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Relationships

Are Your Friends Holding You Back?

By Amber Parker·· 5 min read
Are Your Friends Holding You Back?

It's not something you want to think about, but you need to.

What if every day, from the moment you woke up until you went back to bed, someone was transcribing all that you did, every word that you spoke, and each of your thoughts (positive and negative)? Then, at the end of each day, you had to read your "daily report"? Would you like what you read? Being forced to see your life on paper and not having the luxury to forget the things you did that you don't like, would provide for real introspection. Would you make any changes in the way you live, treat others, or in how you view the world?

If we were honest with ourselves, we would not only make some serious changes, but we would probably experience massive personal growth! If you could read such a daily report, how long could you ignore your ugliness towards others or face your own shortcomings before you got sick of the person you read about day in and day out? We are, after all, our harshest critics.

Maybe, like pulling out a red pen and editing a paper, you would start marking up your report; crossing certain parts out and making corrections to others; taking mental notes of the catalysts to your behavior; identifying trends. Recognizing the triggers that led you to gossip about a co-worker or the instigators for heading to happy hour instead of to the gym.

Outside influence is a huge contributor to our behavior. Jim Rohn said, "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." This truism simply suggests that you should consider who you choose to prioritize your time with, and question whether those people are making you a better (or worse) version of yourself.

"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

Science, on the other hand, suggests that not only are you influenced by the five people you spend the most time with, but also by the five people they spend the most of their time with, and so on, and so on. Bringing a whole new perspective to the concept of "six degrees of separation."

In a study completed by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, they observed weight gain in persons over a 30-year period, and how their social network directly influenced their propensity towards obesity. That study indicates that a person is about 50% more likely to become obese if they have a friend who becomes obese and is even 20% more likely to become obese if a friend of their friend becomes obese. They also documented a direct correlation between smoking and happiness, and again found direct influences on a person's habits created by the friends in their own social circle, as well as by the extended social circle of those friends. More than that, the study concluded that people of the same sex had a greater influence on each other. Makes sense, right?

Subconsciously most of us have reshaped our social beliefs and values based directly on those of our friends. Our concepts of beauty and success, what's fun, who's cool, and how we feel about the world in which we live, are all directly influenced by the people we associate with. Think about the cultural relativism spread throughout social media and how we are affected by it, which reaffirms the influence that our extended social circles have on us. Oscar Wilde said, "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it" - Oscar Wilde

Social science states that the top five ways that friends influence you include: strong-willed friends increase your self-control, fewer friends increase the likelihood you'll take financial risks, too many social media connections increase your stress, close friends are the secret to longevity, and you're likely to start acting like the friends you surround yourself with.

If you examine your "daily report" with this framework in mind, you might have some important revelations. How do our friends impact our daily decisions? Or even our personality? From the way we dress to the way we speak to others. Are any of your friends having a negative impact on you? How easy is it to speak badly of someone because you're only being agreeable with a negative friend? How easy it is to skip the gym when a friend pressures you into going out with them instead?

William Shakespeare said, "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."  

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." - William Shakespeare

Maybe most of your friends are good for you, but even if nine out of your 10 closest friends are lovely, it only takes one bad friend to stop your growth. If at the end of the day, you aren't very proud of who you are, look over your notes. Is there anyone holding you back?

Friendship

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