To be somebody in the eyes of somebody else is to have an identity. We’d like to be identified by others as ‘nice’ or ‘smart’ or ‘loving’ but if those are not available, we’ll take what we can get. To not be somebody in the eyes of somebody else is to feel alone and isolated, a feeling most people abhor. Our identity is shaped during the formative years of growing up. By the time we begin to use language, we know who we are, because we are somebody, in the eyes of somebody else. That somebody else is, primarily, mother, though it could be father, and most often a blend of both. Add teachers, and other adults to the mix, and one’s identity becomes part of a larger tapestry. Peer interaction also contributes as does interaction with the world at large, various peoples in different places.
Our identity is much more defined, even by us, by who we are in the eyes of somebody else. If somebody else sees us as a thief, or a liar, and we know we are not, we can become quite upset at being seen as such because our identity is so tied to how we are seen in the eyes of somebody else. That somebody else can be an authority figure or a stranger. We give a lot of value, perhaps too much, to that somebody else. Above all, we want to be somebody admirable, respectful, dignified, acceptable, approved, loved, in the eyes of somebody else. The need to be somebody in the eyes of somebody else is strong enough that a bad somebody is better than a nobody. Children can misbehave in any number of ways and be somebody in the eyes of somebody else. Often, in a classroom, the well behaved children are a nobody, until they need to be a somebody, in the eyes of somebody else, primarily the teacher.
The importance of being somebody in the eyes of somebody else is most pronounced in romantic relationships. A romantic relationship is a mutual admiration society, of two. Both parties rely heavily on being seen by the other as admirable, important, good, right and wholesome, even if not. Many a couples argument, and separation, arises when we are no longer seen as such, in the eyes of somebody else. That somebody else is given an extraordinary importance, for one’s own identity. The anguish and turmoil that comes from romantic separation is an aspect of identity being destroyed. We were fine before the romantic relationship. Nothing of real value is destroyed. Like a child clinging to a favorite stuffed animal, when that animal is taken away, life is no less than that is has been all along.
To be somebody in the eyes of somebody else is not in itself unhealthy or unnatural. The excessive importance placed on that somebody else as a foundation of our individual identity is technically referred to as ‘bondage.’ The paradox of romantic bonding, which can feel wonderful and liberating at first, becomes iron like bars of a prison which contains an aspect of our identity as the whole of our identity. This false equivalency of romantic identity being equal to full identity is quite restrictive. It behooves every person to employ critical awareness to that which is the object of bondage. If it subtracts, diminishes or damages individual identity, remove it. If it adds, amplifies, or heals individual identity, sustain it. And remember life is a series of attachment and separations. That somebody else in whose eyes we want to be somebody, may very well change through time. That we can get violently jealous when somebody else becomes the one held in the eyes of somebody else to whom we ascribed great importance, is testament to our bondage to ‘the other’, as is the delusional thinking the occurs when we ‘can’t live without them.’
Liberation from the bondage of identification in the eyes of somebody else would be, at the ultimate extreme, to be a nobody in the eyes of anybody, and totally, completely, entirely okay with experience of life as it flows. Liberation is no more lonely than is being released from the community of inmates in a prison. At least, one can adopt an attitude that when seen in the eyes of somebody else (whom we view as holding the key to our happiness) one can be somebody who reciprocates with acknowledgment and respect of the intelligent energy that animates all life within them (and within oneself); a mutual respect for the spark of sovereign individuality that arises out of the collective social sea of life, no matter what the situation or circumstance.
“Love is often nothing but a favorable exchange between two people who get the most what they can expect, considering their value on the personality market”
– Eric Fromm