Does Seeking Approval Make You Unfaithful?

08 August, 2020
Did you think that the term infidelity only applied to romantic relationships? If so, then you might be surprised to learn that we've probably all been unfaithful at some point: by caring too much about what others think of us and forgetting to be true to who we want to be.

Most of us associate the concepts of infidelity and unfaithfulness with lies, betrayal, and a breakdown of trust within the context of a romantic relationship. But can you be unfaithful to yourself? Is it possible to betray the loving relationship that each of us has with ourselves?

The answer is yes. Continually putting yourself to the side and ignoring your own feelings in order to win other people’s approval is a type of infidelity, an unfaithfulness toward our inner selves.

Being afraid to show the real you and pretending to be who others want you to be has its consequences in the long-run. By being unfaithful to ourselves, we hide and betray our very essence, everything that makes us special and unique. Let’s explore this topic in a little more detail.

What’s infidelity?

Infidelity, from the Latin infidelitas, occurs when an individual doesn’t honor the loyalty that they’ve promised to someone and, thus, betrays their trust. This can take a number of different forms. The important thing to consider is the agreements – whether implicit or explicit – that were initially established with the other person, for they determine the individual and collective meaning of infidelity.

When someone is unfaithful, it breaks the bond of trust between them and the person they have betrayed. One of the main pillars that sustained their relationship suddenly vanishes. Then, feelings such as insecurity, irritability, fear, emotional instability, and rejection start to appear.

Maintaining a healthy relationship requires support, trust, protection, security and, above all, total acceptance of oneself and of one’s partner. If each of these elements is present, the results can be incredible.

A woman looking sad and pensive.

Being unfaithful to yourself

Although we generally associate infidelity with romantic relationships, it can also occur on a personal level, affecting the relationship we have with ourselves. Think about it – you might be surprised at how often you’ve ignored your own feelings, let people push you around, or been too ashamed to speak up, all in the name of gaining the approval of others.

Self-confidence is a very difficult quality to obtain, especially for those who are in a constant battle between being themselves, and being what others expect of them. The latter can be very powerful if you’re afraid of rejection. In fact, in order to avoid rejection, some people are willing to deny their true selves completely.

“A man who finds no satisfaction in himself will seek for it in vain elsewhere.”

La Rochefoucauld

Seeking approval from others – guilt and desire

Infidelity is a dangerous game: we experience great feelings of desire but, at the same time, we feel a certain sense of guilt at breaking with our own values. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that receiving the approval of others generates a boost to our self-esteem and happiness, albeit for a very limited space of time.

The approval of others is like the ebb and flow of the tide: one moment, we feel a great rush of satisfaction. The next, changing societal norms rob us of our brief happiness. This is why it’s so important to hold fast to our own internal anchor, as it is there where we find our true selves. But what leads us to value other people’s opinions more than our own?

The fundamental ingredient for creating and maintaining any relationship is the acceptance of oneself and another. The problem is that we usually understand the word relationship to mean a bond with another person. We forget that, before we can create a meaningful connection with another, we first have to know how to connect with ourselves.

Accepting who we are and what we want, regardless of whether or not it’s in line with what the world expects of us, is a sign of self-confidence. It’s a pillar upon which we can support ourselves, helping us stay true to ourselves.

A woman hugging herself.

Being unfaithful to your true self

When infidelity occurs, everything that we believed in and planned for the future disappears. Suddenly, our reality breaks down, and mistrust comes rushing in, born of the disappointment of losing that promised future. As a result, it’s normal for the person who’s been betrayed to feel lost.

This is what happens when we start to become aware of the extent to which we’ve betrayed ourselves: we feel lost, not knowing what to do or how to act. We realize that we’ve been hiding behind a mask, playing some fictional character for far too long. And now that our true identity has been revealed, we start to panic.

We no longer know what we really want, whether our actions are driven by our own initiative, or by the expectations of others. There’s a sort of battle raging within us, between the character we’ve invented and our true selves. Overcoming this internal struggle is complex and confusing, but if done properly, it can be beneficial in the long-run.

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.”

Jean Paul Sartre

But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Making peace with our own repressed identity is, in many ways, easier than reconciling with someone else. After all, the one person that will never let us down is our true self. So, just as you accept others, it’s time to accept yourself for who you really are.