How relationships teach us about us

By Telana Simpson

Relationships. We can’t live with them, or without them.  We are always in relationship- just how we define the type of relationship or categorise it, is what changes.  Single. Married. Friend. Colleague. Boss. Ex. Stranger…

And it is only through these relationships that we know who we are.  We use them to help create our identity (mother, son, accountant, adventurer) and to develop our abilities.


It is through relationship that we have impact, and that impact lets us know more about ourselves.  We cannot see ourselves, so we need “mirrors” to see our reflections, and relationships act as these mirrors.  It is through relating with others that we can get a sense of how we are, of who we are, of our likes and dislikes, and our ambitions and fears.

Also each of us has a very unique set of filters through which we perceive the world.  No one perceives the world in the same way as you.  Thus the way we see ourselves will be different to the way anyone else perceives us, as their filters are so different and thus their perceptions will be so different too.

Put this all together and the perception we have of ourselves will only be as accurate as our filters are, and as accurate the filters of others are and their ability to feed back to us the impact we have on them in our relationship with them, such that we can get a better understanding of ourselves.

Self Esteem

Friends jumping in the air with joyIt is difficult to see our own flaws, and own them, even though by owning them, we become more whole and can learn to manage or improve them.  It can be difficult especially if our self esteem is low, or as I prefer to refer to it: “mapped less usefully”.

Our self esteem is about our human being-ness, being able to hold ourselves in high esteem, acknowledging our value and then being able to express that value in the world through what we do.  Our self confidence is related to how we feel about our ability to do things.

When we don’t make this distinction, and we interpret that we need to do things (including relationships) in order to feel valuable, then we experience a “low self esteem” and tend to put our esteem on the line and can take things personally, especially in relationships.

When we do things in order to feel ok (rather than feeling ok and doing things for experience or expression), then we tend to find it difficult to see our own flaws, because we can interpret having flaws in a way that we then feel that we are ourselves flawed. And this can then be internalised as being not good enough, and is a blow to our self esteem.


However, if we have a strong sense of our self esteem, if we believe that we are innately valuable, and have so much to share and do in the world, then we are far more open to hearing feedback about our flaws.  We see this feedback as useful information to help us tweak and develop the way we express our value in the world, and it is just information about what we do, not about us personally or our sense of value or esteem.

When we get feedback we can develop a more accurate perception about ourselves.  By learning more about ourselves, we are able to grow and develop, and we can also then improve how we relate to others, and experience more satisfying relationships.

The key with feedback from others though is to remember that that information is coming from their perspective, and through their own personal set of filters.  So we need to sift through what others say about us, and then take what we find useful, and leave the rest.  It is very rare to find someone who can give accurate sensory specific feedback that is most useful to us, without giving us their own personal judgments and opinions, which are less useful.


  • So what’s happening now in your current relationships?
  • If these relationships are a mirror, what are they reflecting back to you?
  • What impact are you having on the other people in your life?

If you are willing to look at this truth, you’ll be able to develop a more well-rounded perspective of yourself, knowing what you do well and which areas you can work on.

If you are unhappy or uncomfortable with the truth you see in the mirrors around you, then the first step is to just acknowledge what you are unhappy about, without beating yourself up.  By accepting it, that is acknowledging that this is where you are (even if you don’t like it), rather than fighting it or denying it, you are then able to work out where you would rather be.

Once you acknowledge the gap, you are then able to start identifying the steps to take to close that gap.  And then you need to take action – just the first, small step towards what you want to change.

And you can use the relationships to support you.  Ask the people who care for you to help you make the changes you want to make.  They will be able to give you instant feedback to help change habits, or hold you accountable, and also cheer you on and celebrate the small achievements with you.

Here’s to the truth of your relating, setting you free!


Telana is a Relating & Communicating Coach at Inner Coaching who works with people who want to make changes in their life, and who want to improve their relating and communication skills and ability to express themselves verbally, creatively, emotionally and physically.  She offers tailored Relationship Coaching.

Book a Readiness Session now with Telana to see if this is the self development option for you.