I always get a little bit confused on how to stay true to who I am and what I want. I was listening to this podcast the other day about a woman who takes on other people’s feelings subconsciously. It was a relatively extreme situation where she would drop her life to end up where other people’s passions had led them. But I think we all do it to an extent.
I starting looking back at all the changes I’ve made as a person. When I was 16 I found myself hanging around a more eccentric/”hippy” (for a lack of a better word) crew. We would browse different secondhand shops for silly finds or check out the head shops for interesting pieces. Afternoons were spent at laid out at parks and music festivals. In University, I was hanging around a musical and environmental crew. I went to protests and different initiatives. At parties people would whip out guitars and others would gush and converse over their talents. Did all these changes mean I was trying emulate others?
People describe me as assertive and confident. But sometimes I was terrified and didn’t recognize who I was. I was afraid to make a decision, because I was unsure whether or not I was doing it for the right reason. I hated the thought of being likened to others. I wanted to be an individual; not someone else’s Robin or Dr. Watson.
What were my hopes and dreams? How much have they been influenced by others? Who is the real me? I’ve been thinking a lot about that and have come to the following conclusions.
- You are Influenced by Your Surroundings and It can Be a Bad Thing
The objectively bad goes without saying. Many people fall into the “wrong crowd” and end up doing criminal activity or mean spirited things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. It reminds me of Kendrick Lamar’s song “The Art of Peer Pressure”, where in the song, Kendrick ends up in a robbery. He doesn’t see the person in situations with his “homies” as his authentic else or at least a person he would be without them.
But then there’s the “bad” grey area. I describe this as the kind of bad that makes you unhappy or lost but isn’t inherently bad. After all, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with wearing different clothes and listening to different music. I look back over the years and don’t think I was putting on a face or personality for others. I think I was trying new things. However, I think people should always be careful when they find themselves changing characteristics or thoughts that aren’t bad to please others.
I feel like I have the tendency to do this with dating and meeting new people. It probably isn’t preferable to not be honest as you want to be able to open with your friends and significant other. I remember I was on this one date and the person was telling me how they really liked going to music shows. I can’t remember my exact response, but I said something about enjoying them too. This isn’t not true. But I’m more of a chill bar blues night kinda person rather than standing up a concert/surviving bonnaroo. And that is evidenced by the fact I haven’t paid to see someone live in over a year. I think it can be easy to want to please others, but it’s important to try and remember your ideals.
- You are Influenced by Your Surroundings and That’s Not Always a Bad Thing
If you never eat fruit, and then start adding it to your diet, eventually you’re going to wake up and start craving fruit! If you do something enough, it’ll eventually become a habit. However, not all habits are good or bad. Some just are. I think this analogy is very similar to things we do in life. Some friends like doing things and expose us to them. Eventually we start doing them and may do continue to do so when/if that friend leaves our lives. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
I know part of my issue is that I tend to automatically distrust something I don’t feel like I would have done without an influence. However, I try not to let changes themselves make me unhappy or lost. I try to look at them objectively and see their effects on my life.
I think it’s an interesting exercise to reflect upon ourselves and make sure we’re happy and not doing things solely out of habit. However, I also think it’s a bit useless and impossible to think of what we would do sans all other influences. Humans are a social species. It’s ingrained within us to be influenced. I’m sure there were some block-headed human sub-species that didn’t listen to anyone, and decided to check out that cave with the sleeping bear. However, the people of today can be influenced by others and positively so.
All of us have individual characteristics that would be innate whether or not we were brought up the way we were. Some of these are good, some bad, some just are.
Because all of these influences are so commonplace, I think we can even say the “real you” is the one that has been influenced. Part of the “real you” also can mean how easily influenced you are to behave in certain ways. Thus, even that woman from the NPR podcast who took on other emotions was being true to herself in that sense.
- Long Story Short…
I think we should reflect on if what we’re doing makes us happy. Not if it would have made you happy five years ago, but if it makes you happy now. If you think you’re being influenced to an extent that’s detrimental, and you find yourself very easily not recognizing “ who you are” and why you’re doing things very often, then you should take the time and reflect on why you’ve changed. If you’re unhappy, then try and become more steadfast and true to the ideals you have. The “real you” is the face you put on to others as well as the secrets you try and hide. Life’s too short to be anything other than yourself, whatever that may mean to you.
Do you find yourself easily influenced?
Is there a difference between how you view yourself and how others view you? Do you think of either of these sides as being the more of “the real you”?