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Placing Our Best Foot Forward First

This is another issue related to the compulsive truth telling personality trait.  I think it is also often partly related to anxious attachment.  When we become teenagers, it is a natural thing for us to begin to separate from our parents.  However, the anxiously attaching individual remains overly concerned with parental approval.  And it seems to me that being overly open is often related to this.  These individuals don’t develop the normal level of independence from parents and feel guilty if they don’t please their parents.  Young children often feel guilty lying to their parents but as we grow up we begin to individuate and we don’t need to look to our parents for approval all the time or tell them everything we have been doing.  Anxiously attaching individuals don’t seem to fully complete this process.  It then seems that they often feel that in order to be accepted, they must reveal everything, to everyone!  Strangely if something is bothering these individuals, they often cannot separate this from a conversation with someone, and feel that they cannot be close to the person they are talking to unless they ‘tell all’ or ‘fess up’.  Its kind of like how children are.  And so they always tell everyone everything that is on their mind. 

This often entails having no concern for whether or not the information being given will place the individual in a good light.  In fact, typically the information will paint a bad picture of the person, because they will tell you all their deepest darkest ‘sins’. 

The paranoid individual (which is related to avoidant attachment) typically feels that people they do not know are typically ‘out to get her’.  Until she knows the person, she assumes that the person is probably thinking the worst, or at least that her converser is in it for herself and out to get whatever she can, possibly at the paranoid individual’s expense.  It therefore becomes essential for her to not reveal any sensitive information, since an unknown individual will ‘obviously‘ use it against her or look down on her if it displays any sign of possible weakness.  This person is therefore typically highly concerned with looking as good as possible and not stepping out of line in terms of social protocol. 

I think it is prudent to draw on both types of behaviours.  If we meet someone new, it is possible that this person will be a somewhat paranoid or avoidantly attaching individual, and as such they may be quick to assume the worst of us.  These kinds of individuals typically back off if they feel we are attempting to get close too fast.  And they typically dislike us if we attempt to pass the barrier they have strategically placed around themselves in order to make sure no-one gets too close unless they are trusted first.  Typically an ‘overly-open’ individual will feel awkward in the presence of an avoidant individual because they will feel they are being unaccepted and judged.  This is probably true, but the reason for this is because the ‘overly-open’ individual is attempting to get too close before they have been invited to do so. 

However, if we adopt strong social protocol, and are not too forward, are polite and ‘stand back’, waiting for the person whom we are addressing to REVEAL subtle signals that they are beginning to accept us or warm to us slightly, then we begin to disarm this individual.  Only once the individual gives off such subtle signals do we begin become slightly more forward.

In line with such an approach, it makes sense that we also adopt the more avoidant individual’s approach of ‘placing our best foot forward’.  If we do not know someone it makes sense to follow good social protocol and to present ourselves well.  So lets say we got made redundant recently.  If someone we just met asks us ‘what do you do?’ (for a job), there are several ways we could frame our response.  The overly-open individual may respond, ‘unfortunately I’ve just been made redundant’.  However, the paranoid individual might be more careful to ‘frame’ this situation in a slightly more appealing manner.  She might say, for example, ‘Well I work in the interior design industry’.  This is not a lie.  ‘Work’ in this case is present continuous.  She doesn’t always work in the design industry – sometimes she goes on holidays, sometimes she sleeps.  At this point in time she is taking a ‘brake’ (although it has been forced on her) in order to find a new design position. 

Obviously if you were talking to your best friend you would tell her you lost your job.  But you are closer to her and mutual disclosure is a hallmark of your intimacy. 

The compulsive truth-teller typically has lower self-esteem.  And no wonder.  She is constantly doing herself disfavour by painting a negative picture of herself.  It’s a matter of framing.  How do we frame the information we are presenting?  We can frame it to look better or worse.  If we present ourselves well, people are likely to appreciate that we are following social protocol.  I am not saying that this is a good thing.  I am just saying that this is the way the world works.  And if we don’t play along it is us who lose out.  From my perspective, those who don’t play along tend to feel worse and have lower self-esteem.  If we begin to make an effort to present ourselves well, we will see the benefits in terms of how comfortable people feel around us and, hopefully, how we feel about ourselves. 

We will look further at physical presentation in the following section, but the issue of how we present ourselves physically follows a similar pattern.  If we go to work dressed well and looking good, it is likely to make us feel better and happier.  And this also applies to following social protocol and putting our best foot forward first and presenting ourselves well socially.  If we ‘dress’ our social demeanour well, we should notice the accompanying increase our personal sense of self-worth.