Why Can We Idealize Someone? 6 Causes And How To Avoid It

Why do we tend to idealize some people? What causes these types of behaviors and thoughts? Discover why we idealize others and what to do about it.

Why can we idealize someone? 6 causes and how to avoid it

There are many times when we can find ourselves putting a person on a pedestal. Idealizing others is a behavior that, although it may be common, actually ends up being harmful both for us and for our relationships. But why do we have this tendency to idealize others?

Idealization is a complex psychological phenomenon characterized by the tendency to perceive someone as possessing exceptional qualities, virtues, or characteristics that surpass those of ordinary individuals. This process involves magnifying a person’s positive attributes while minimizing or overlooking their flaws and shortcomings. In this article, we delve into the underlying reasons why we idealize others, examining the psychological mechanisms, social influences, and emotional dynamics that drive this phenomenon.

Psychological Mechanisms of Idealization

Projection of Desires and Aspirations

Idealization often stems from the projection of one’s own desires, aspirations, and unmet needs onto another person. When individuals encounter someone who embodies qualities or achievements that they admire or aspire to emulate, they may unconsciously idealize that person as a source of inspiration or fulfillment. By attributing extraordinary qualities to the object of idealization, individuals may seek to vicariously experience a sense of satisfaction, purpose, or self-enhancement through their association with them.

Defense Mechanism Against Anxiety

Idealization can also serve as a defense mechanism against anxiety, insecurity, or existential uncertainty. By idolizing someone perceived as powerful, successful, or virtuous, individuals may temporarily alleviate feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability, or existential angst. Idealized figures may serve as symbolic representations of strength, wisdom, or moral purity, providing a sense of reassurance and stability in an unpredictable and ambiguous world.

What does it mean to idealize someone?

Idealize a person It involves assigning too positive characteristics, ignoring all the negative aspects. Therefore, when idealizing someone, we tend to exaggerate everything positive, and we can even consider these people as perfect. In fact, by idealizing we also devalue ourselves against the person we idealize.

Why do we tend to idealize people?

Although sometimes we all can idealize a person the reality when we do it can mean the following:

  1. Low self-esteem: In some cases, the reason for idealization It could be that we have low self-esteem. When we underestimate ourselves, we tend to overestimate the characteristics of others, especially those qualities that we believe we lack. As a result, we may begin to see that person as someone very special or even perfect.
  2. We are starting a love relationship: When we start a relationship, it is very common for us to idealize our partner in the early stages. This is because the most rational areas of our brain ‘turn off’ when we are in front of a person we are attracted to, which causes us to lose our critical capacity and only see the positive in a relationship.
  3. Need to fit: Sometimes, we can idealize a person to be able to validate our own beliefs, values ​​or choices and thus feel more connected or integrate into a group. That is, we see only the positive in a person because it provides us with a feeling of comfort and stability.
  4. Fantasy: Idealize someone It allows us to escape the mundane aspects of our daily lives and enjoy a more exciting and romantic version of reality. By imagining someone as flawless or greater, we can briefly escape our insecurities and flaws and enjoy a more ‘interesting’ version of our life.
  5. Fear of intimacy: We can also idealize others to avoid showing our vulnerability. That is, idealizing someone may be a defense mechanism that allows us to maintain a certain emotional distance and avoid the discomfort of truly connecting with another person in a deeper and more authentic way.
  6. Influence of social networks: Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded with images and stories that present people in the most perfect way possible. Therefore, social networks can also feed idealization and above all, encourage us to compare ourselves with others.
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How do I know if I am idealizing a person?

Some of the signs that may indicate that you are idealizing a person are the following:

  • You ignore or do not accept their defects: When idealizing, we only look at the positive aspects of a person, which means ignoring the most ‘real’ part of them.
  • You feel intimidated by the person: By placing a person on a pedestal, it is difficult for us to see ourselves as their equal, so it can make us feel intimidated by them.
  • Unreasonable expectations: Idealizing a person will make them disappoint you in the slightest. The reason is that we are creating a wrong idea of ​​this person, which, most likely, will end up causing disappointment.
  • Emotional dependence: Idealizing someone can end up causing you to feel a certain emotional dependence on this person. The reason is that you can end up relating your self-esteem and happiness to their actions and opinions.
  • You ignore your own needs: It is very possible that, if we idealize a person, we end up being more accommodating to their requests. This can end up causing us to neglect our own needs and desires in order to please or impress the person.
  • You ignore your feelings or limits: Idealizing a person can also lead us to forget our thoughts, feelings or limits. That is, we end up not respecting ourselves.

If you think you are projecting your desires, expectations, or fantasies onto a person, this may indicate that you are idealizing a person

Keys to stop idealizing someone

How to stop idealizing someone?

In order to avoid this type of behavior that can end up damaging our self-esteem and our relationships with others, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  1. Cultivate self-awareness: The first step to stop idealizing someone It is recognizing when we are doing it. Therefore, you must be more aware of your actions, words and thoughts. Above all, try to be more present and attentive when the person you are idealizing is near you or you are thinking about them.
  2. Accept your vulnerability: One of the main reasons why we can idealize someone It is to avoid facing our own vulnerabilities. By becoming more aware that no one is perfect, including ourselves, we can be more open to creating space to have more genuine and authentic connections.
  3. Learn to set limits: In many cases, when we idealize a person, we tend to try to please him. Therefore, in these cases, it is essential that we learn to establish healthier limits. That is, prioritize our needs, desires and well-being and above all, learn to say ‘no’ when we are facing situations that are not of our interest.
  4. Limit exposure to social media: Social networks can end up exacerbating our tendency to idealize others by presenting carefully selected and filtered versions of their lives. To avoid this, consider reducing the amount of time you spend on social media or unfollow accounts that trigger feelings of envy or idealization.
  5. Focus on your own personal growth: Instead of putting the focus of your attention on the person you idealize, try to focus on yourself and your own personal improvement. You must redirect your energy towards your own growth, that is, to improve yourself and be able to create the life you want.
  6. Go to therapy: If you feel that you tend to idealize others, this could be a sign that you are going through a bad time or have a problem that you need to solve. Therefore, in these cases, it may be advisable to go to a professional psychologist.
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Although idealize someone It may be a natural and normalized behavior, when this becomes part of your routine, it is very likely that it will end up affecting both you and your relationships and friendships. In these cases, we must understand the reason why we idealize others, learn to recognize the signs and take the necessary steps to regain healthier and more authentic connections.

Social Influences and Cultural Norms

Celebrity Culture and Media Portrayals

The pervasive influence of celebrity culture and media portrayals contributes to the idealization of public figures, influencers, and celebrities. Through carefully curated images, narratives, and personas, celebrities often project an idealized image of success, beauty, and lifestyle that captivates and inspires audiences. Media platforms amplify these idealized representations, fostering a culture of celebrity worship and aspiration that shapes individuals’ perceptions of what it means to be admired or successful.

Social Comparison and Status Seeking

Idealization may also arise from social comparison processes and status seeking tendencies within social groups. Individuals may idealize others who possess qualities or achievements that are valued within their social circles, such as wealth, fame, or attractiveness. By associating themselves with esteemed individuals, individuals may enhance their own social status, reputation, or sense of belonging within their peer group.

Emotional Dynamics and Attachment

Emotional Intensity and Infatuation

Idealization is often accompanied by intense emotions such as admiration, infatuation, or romantic attraction. When individuals develop strong emotional bonds or attachments to someone, they may idealize that person as a means of preserving and intensifying their emotional connection. Idealized figures may serve as objects of longing, fantasy, or romantic idealization, fueling fantasies of intimacy, reciprocity, and fulfillment.

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Attachment Needs and Parental Figures

Idealization can also be traced back to early attachment experiences and parental relationships. In childhood, individuals may idealize parental figures or caregivers who provide nurturance, protection, and emotional support. These idealized representations serve as internalized models of security, comfort, and unconditional love, influencing individuals’ expectations and desires in future relationships.

Implications for Relationships and Self-Concept

Unrealistic Expectations and Disillusionment

While idealization may initially enhance feelings of admiration, inspiration, or infatuation, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and eventual disillusionment. When individuals idealize others without acknowledging their flaws or limitations, they may set themselves up for disappointment or disillusionment when the reality fails to match their idealized image. This discrepancy between idealized fantasies and actual experiences can strain relationships and undermine interpersonal satisfaction and well-being.

Self-Esteem and Identity Formation

Idealization can also impact individuals’ self-esteem and identity formation, particularly if they internalize unrealistic standards or comparisons with idealized figures. Individuals who constantly measure themselves against idealized standards of beauty, success, or achievement may experience feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or low self-esteem. Overcoming idealization involves cultivating self-awareness, self-acceptance, and realistic self-appraisal, recognizing that no one is perfect and that true fulfillment comes from embracing one’s authentic self.

Idealization is a multifaceted psychological phenomenon that reflects the interplay of social, cognitive, and emotional processes within individuals and societies. Whether driven by projection of desires, social influences, or attachment dynamics, idealization shapes our perceptions of others, ourselves, and the world around us. By understanding the underlying motivations and consequences of idealization, individuals can cultivate healthier relationships, realistic self-concepts, and greater emotional resilience in navigating the complexities of human interaction and self-discovery.