Influence is quite a scary thing when you think about it.
When I say the word “influence”, I don’t mean it in the sense that you can influence someone to do something, I’m thinking much longer term. I’m thinking of how people or things influence change in the individual over years and years, all the way from birth to the grave.
The first point of call would be your parents of course, you are pre-programmed to learn things like social-cues, speech, movement etc from them. How they act and their personalities will have a massive effect on your own acts, decisions and traits throughout your life, mostly through the sensitive years of childhood. One need only look to extremist cults and religions like Westboro Baptist Church (NSFW) to see how adults exert powerful influence over their children from day one. I personally think this influence is responsible for religion still being as popular as it is in the modern day, but that is a topic for another musing.
Despite parental influence likely being the most critical in any person’s life, I find the influence of social groups, friends, peers and such to be far more interesting. This interest stems from the fact that people change incredibly in different groups and around different people. Surrounded by our closest friends we can be relaxed, open and playfully enjoy ourselves, while being around peers say in a classroom, we are usually much more conservative, quiet, “mature” some would say. Going on from this, people are more emotional, fired up and physical when around their significant other, especially alone. It’s almost as if we adopt a slightly different personality to cater for whomever we are around at that given time. If that’s the case, then which personality is the real you? Do you even have a personality?
My opinion is no, you don’t have a personality, none of you do, neither do I. I don’t see personality as something attached to us per se, nor as something we “have”. Personality to me, is the image we create of ourselves to others through our words and actions. We can change it on a whim, if I want people to view me as an annoying person (which some may even view me as already…) I can start consciously doing acts and saying things that irritate other people. Sooner or later I’ll just do it out of habit without thinking about it. People will think I’m annoying, but just as that happens, I can easily stop it and sooner or later people will think I’ve changed. I don’t see personality is such a concrete thing, if you want to change people’s perception of you, it lies in your own hands.
From this, how do others help us build the personality portrayal we form from our own habits? Well there are many factors, so many that I’ll only mention a few. These don’t all apply to everyone and they apply to different degrees to different people.
That group of lovely folks you run with have some of the biggest influence. You all affect each other everyday without even realising it. Aping someone is how people show interest and acceptance of others, so if you hang around people who do certain things long enough and establish friend status relationships, it’s likely you’ll end up partaking in those certain things soon enough to both fit in with the crowd and because they’ve swerved you towards it. This same thing is what can dampen friendships. Someone wakes up one day and decides they want to go a slightly different direction in life, these ideas aren’t in line with said group of friends. Slowly but surely they drift apart, not necessarily the friendship ending, but becoming more distant “old friends”. The ones you stay with will continue to alter you while you do the same to them.
Those around you will shape your perception of how and when to act. Everyone quiet in a room? You’ll be quiet too because you don’t want to be the one who goes against the grain, well, unless you were the loud obnoxious twit in school everyone pitied. Anyhow, the masses have a gigantic influence on your life. Not just peers but advertising, media and even random people on the street, they ALL influence your thinking, words and actions, often subconsciously. I think most people know the type of conformist influence I’m getting to here, if not, then read this.
Romantic relationships will form the basis to which you’ll more than likely compare to when you enter a new romantic endeavour. Although you’ll try not to, you will compare your current relationship and partner to the last and maybe even ex’s before last. It’s natural, just like you’d compare one action movie to another or one band to another. Your expectations of both yourself and said partner will be based on previous relationships, you may even be put off of relationships together from past experiences. Either way, a lot of perceptions of your own will change depending on romantic experiences, from idiotically judging the whole of the opposite (or same) sex, to seeing your own shortcomings in relationships.
The conclusion reached here or hopefully the point you’ll see is that we are constantly influenced everyday by everyone and everything. It almost makes me wonder if we are a product of ourselves or everything around us. Am I me? Or am I the bi-product of the chaos around me? The wide variety of different types of people even just from one place or community lead me to believe there is much more to it than the areas I’ve looked into and wrote about, more than just biological, social and behavioural aspects perhaps? I’ve no idea, but this is relevant to my interests and will be pursued in the future. Look forward to more ramblings on said subject.