All kids have received the lectures of choosing friends wisely; of not succumbing to peer pressure. All parents have given those lectures. Of course, as kids we promise we’ll never say this stuff to our kids, but we do because by then we see how our kids are being influenced by others. How aware are we of this phenomenon in our lives as adults? Perhaps it time to take a closer look.
Humans are wired for attunement and to belong. Right off the bat, our biology is working against us if we want to be our own person and for us if we are hanging out with someone we admire and look up to.
Then there’s the matter of culture. We tend, for a variety of reasons, to surround ourselves with people who all tend to look and sound a lot alike. I know several families who relocated from the suburbs to the country. In the suburbs, influences tended to be middle to upper middle-class incomes; large, beautiful homes; good schools. In the country, the influences tended to be upper lower to lower middle income; double wide trailers and some of the worst public schools I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing. For years after relocating, these families hung onto their relationships and lifestyle from the suburbs. They looked quite out of place in the country and didn’t feel very accepted. Over time, they made new friends in their new community. They began looking and sounding less and less like their old selves and more and more like their new neighbors. And they haven’t a clue.
(I’m not pitting the suburbs against the country. I grew up in the country and love it. There are many wonderful aspects about both lifestyles. In the particular place I’m referring to, a general downward momentum tends to be the trajectory in that it is a severely economically depressed region.)
I see two issues here. The first is that it is imperative to know who you are and who you want to be. Only if you have a solid awareness of your identity, can you move through life in an authentic way.
Secondly, who is it that you want to be influenced by? On a subconscious level, you will be influenced, so choose wisely. I’m certainly not suggesting that you look down on anyone because every person has immense value and wonderous lessons to teach. When you look around at the general group of people you interact with on a regular basis, you’ll likely notice trends. Perhaps, they tend to be outgoing and fun people or perhaps, they tend to be depressed or angry people. This can apply not only to friends, but to family, co-workers, people at church, etc. When you consider those trends that rise to the surface, are they tendencies you wish to live more in your life? When you are around a given person, do you notice your energy increase with aliveness or decrease with a hint of depression or angst? Do the people around you like to complain or do they see the good in everyone?
Every single one of us are influenced by those around us and every single one of us needs to check in from time to time to be sure we like who we’re spending time with and the person we have become. This is even more imperative with those of us who have experienced trauma. No matter where you are in your healing journey, we need continued and ongoing support AND we need to mitigate obstacles and drawbacks.
The reverse of all this is equally important. What sort of influence are you on those around you? Are you living authentically, allowing the best of you to shine through? Because if you are, they could ask for no better role model and are blessed to have you.