There is a well-known ideology that states “You are the sum of who you surround yourself with.” Or if you grew up in Gap Creek like me, you may have heard it this way: “Lay with the dogs and you’ll catch the fleas.”
It’s a proven fact that success and failure are indeed a bit contagious and in that regard, association with either will eventually begin to rub off on you. As you can imagine, this universal law could work both for OR against a person, depending on how they use it. If you’re someone who is looking to improve your circumstances, it could be as easy as rubbing the right elbows. However, if you’re struggling in life, it’s just as easy to be dragged down a few notches simply by the company you keep.
In a backward review of my life I can see a clear connection between times of growth and decay and with whom I was spending the majority of my time. This is in no way to speak ill of anyone in particular; many of these people were just in a downward life trajectory at that point as well and have since improved their circumstances. (As they say, misery loves company.) Peer pressure is a very real thing, even when it’s unspoken. It doesn’t have to be a bunch of high school kids urging each other to smoke a cigarette or eat a Tide pod. It can also look like dating a guy with a bunch of friends who all enjoy the same band and not wanting to be the odd man out who hates them, you say nothing and go along to the concerts and in order to not be miserable drink an entire Sonic 44oz cup of 2/3 Barton’s vodka and 1/3 cherry limeade and almost give yourself alcohol poisoning so you’re now puking in addition to suffering through 3 hours of some guy playing the same guitar riff while people huff nitrous from tanks and sell peanut butter sandwiches.
Not to speak from experience or anything, but that’s how some of us ended up seeing Widespread Panic 8 times.
Peer pressure can also be self-inflicted. In such a digital age, you now don’t even have to have tangible relationships to be influenced by other people. The things you’re browsing online all day have just as much, if not more, of an impact on your life as the actual humans you encounter. We truly do pick up the energies of everything around us, and like everything else in life, there must be an equal reaction. There’s no way you’re going to surround yourself with something day in and day out and not have to release it yourself.
I’ve learned quite a few life lessons in my time, but one that seems to serve as a constant reminder no matter how old I get is that it’s all about WHO you know and not WHAT you know. From job hunting to getting service at a busy restaurant, it pays to be well connected. And as elitist as this might sound- it’s not by the way- my life has really turned around since I’ve actively tried to build relationships with successful and positive people and put some of the more destructive connections on the backburner. You can only help people so much when they’re not yet ready to help themselves, and chaining yourself to that type of relationship will only weigh you down as well. I don’t mean you need to cut off everyone in your life who can’t benefit you in some way. But if something feels like it’s draining you, it’s time to cut it loose.
I recently lost a longtime friendship that has meant a great deal to me for years. It was a bit of a shock because it came out of left field, but as soon as the negative energy was directed at me and I realized there wasn’t going to be a productive conversation, I decided to block it and move on. I can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but since losing the only person I ever truly loved and trusted, I’ve gotten VERY good at cutting people off and never looking back. I choose to listen to my gut and when things seem to be at an impasse I remove them, and it seems to be working out for me. Honestly, I might have been a negative factor in this person’s life that they needed to remove and that is perfectly ok! People grow and change and that’s the beauty of life. Not everything has to have a dramatic, theatrical ending full of spite and storylines. Let things go in peace and you’ll find peace.
If you haven’t done so in a while and you’re feeling a bit stagnant, take a look around you. If you’re the smartest and most successful person in the room, then you’ve found your problem. How can you grow if you’re not challenged? I don’t know about you, but I want to surround myself with inspiring individuals who can teach me things about life and myself. I want to be exposed to as many different backgrounds and lifestyles as possible in an effort to become a more well-rounded human being. And you never know where your next connection might land you career-wise, or when you might need a favor, so it’s important to be nice to EVERYONE. That hostess at the restaurant might be just as good a person to know on a busy Friday night as the business executive you got sat next to on an airplane. Open your mind a bit, trim the fat in your current circle to make room and see what happens. I guarantee you won’t regret it.