Let’s get Psyched
Conformity. It’s a common psychological term used to describe changing oneself to match what is socially acceptable and prevalent. Or as modern psychologists put it: catching the crowd’s cooties. But it makes sense. We naturally want to fit in. It helps us make friends, connect with people, perhaps feel less judged, and even feel happier. All of which, on some level, suggest survival. That’s why teens wear similar clothing, listen to the same music, and speak in similar ways; these decisions are often subconscious.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “You become like those you surround yourself with,” or, “You are the average of your five closest friends.” This is a shout out to conformity! Even within small groups, you conform to fit the mold developed by the rest in terms of internal traits, such as priorities or preferences. As the size of a group increases to the population of a school, the ways you conform become more surface level, like how you dress or how you speak.
Friends are more impactful than you thought
Conforming is more than just what you spend your time on while you’re with the people around you. I’ve found that almost all of my friends are huge fans of The Office and that none of us are into video games. But their impact goes even as far as your lifestyle. When you sleep? Yep. When you wake up? Duh. What you do with your time, what you don’t, and how you perform in school? Yes, yes, and yes. Ever thought about how some of your best buddies share the same developed sense of humor as you? It’s not a coincidence. I encourage you to take a moment to think about this. Often we don’t even realize it, or our friends have been around for so long that we don’t know for sure how they’ve changed us. Who are your friends, and how have they impacted your lifestyle? Also, note what commonalities lie between your friends and you.
Not even your health is immune to those who surround you. One study shows that if you have a friend who smokes, you’re about sixty percent more likely to do so yourself. The same research shows that if your friend has become obese, odds are forty-five percent that you’ll put on some weight too. Most importantly, is the same study’s findings on happiness. It shouldn’t surprise you that your friends’ jolly moods will rub off on you. But such is also the case with your friend’s friend. Still not surprised? How about this: If your friend has a friend who has another friend that is happy with their life, you’re six percent more likely to be satisfied with your life even if you’ve never met that friend who is three ‘levels’ away. Six percent seems minuscule, but not when I point out that “other studies suggest that if I gave you a $10,000 raise, that would only trigger about a two percent increase in your happiness.” I’m not sure about you, but I’d take that six percent any day of the week.
I Mean it
When I first wrote down the title of this article, it was a very vague description of what I wanted to write about, and I fully intended on calling it something completely different once I finished. The word “cool” was understandably too casual. But I found as I wrote on that it’s the perfect word. You don’t need to surround yourself with popular people, geniuses, athletes, or any other socially established standard for what the word “cool” means. It’s up to you – find people who you admire. People who have the traits that you want. People that are interesting, quirky, and supportive. People with the qualities that matter to you; this is something we all should reflect on. Drop paradigms of yourself and others, and you’ll find yourself in good shape.
It’s up to you
In my first article on logotherapy, I talk about how I find my meaning in life through doing work; living a productive and goal-oriented life is pretty important to me. It was when I discovered that my mental health status corresponded with who my friends were that I realized this was my meaning. The contrast between what was important to my friends and how I felt was very notable; changing my surroundings is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Now, I obviously can’t tell you what to do. Your situation is your own, and what you do is subject to your judgments and opinions. But my intention while writing this article was to suggest a change. I have a feeling that many of you could use some variation in your surroundings. If one person isn’t good for your well-being or mental health, you should consider doing something about it. I’m not condoning cancel culture or causing unnecessary conflict, but I am suggesting that you contemplate going about the means to make your life the best for you. It can certainly be hard to make these changes, trust me. I’ve had to change my life, and the whole process was stressful. I can say confidently, though, that it was worth it. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, and if you have any questions, please comment them below.
Burkus, David. “You’re NOT The Average Of The Five People You Surround Yourself With.” Medium, Mission.org, 7 June 2018, medium.com/the-mission/youre-not-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-surround-yourself-with-f21b817f6e69.