From the earliest age, we are under the influence of the people and the society around us – parents, siblings, neighbours, classmates, romantic interests, teachers, colleagues, superiors, stars, politicians… Our existence is shaped by the influence others have on us. Our parents’ strictness, or kindness, defines how we behave. The influence of our older siblings can make us want to imitate them. Wanting to be accepted by our classmates influences the way we dress, behave, and the music we listen to. The influence of romantic interests in teenage years can impact our attitude towards relationships for life. The influence of teachers or that of our superiors can define our careers. These influences can be subtle and inconspicuous, or they can be direct, blatant, and overwhelming. They can result in imitating the original or doing the exact opposite, but they nevertheless impact our decision-making.
Sometimes we are aware of these influences and fondly remember the positive ones or have traumatic experiences from the negative ones. Sometimes, we are not aware of those influences at all or become aware of them later on in life. What we often completely ignore though, is that the same way our lives have been influenced by people around us, we influence others as well. Our actions and words do not happen in a vacuum. They influence our own influencers – parents, siblings, teachers – but also influence others who look up to us. It can be something seemingly insignificant like convincing the best friend in grade 7 to start listening to the music we like, or it can be something major that will alter other people’s understanding of relationships. We can choose to ignore the influence we have on other people’s lives, but that usually means that we are not quite aware of the influences others have on us.
Understanding the influences in our life is the key to defining who we are.
If we pay attention and analyze the influences from our past, it can enable us to liberate ourselves from the negative ones. Often some influences do not seem to be negative and are done with the best of intentions, but it doesn’t mean that we want to live the life that they have defined for us. Our parents’ wanting us to “find the one”, marry, have kids, and live in a house in the suburbs, is all done with the best of intentions, but may not necessarily be what we want for ourselves.
The decision to change, to want something else, or even more importantly, to allow ourselves to want something else – means to understand the influences that created that initial idea of what our life should be in the first place. This will also enable us to be more observant of our own influence over others. Are we a force for good in their life? Are we too forceful with our influence? We may think some things are good for them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they match their desires and their idea of the life they want. Just like the parents in the example above – we may have the best intentions, and we may even be right in the long run, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for the people whose lives we influence. Are we ready to carry the burden of changing someone’s life, if that’s not what they ultimately wanted? On the other hand, do we want to sit on the sidelines and watch someone not reach their freedom and potential? It’s a fine balance and it requires experience and thoughtfulness because the impact and the consequences can be life-altering.
Spend some time thinking about the influences you’ve had in your life. People, institutions, social, economic, and cultural settings – all have influenced our lives. Analyze them – sort out which ones were positive for you in the long run, which ones were negative. Can you eliminate the negative ones? Can you enhance the positive ones? What place do they have in your current and your future life? If you do that proper analysis and if you assign the right place to each – and keep in mind that often the way we understand past influences can change over time, so this needs revisiting from time to time – then you will create the basis for something far more important: what kind of influences do you want in your life right now?
Most of the influences in our lives happen without us being consciously aware of them. After some time, we can understand that this person or that circumstance affected us, but at the time of the influence happening, we are not necessarily aware of it. That doesn’t have to be the case going forward. We can consciously choose our future influences. Enhance the good ones, eliminate the bad ones. We can surround ourselves with people and circumstances that will help us achieve our goals, move forward, move upward, pursue pleasure. It doesn’t necessarily mean surrounding ourselves with people who only say positive things – oftentimes a critique is far more valuable than a positive remark. Surround yourself with people that make you want to be better and you’ll be able to change and improve your circumstances as well.
All of this is especially true when it comes to a hedonistic lifestyle. It’s important to be your true self to be able to find your tribe. But it’s also important in order to find the right influences in your life. If you are hiding your true self, the people who can be the positive hedonistic influence in your life, won’t present themselves in the proper light. Being true to yourself, being aware of your past influences, and being clear on the influences that you desire, can bring you in the right setting, among the right people, and take you on the right path to your personal improvement and pursuit of pleasure. The same is true when it comes to your own influence over others. Not presenting yourself in your true light, may have a negative influence on others, or at the very least, not have the positive influence it may otherwise have. If you don’t present yourself as who you truly are, while you may not face the negative consequences of other people’s judgment, you will definitely face the negative consequences of not living the life you are destined for.