Much of what we do is moved by how we want people to see us. We find ourselves forced into social roles that are shaped by the reactions or expectations of those around us. A child will attempt to gain the affection of his parents by exhibiting good behavior. A friend will go along with his peers to continue enjoying a sense of belonging in their presence. And a professional will try to advance his career so that those who know him will regard him as a success.
We desire acceptance. We seek positive feedback. Some of us even crave the attention and praise of the significant people in our midst. Our identities are fashioned by the importance we ascribe to how people regard what we say and do. And it is for this reason that we should reflect carefully on the kind of people with whom we associate. Because these individuals will be the people whom we will unavoidably attempt to please.
People are by nature tribal. What this means is that once we have identified with a particular group, whether it is based on political views, religious views or a shared set of interests or values, we will usually attempt to conform to the norms of that group. An outgoing individual will tend to be with extroverts. A health-conscious person will find a group that engages in sports. And a conservative individual is likely to seek the company of traditional people.
Because of the powerful impact of the groups with which we associate, there is a need to consider the type of people around us. We need to ask ourselves who are the significant people in our lives and how do their expectations affect our view of ourselves and our behavior?
When a teen develops an affinity for a group that does nothing but engage in drinking sprees or some other vice, then that person’s behavior will be molded by a desire to meet the expectations of that group. This is one reason why joining gangs is risky.
Now imagine a person whose sense of belonging is satisfied only by a group of people who engages in criminal activity. It will then be very easy for this individual to eventually conform to what that group does and to find a rationalization for doing so. News of the violence inflicted by such groups often makes us wonder how people can commit such atrocities. Now we know why. And it is because they find it difficult to extricate themselves from these groups since their identities have become dependent on them.
It is therefore necessary for us to have a clear view of who we are, what kind of person we wish to be and what values we hope to possess. Furthermore, it would be wise to seek out authentic people who will accept us for who we are and not for the things we need to do in order to please them.