Our Authentic Self Versus the Influence of Others

We would like to think we are islands, that we are our own separate entity containing our own thoughts, desires, personalities, and dreams. While we certainly are unique, perhaps we don’t realize to what extent the people in our lives, the people we choose to fill our time with influence us. And I don’t mean just the superficial aspects of ourselves, I mean they influence us on a deep level, whispering into the core of our dreams and desires. I may be more impressionable than the average person but I think we all experience this to an extent. As someone who picks up and moves every three months to a new place for work, I am ever aware of how fluid our personalities, interests, and mental frameworks are depending on the people surrounding our lives.

            Backtrack to a year ago, I was working the same job I had been working at for years with the same people. It was a stable work environment with a consistent team of people. What I can see now, having traveled some distance from my previous workplace, is that those people I spent most days throughout the week with were heavily influencing my life. A year ago, I would not have recognized myself. I was a completely different person and it was largely shaped by the people I worked with, the people I spent, really, the most time with outside of my family and some close friends.

            As you consistently spend a large amount of time with a certain group of people, things are exchanged: thoughts, feelings, interests, expectations, lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors. We are way more permeable than we would like to believe and susceptible to framing our lives the way others frame theirs. An example would be when we spend time with someone who carries with them a negative attitude, who constantly complains and is quick to judge others. Slowly over time, we will adopt those attitudes and practices ourselves. We may begin to see the world more negatively. We may be quicker to pick up on inconveniences than we previously would. People shift our frameworks easily and it’s important to be perceptive of this if we are to stay true to ourselves.

            I used to be much more negative than I am today and a big part of that is that I am currently fortunate enough to have found a job situation where I am surrounded by positive people. People who are uplifting and motivated. (And this is not to say that the people I used to spend time with were bad. I loved the people I worked with, most of them were amazing individuals. I am only highlighting how being around a group of people for a prolonged period of time shaped me in a specific way.) My framework has shifted with spending time with new people. My framework has also shifted because I am far less closed off from myself than I used to be so I am listening to myself more, communicating with myself more, and investing in the things that genuinely interest me.

            It’s amazing to think of the different roles I have played throughout my life, as I have been exposed to a wide array of different people. We are social animals. We require social interaction to survive and part of that socialization is molding our attitudes, beliefs, and interests around the context of the people in our lives. A year ago, I was negative, self-depreciating, obsessed with the gym, with my image, and was playing the role of a detached, cynical, sarcastic to the max type of person because that was what others were displaying at work and elsewhere in my life. I found that behaving in that way, while unfulfilling, got me attention and thus reinforced the behavior over time.

            I am very different now, although I still have a way to go to being totally, authentically me. I will say I don’t think about my image nearly as much although image is still way too important for me than it needs to be. That’s a big thing for me to work on going forward. But I am slowly cultivating a much more positive outlook on life as I try to generate love and gratitude daily. It’s not always easy to do but I am doing my best. While anger, impatience, judgment, and cynicism still creep up from time to time, they are far less pervasive than a couple of years ago. My interests have changed, I am starting to become more open and honest with myself now. It’s crazy to think that I have been entrenched in environments of people that continuously reinforced a specific, narrow way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

            This is not to put anybody down but to simply point out the importance of moving on to new things and new people when we feel like we have been led down a road where we are becoming negative and inauthentic. I’m not trying to blame others at all. I am totally responsible for how I responded to others and how I let certain things become a part of my life and outlook. Change is good for me because, truthfully, I am still easily influenced by others. It’s hard to stick to my authentic self sometimes and to listen to him and what he wants.

Change and space have been so important for me. Change has exposed me to new people, new ways of thinking and living. Space has allowed me to actually listen to my own inner voice and follow it. It’s been a journey that’s for sure and I am grateful for the opportunity to uproot and move on to a new place so that I can broaden the context of my life.

If you feel like you’re in a rut, you can move on too. There are always options, there is always a way. If you feel like you are allowing the people in your life to bring you down or constrain you to a certain frame of mind then it is time to leave or at least learn ways to stick true to yourself and listen to your inner voice against the echo of a hundred others. And it’s not to say that certain people are not worthy of your time or consideration, but that you are wanting a change from a mindset cultivated by others and the triggers that reinforce those mindsets. We can become drowned out by the voices of others and so easily lose sight of what we love and who we are.

It’s tough. It’s tough to escape the gravity of other’s influences. I would like to say I am an island, but I clearly am not and I am slowly working to listen to my authentic self. I was trapped under a smog of influence from other people and my own unfaced trauma. Moving on was the best decision that I made. I am at least aware now of how I behave and can learn my own way. I would still likely be rooted in those same patterns of thinking had I not given myself a fresh perspective. A fresh perspective that was a catalyst in facing my trauma and growing out of the ashes of it. I think fresh perspectives are key in this life. Constantly uprooting ideas and notions you hold dear is what keeps you on your toes and makes life exciting. A new perspective through new people gives you another point of reference that you can use to triangulate a clearer vision of your own life.

I want life to always be about the new. I want a life that is vibrant and dynamic and flows like a roaring river, constantly shaping the landscape around it. I want to be an agent of change for others. A fresh perspective. It’s why I write this blog and its why I feel satisfaction if just one person likes what I have to say. I want to be a servant for people and help people as they have helped me. That is the dream anyway. Much love. ❤

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