More narrowly speaking, if others form our identity, then our personal relationships become unhealthy. The propensity to find our identity in others is commonly referred to as giving in to peer pressure, people pleasing, codependency, and having a fear of man. Practically, this explains why we’ll often change our appearance and behavior depending on whom we’re with and whom we seek to impress.
Obtaining an identity from our relationships can manifest itself in the idols of independence or dependence. With the idol of independence, we rightly fear allowing our identity to be determined by others. Unfortunately, in the midst of our right fear, we wrongly avoid close relationships because we don’t want to risk being emotionally hurt – which means other still control our identity.
Conversely, those of us who serve the idol of dependence simply cannot be alone. We have to be in some sort of deep friendship if single, or place unrealistic expectations on our partners of married or daring. We cannot bear the thought of being alone. While this may look loving, when we struggle with an idol of dependence, we’re in fact not loving people as much as we’re using them to fulfill our need to belong, be liked, and be desired.
This explains why some friends and family members can be so demanding, smothering, and needy. It also explains why we’re so easily inflated by praise and deflated by criticism. It’s as if others have the ability to determine our identity for that day based on a word or even a glance. In giving this power over our lives to others, we give them a god-like position to rule over us and define who we are. And in the age of technology, when folks can wield this power public ally for others to witness online, a low-level, constant anxiety slowly robs us of peace and joy. (p. 10)