Excerpts from a presentation I gave in the Summer of 2015.
When I need to write or speak on something I usually head straight to the dictionary first to see what exactly a word means. So influence I found is defined as “The capacity to have an effect on the CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, or BEHAVIOUR of someone or something.” The character, development, or behaviour. Those are big things in our lives that affect who we are. I think of influence as those things or those people that cause us to live our lives in a certain way. All of us whether we recognize it or not are influenced by something, in fact most of us are influenced by multiple things. I asked a few people what influences them and here are a few of their answers: friends, family, the media, Facebook, music, alcohol, religion, culture.
In my life I know I am often influenced by my family, my friends, all of the different trends in the world and what’s popular in the media. But what is the big deal when it comes to influence why does it matter so much? Well it’s actually a subject that’s been studied in depth for years and years. Psychologists have long studied the science of influence and the affect it has on us. It has been shown through these studies that our environment and the ‘influencers’ in our life have a higher and larger impact on us than probably anyone ever imagined.
Growing up I think I was influenced a lot by the decisions my friends were making. I had the kind of personality that wanted to be the center of attention and to always be the one to do it bigger and better. And so my friends could easily influence me with chants of “oh you won’t do it.” That was like an automatic sign for me that I was going to do that thing.
This didn’t change as I grew up a little. When I was about 12 years old I was at one of my friends house playing video games. I am super competitive and so when my friend said “Hey how about we up the stakes” I obviously said YES PLEASE. The plan was that she was going to spin me around in a chair really fast for a bit so that when I stopped I had to play the video game dizzy and see how well I could do. I was game for this since I was the great Em Zups who could be the best at anything. Things were going well until I span right off into a glass table and smacked my head. 8 stitches above my eye and a lot of regret later here I am today.
Now I am still super competitive, but I have grown up a little bit and different things influence me now. In a single day there are probably about a hundred little and big things that influence my character, development, and behaviour. When I wake up the weather influences the kind of outfit I’m going to wear, what’s popular in the trends influences the kind of clothes I will pick out, my friends influence what activities I will do that day and the kind of conversations I have, and the people around me influence the meals I will be eating. There are things that we probably don’t even think about that influence us. Artists, song lyrics and music video’s influence our behaviours, magazines and celebrity photo’s influence the way we see ourselves and our standard for beauty, movies and television shows influence our development and our opinions.
There was a psychology study done on the influence that violent images in movies had on viewers and I’m sure the results will surprise you. I’ll bet most of you right now are thinking that you’re above being influenced by movies or video games, and that you would never fall into that category of being influenced. However the study found that the girls and boys who played violent video games changed over the course of a year and they became more aggressive than the boys and girls who did not play violent video games.
If a simple video game can influence our development and behaviour than imagine what the larger stuff in our lives is doing.
I wonder if any of you have ever thought about what influences you in your life and how that affects you? Do you ever act one way with certain friends and a different way in front of other friends? Do you ever make decisions based on what is cool or what is popular? Maybe its sports, or television, or your friends or family that influences your character, development or behaviour.
For me- my older siblings have a large influence on me, as do my parents and my friends. Growing up it was always friends and family that influenced me the most. My parents place a large emphasis on excellence and as a result that influenced my behavior. I have always wanted to be the best at what I do and I always competed in things at a high level. If my older siblings excelled at something than I was always influenced to try whatever it was they were doing and then try and do it better. The way my friends acted changed and influenced how I acted. And what they thought was cool influenced what I thought was cool. However I slowly began to realize as I grew up through my teens that I actually had more of an influence on myself than anyone else did.
My biggest struggle has always been my inner critic. That’s like the little voice inside your head that critiques you or gives opinions about your life. Have any of you ever heard a voice like that in your head? Everyone’s voice sounds different, and some of you may not even hear one but my inner critic is loud and mean and constantly telling me things about myself that influence how I live my life. That voice will whisper that I’m not pretty enough when I look in the mirror, or that I’m too fat when I’m down at the docks. That voice tells me I’m not smart enough or that I’m not athletic enough, or that I’m too loud or bossy when I lead people. This voice keeps me from doing things and sometimes causes me to do things I regret. It’s the voices that tells me I should follow the cool crowd or wear certain things, or holds me back from taking chances. This is a voice that is constantly influencing my character, development and my behaviour.
Sometimes our influences are so sneaky and so engrained in our lives that we stop noticing how much they are actually influencing us. It has been like that for me in the past. Those voices in my head became so natural to me that for years they became a normal part of my everyday life and they became the singular truth that I heard. This doesn’t mean there weren’t good influences in my life at this time it just means that for years I have chosen for that inner critic of mine to be the loudest influencer.
For so long I built my life on material things that I let influence me; my friends, my grades, sports, and the voices in my head. Those things are like sand, they are not sturdy and when things get tough they are not strong enough to hold me. Friendships and relationships can end, tragedy can strike, trends often change, and your athletic and artistic abilities will go up and down and may not last. Putting your trust and getting your influence from these things is like building your house on sand. It won’t end well. I believe in God. His truths are constant. He has loved each of you since before you were born and His love never waivers. None of your actions can increase or decrease his love for you. It isn’t earned – it’s freely given. That’s the rock to build your life upon.
I wake up every morning and choose to remember that truth. I choose for that to be my influence. I choose to surround my self with people who remind me of these truths and bring out the best in me. It isn’t always easy and some days I fail, but then the next day I try and I choose again. Whatever it is that we surround ourselves with and build our lives on influences us. It has an effect on our CHARACTER, DEVELOPMENT, and BEHAVIOUR. That’s pretty crazy. The things that we surround ourselves with literally change how we live our lives and who we are as people. So build your life on truth. Allow your influences to be something positive and powerful. And choose to hear the truth.