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How Your Friends Shape Who You Become

By: Brian Kim - October 20, 2013

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We all know that our friends, our social circle, the people we regularly hang out with influence us, but let's peel back the layers to see EXACTLY how they do so.

The first thing to understand is that the way our mind works is still "primitive" in a sense. When you don't have friends, the mind thinks that can literally lead to death because back in the day, you needed numbers to survive You needed a tribe. Some people would protect, some would hunt, some farm, some would do other things but to be on your own meant your chances of survival were slim to none.

So keeping that in mind, let's consider an example to see how our friends shape who we become.

Let's say you're really overweight and you've got a bunch of overweight friends. They all criticize skinny people, shame them, look down upon them, etc., but one day, you get a wake up call. Maybe you thought you were having a heart attack or something and for the first time, you realized how important it was to start losing weight, but alas comes the pickle.

Here's the thought process that ensues:

If I start losing weight, then I'll lose my friends and I'll be alone which means death.

Now you don't consciously think that, but it's in the back of your mind.

So you feel trapped. What do you do?

Ah ha!

I'll just change my friends minds.

Nope.

It's really, really hard to change a person directly, let alone a group of people. Those individuals in the group have invested so much time and effort into their standards of how they live life that to throw it all away would mean mental chaos. They wouldn't know who they were anymore or what they stood for.

What most likely is going to happen is that you're just going to pick fights with them because you've backed them into a corner. To acknowledge that you're "right" would mean they're doing it wrong, that they've been doing it wrong the entire time so rather than acknowledge that, they attack back.

Now you're at a social crossroads. The standards of the group have been challenged.

Who will back down?

It's not likely the positions of your friends will change so the onus is on you.

You're the deciding the factor. You're the swing vote.

If you choose to accept their standards, then you'll be included into the group. You'll be "safe". You won't be isolated anymore. The primitive circuitry of your mind will feel relieved. But by accepting group standards, that urgency to lose weight that you felt before will disappear. It's not a must anymore. The must is now staying with the group. That must is higher.

If you choose to reject their standards, then it's goodbye to your social group and alarm bells going off in your mind.

Now what do you do should you choose to say goodbye to your group?

Well the obvious solution seems to be - find new friends, but that can be daunting in it of itself, but fortunately it's not as hard as you think.

People travel in packs, so if you find ONE person whose standards are the ones you'd like to live by, whose values match those of yours, and you become friends with that ONE person, he/she will introduce you to "the pack".

And once you meet "the pack", you'll have "positive peer pressure", if you will, working for you. The standards of the group are high and if you don't meet them, you may be the one on the outs so that motivates you to stick to the standards of the group and now your group is building you to become a better person.

So in this example, you may find that 1 friend at the gym where you go to workout to lose weight. You become friends with that person, hang out with their friends, go to the gym together, go hiking, eat healthy foods, swap recipes, and now you've got a group that shapes you to become the kind of person you want to be.

It comes down to you determining what you value, what kind of standards you want for you life and seeing if your group reflects that.

If your group doesn't, then you have a choice to make, but know that whatever group you choose to socialize with WILL shape who you become so choose wisely.

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