May 2, 2023


Over idealizing others in our lives, another distorted belief

Over idealization is a very common distorted belief that impacts all of us in one way or another. The more insecure we are, the more we overidealize others. How many times have you put others on a pedestal only to have the pedestal come tumbling down?  I know I have. Early on in my career, I had to recognize that this distorted belief often sets us up for a fall, and for many of us, a fall we sometimes don’t recover from. I’ve seen this process repeatedly happen to clients, friends and loved ones. It plays heavily into my beliefs about unresolved past traumas or life events. Past unresolved traumas/life events can lead to insecurity and a low self-worth, which in turn, can lead to over idealizing people, places, and things.

It took a couple of years working with severely abused children to recognize how over idealization can not only be a clinical barrier when faced by therapists, but also an obstacle that gets in the way of relationships and resolving past traumas/life events. Children would rather blame themselves for being hurt than the loved ones who hurt them. The belief is something like, “I know my mother/father loves me and I must have been bad for her to hurt me”. This belief will cause a negative ripple effect throughout these children’s lives without resolution.

It’s very difficult for abused children who have overidealized parents or loved ones who have hurt them to overcome their need to continue overidealizing in their present lives. This obstacle will keep them “spinning” and falling prey to dysfunctional relationships.

Over idealization is not exclusive to childhood abuse. It’s also prevalent in somewhat “functional” families. We often put our parents on pedestals and hold all others to unrealistic standards. I had to learn that my mother and father were far from perfect and had their faults. I also had to recognize that I didn’t like many things they did while growing up, but It didn’t lessen my love for them, it improved my perception that we all have imperfections, even our parents. Never confuse not liking things people do with not loving them. This is the core of the problem when we overidealize.

It’s time to assess how you all place others in your lives. If you feel that loved ones, whether parents or significant others, are your entire world and that you would be “nothing” without them, then you need to start some internal work on yourselves. As I’ve also taught in my groups, “I’m co-dependent by choice”, not by need. Think about that for a moment. Let the choice of giving yourselves to others be a CHOICE, and not a need to fill a dark void inside of you.

Over idealization is a very difficult belief system to normalize, especially for those of you suffering from a low self-image. The answers are within you as with most of the answers we need to find in our lives. It begins with working on your pasts and resolving past issues that will keep you from overidealizing others and setting yourselves up for falls, or even worse, relapses and more painful traumas.

Mind, Body, Spirit….Balance!

 Vinnie Strumolo, CEO, CCO, LMFT