Self-Revelation versus Self-Presentation & Giving versus Getting: A Few More Thoughts on Real Love & Intimacy (updated 4-2-12)


(This is an update of my post “Self-Revelation versus Self-Presentation & Giving versus Getting: A Few More Thoughts on Real Love & Intimacy” from November 18, 2011)


For most people intimacy equates with self-presentation, a process much different from self-revelation.

Self-revelation occurs with little to no spin and or editing of who we essentially are and what we stand for and how & what we think. When we are ready for an intimate relationship, we are ready and willing to share ourselves in a very direct way.

And we have developed ourselves in such a way that we have something good and worthwhile to share.

Self-presentation, on the other hand, relies heavily on spin and editing, it relies on manipulating and managing the other’s impression of us by withholding and hiding away the parts of ourself that we are ashamed of or afraid of being rejected for.

Self-presentation suggests that we have some (perhaps significant) inner work to do on ourselves—some work bringing parts of ourselves to light, examining parts of ourselves, and making growth-oriented changes within ourself. We may have parts of ourself that we think are unacceptable because others in our past have found them to be unacceptable, in which case we need to really decide for ourselves whether these parts of ourself are indeed unacceptable (harmful to self and or others) or merely unique and quirky and different).

Real intimacy is based on honesty, accountability, transparency, trust, and revealing secrets (i.e. our deepest self, the really private parts of ourself).

Pseudo-intimacy, on the other hand, is based on privacy, keeping secrets, and maintaining and atmosphere of suspicion and distrust instead of building trust and transparency. Pseudo-intimacy is based on some combination of fear (of rejection, being alone), shame, and or a lack of order and consistency within ourselves.

The self-presentation of pseudo-intimacy is at best immaturity and at worst a con, a game. In either form, it’s the currency of a fake or temporary relationship where the other person is not being treated as a “real” person (as an end in him- or herself), but as a means, a tool or a prop, something to be (blithely) used and (cavalierly and selfishly) discarded. Because whenever intimacy is pseudo or false and based on self-presentation, other people are much more disposable and interchangeable because what is desired is never really the other person but only a mirror that supplies a positive or livable-with reflection of oneself. What matters isn’t the other person, but the reflection (the validation) of oneself that one gets from the other person; thus pseudo-intimacy and self-presentation represent the presence of a fair degree of narcissism and immaturity (and perhaps even some form of full-blow psychopathology).

In pseudo-intimate relationships with its concomitant self-presentation, a person is running a con, and in doing so a person will likely never at a loss for potential victims or stoolpigeons to try and dupe with oneself and buy into one’s ruse.

Real Love

When you truly love someone you care about them—you actually care about him or her, and not just in some abstract “as a person” way, but in a very personal and responsible way. You care deeply about that person as your beloved, your partner, your life mate, your soul friend, et cetera, and you want the other person’s happiness and goodness and growth and well-being to be increased (and not compromised or decreased) because of your presence in their life.

It’s a highly personal (specific to that person) and highly practical and consistently and frequently actualized (shown) type of care, not some sort of abstract and theoretical up-in-the-clouds idealized airy-fairy type of “care.”

When we truly Love and care about another human being, it shows—it shows in the way we regard that person, how we treat that person, how we extend ourselves for that person, and in how we deal with what is worst and weakest in ourselves for that person (as well as for ourself—for what’s best in us).

Thus one of the primary ways that genuine Love and care manifests itself is that we monitoring and scrutinizing our own output—what we are contributing or putting out into the relationship or giving to the other person. When we truly Love another person, we are very aware of how and what we are feeding the other person, the quality of our own personhood and the quality of what we are giving the other person (our “beloved”). When we genuinely love another person, it shows because we show it—we show it in a myriad of ways that are meaningful to the other person, in a myriad of ways that communicate love and affection and abidingness to the other person.

But when we don’t actually love the other person but we’re merely “in love” with the other person or when we’re using the other person for our own validation and to boost our self-esteem or makes us feel better about our life, then we tend to focus more (if not exclusively) on what we’re getting from the relationship. We focus on the quality of the other person’s output toward us and we turn a rather blind eye toward our own giving and productiveness and how we’re showing up to the relationship.

In pseudo-intimacy and pseudo-love we really don’t care about the other person, what we really care about is ourself and what we’re getting/receiving from the relationship and the other person. And we care about this much more than what we’re investing and giving to the other person and the quality of what we’re giving to the other person—we only care about what we’re giving as a means to what we’re getting and maximizing this.

“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” – Joseph Campbell

“Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you. I kept thinking, if love does not shatter you, you do not know love.” – Ken Wilber, “Grace and Grit,” pg. 396.

If the relationship you’re in and the love you’re supposedly giving isn’t going a long way in undoing your ego, bringing you face to face with your own selfishness and (likely) pettiness and lack of perspective, revealing to you your own hidden sickness and pathology and weak spots, causing you to get real about dismantling more and more of your own narcissism, and forcing you—compelling you—to stretch and transcend these parts of you and become better than the small, petty, frightened, immature, selfish, self-centered, life-goes-on-forever, death-denying parts of yourself (what’s worst in each of us) that often run the show, then either you got your act together and did a lot of serious inner work on yourself before meeting your “beloved,” or you’re not really loving another person—you’re using him or her and you’re trying to hide out from life and yourself.

Love—real Love—is about caring deeply in a real and costly way, especially when it’s not necessarily easy or convenient. This is the self-extension and self-sacrifice that shows that our love for another is real and not just pseudo-love. Real love is not about easy ins and easy outs and disposability; instead it’s about recognizing and appreciating the other person’s—the beloved person’s—uniqueness and irreplaceability and not losing sight of this and taking the other person and the relationship for granted (not loving the other person as we have all the time in the world and as if life goes on forever).

Related posts:

About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Anthony Robbins, Conscious Love, Generosity, Gratitude, Immature Love, Intimacy, Intimate Relationships, Joseph Campbell, Ken Wilber, Mature Love, Mental Health, Real Love, Self-Extension, Spiritual Growth, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Self-Revelation versus Self-Presentation & Giving versus Getting: A Few More Thoughts on Real Love & Intimacy (updated 4-2-12)

  1. Julie says:

    I like your invitation to ponder the distinctions and see where we show up. Reminds me of your post on suffering and today, I once again needed to be reminded and get a lift out of any kind of pity party I’ve been temped to entertain. While suffering, I know what is happening. I am glad for it. However, I haven’t come to the point of accepting and embracing it with faith and confidence in the moment yet. A worthy aim.

    • John says:

      Hello Julie,

      How are you? A belated thank you to you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it, and I am glad that the post spoke to you and helped suggest to you a new perspective or way fo looking at the difficulties you were being challenged or faced with.

      I think it is very helpful to take on a few big concepts or ideals and try to orbit our lives more and more around them. For me, personally, some of the ideals I aspire to and try to aspire to are: Love, wisdom, courage, perspective, critical thinking, openness, objectivity, understanding, kindness, gratitude, friendliness, generosity, decency, virtue, conscience, awareness, overcoming one’s own weaknesses, facing life and difficulties squarely. It’s as if at this point in my life I have a sort of constant, almost real-time checklist in mind constantly and I am near perpetually aware of whether I am meeting my own standards or not. And if this sounds overbearing or perfectionistic, it’s not; at this point in my life it’s neither demanding nor easy; it just is; and I am very content approaching life in this way, though it is a bit lonely because I don’t know anyone else (I’ve never met anyone else) who approaches life similarly. But in may ways it’s been working for me for the last 15 or so years. It would just be nice (a relief really, lol) if I didn’t have the sense that I was the only one in a thousand or so mile radius living this way. I think it’s the critical thinking part and the willing to really look at oneself that trips most people up. As I wrote on one of my other blogs today, thinking critically (not being soft-minded) is something that most people have no interest in–it’s such a difficult and painful habit to start–humiliating really, because once you start taking off the blinders you begin seeing so much about yourself and others that is so unsettling and even disheartening. And so the fierceness and courage and resolve and endurance of a psychospiritual warrior are required. And, paradoxically, the process of learning how to think critically will also serve to improve one’s warrior skills–the two (thinking critically and becoming more courageous and enduring) tend to mutually support and reinforce one another in an upward (virtuous) cycle, if done legitimately.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment, Julie! 🙂 (and I haven’t forgotten your request on my other blog either.)

      Warmest regards,


      • Julie says:

        What a lovely and thoughtful message, John. Thank you. Please know that you are not alone. Perhaps quite uncommon, but not alone. I always think of the lives of great thinkers and doers. Maybe they felt alone, too. Even if you were alone, as long as you’re on the path you choose, you’re in integrity, right? And being ourselves is a major area that requires courage. When I was reading what you wrote and targeting in on courage, I couldn’t help but think how my consistent physical training continually builds my courage muscles by my choosing to take little risks wherever I can. Maybe it’s staying in a shaky handstand longer or doing something I’m a bit (or a lot) fearful about… and the courage I reap transfers into strengthening all other areas of my life, making me more aware and alert and able to take on the previously-unimaginable or undoable. Bottom line: you are not alone. Maybe tons of people don’t like to ponder and think in the ways you do, but I do and more and more — thank God for blogging! — I’m discovering like-minded people. The other day a friend cautioned me about overthinking. After pondering it, I came to the personal conclusion that it’s overthinking if it includes worrying and leads to harm or nothing. Kind of strange that focusing on values and character could be considered strange. Wouldn’t it make more sense for it to be the norm?

  2. granbee says:

    Real love is ALL about the giving–each giving 100%, causing the cups to truly run over and over and over!

    • John says:

      Agreed….Everything we have and everything we are has to be given back anyways, so why not get busy giving? (As in “Get busy giving or get busy dying.”) Why be stingy in a relationship? I suppose it’s because giving takes effort, perhaps? But after a while–after you practice giving for a while and you develop more and more ways to give of yourself–your attention, wisdom, kindness, warmth, insight, humor, goofiness, talents–giving becomes more and more natural and more and more of a joy.

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Kindest regards,


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