We become as we are beheld.
In the psychological literature this is known as the Pygmalion effect: when other’s expectations of us impact our performance.
When we begin a relationship we can be enamored by the other as we focus mostly on their positive qualities. Their strengths and gifts. Part of the magic of falling in love is how it feels to be beheld like that. How it feels when someone looks at us with awe, wonder, and love.
Over time, we start to see the other more completely, and we see their shortcomings. The danger here, is that we lose the ability to see their greatness.
When we are beheld as kind, generous, and full of integrity, it is much easier for us to live up to these qualities. Conversely, when we are beheld as selfish, inconsiderate, and lazy, it is much more difficult to counter these expectations. We can often get caught in vicious cycles with our spouses or partners where we are resisting their appraisal of us but are not clear how to change it. Another’s perception of us can cause us to expand or contract.
To have healthy and thriving relationships, it is important to keep our rose-colored glasses nearby. To be able to see the admirable qualities of our beloved. To help bring them forth. To inspire them.
This does not mean blinding ourselves to negative qualities in others. It just means being aware of the impact our perceptions have on others, and when possible consciously inviting forth the best in them.
How do you behold others? Do you invite their goodness forward or do you make it harder for them to find it?