When people don’t have a clear sense of who they are, they are in danger of becoming whoever they are around. This is true of all relationships. We may become like the person we are in dating, or we may rebel and try to be unlike our parents in every way possible. Either way, we have failed to be who we truly are, and our relationships will be fragile and unhealthy. After all, how can you relate to others in an honest way when you aren’t even sure who you are?
Here are a couple of tips that will help you be your authentic self in your relationships:
Have your own opinions
This is harder than it sounds. We live in a culture that prizes sameness of thought and demonizes dissent. It’s not easy to maintain your opinion when it isn’t popular with the masses. But having your own opinions is the only way to bring something unique into your relationships. If your friends need you to mirror all of their opinions, then you need new friends.
Have your own values
Values run deeper than opinions. Opinions change rather easily over time as we learn more and grow. Values are the roots that ground us and give direction to our life. They can change over time as well, but less often. Your values are your core beliefs about what makes life important. Your values are too important to defer to whoever you are in a relationship with.
Be open, but honest.
Being authentic doesn’t mean shutting down everyone who is different from you. It’s important to listen to others. After all, they get to have their opinions and values as well. Listen to others and seek to understand them, but be brave enough to be honest about what you think as well. Be respectful. (This should go without saying, but in our culture, we need to repeat this often!). You can relate to people who are different than you, in fact, those relationships are likely to teach you the most and be most enjoyable.
It takes time to develop your own thoughts, opinions, and values, but it’s worth the work. Relationships work best when two people are committed to being who they are, while at the same time being committed to care for the other person. So learn to be yourself, your relationships need all of the unique insight and strengths only you can offer.