How much should we be influenced by others?

I think we are all generally influenced by similar things as we go through our lives; music, sport, celebrities, and probably most frequently, the other people who are in our lives. These other people could be our family members, the friends we spend time with, our teachers, the people we work with, or pretty much anyone who we come into contact with, but how much should we be influenced by them? The type of influence I am talking about could be something that contributes positivity or negatively to our lives, but we perhaps don’t know which way it will go until that influence has been made and acted upon.

Under the influence

Advertising is a good example of showing how much influence something like a television advertisement or a photo in a magazine can have by allowing someone who sees it to then decide if they want to buy the product that was being advertised. The difference between this and the influence a person can have on another is that the influencer probably won’t get anything out of it. By comparing it to something that receives a monetary gain by the impact of its influence may seem strange, but while someone may part with their well-earned cash after being influenced by an advert, being influenced to maybe do something, say something, or change your way of thinking by someone else can have more of an impact than losing a few pounds after buying a product they may not need. Generally speaking, people have choices in life, and that freedom of choice and making decisions has the ability to be impacted upon by external parties. Just like with advertising, a person can be persuaded to buy something, something they may not have realised they wanted. When making decisions, it can be good to hear other opinions on it, opinions they have not have realised they wanted, or even needed.

Trusting your instincts

Even though hearing other people’s opinions and taking on board their advice can be beneficial in the long run, I think that care also needs to be taken in order to remember that when it comes to a person’s own decisions, they should really be making them on their own merit. I think that by being aware of how well other people’s views may impact on those of our own can help to make sure that this does occur. I also think that by how well the other people are known to a person will decide on how much weight is given to these views. But, ultimately, decisions that people make about their lives are down to that person only, in most cases. I think that being able to trust your own instincts is an important part of life, and also an important part of getting older and making ‘grown up’ decisions. I mean, would you buy a house on your own that you don’t like just because someone else did? Hopefully you would not.

Making your own way in the world

Trusting your instincts and making your own decisions is generally an important skill to master in life, in my opinion. Some people may always be around others who end up making some decisions for them, but being aware of this and allowing that to happen is something that may just be the way of life for that person. However, some people may always try and do whatever they can to make the people around them happy, regardless of whether they themselves would then be or not. Why is that? Each person’s story and situation is different, but it could be that they find it to just be easier to allow it to happen, or that they do not know how to make their own decisions without an outside influence. Standing up for yourself and making sure you yourself are alright does not always come naturally to people, but there may come a time where it is the only way forward. Therefore, I think that becoming aware of your own prioritises and beliefs is extremely important to be able to understand what is needed to become the person you want to be. After all, having a strong sense of self can be a very positive thing to have.

Our own influence

It took me a long time to realise that in this world, you and you alone are what counts when it comes to making decisions and making choices about what you do in your life, because you are the only person that lives it. I think that this is forgotten a lot of the time because maybe some people think that other people know more than they do or at least should do. It can be quite scary to stand on your own two feet and make important decisions, but others having an influence on them does not always mean that it is something that dominates our thinking. It can sometimes be useful to hear another person’s opinion on something, and it can also be helpful to hear aspects of something you had not even thought of. In situations like this, I think it is important to remember your own opinion, and look at other ones objectively and then make decisions from there.

So, how much should you be influenced by others? There will always be times where you can’t be selfish and have to perhaps do what is best for the greater good, even if it means going against what you want to do about certain things in your life. But, at the end of the day, you and only you can determine what you do with your life and what will ultimately make you happy. Other people’s influences can be a good thing if they allow us to stand back and really think about what we are doing, but if they begin to overshadow our own thoughts and feelings, then they can become somewhat negative. I think that we should be influenced by other people as much as we really want to be; whether that is consciously apparent or not. Being aware of it is perhaps the only way to be truly influenced in the correct way.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach