We’ve all heard the saying — you are who you surround yourself with.
And while it sounds like standard fortune-cookie personal development wisdom, there’s a whole lot of truth to it.
Just look at the most successful people in the world today. Who are they typically seen spending their time with?
Yep, other successful people — when you become a high-performer, you want to spend time in the company of other high-performers.
What about broke people who make tons of excuses? Well, usually they’re spending time with in circles where that behavior is tolerated, even encouraged.
Your social circle may not represent exactly who you are, but it undoubtedly influences your thoughts, feelings, and worldview — so it’d be ideal to make sure you’re being pushed in the right direction.
First let’s look at why you are who you surround yourself with, and then we’ll get into some practical tips for improving the quality of your social circle.
Is It True That You Become The People You Surround Yourself With?
The “you are who you surround yourself with” phenomenon isn’t black and white. It’s not as clear-cut as, “If you have five broke and lazy friends, then you’re undoubtedly going to become the 6th.”
Your social circle doesn’t dictate your actions, but it does influence them. Your social circle doesn’t determine your worldview, but it does play a role in shaping it. Your social circle doesn’t determine your potential, but it can limit your upside.
Think about it like medicine. The side effects of hanging out with low value people include:
- Limited potential
- Poor mindset
- Lack of money
- Negative worldview
- Increased excuse-giving
Just like real medicine, these side effects aren’t guaranteed, but you have a greater chance of experiencing them if you keep spending time around people that limit your growth.
3 Reasons Why You Are Who You Surround Yourself With
Let’s dig deeper into the idea that you are who you surround yourself with. We all implicitly know that who we spend time with matters, but the why of it is the more intriguing question.
Why do we unconsciously imitate the behaviors of those around us? Why do we adopt the same worldview as the people we spend time with?
Here’s the answers to these questions in order to better explain why you are who you surround yourself with.
#1: We’re Hard-Wired To Fit In
Let’s rewind to somewhere around 20,000 years ago and throw it back to our hunter-gatherer days.
Back then, we lived in small tribes in order to survive. Due to limited resources and the variety of dangerous predators that roamed the earth, being rejected or ostracized from the tribe was practically a death sentence.
You simply could not survive without your tribe in those days. Everyone within the tribe recognized this reality, and it promoted obedience.
If you didn’t fit in with everyone else, you were going to lose your life — it really was that simple. Today’s world doesn’t present us with the same dilemma, but our primal survival instincts are still alive and well.
Even though rejection doesn’t equate to death anymore, we still fear it greatly. We crave acceptance and social belonging, and rejection is a direct threat to these two things.
Sometimes, we even adjust our values and worldview to feel like we belong. If you’ve ever found yourself agreeing with someone you don’t really agree with, or saying something out of character to gain acceptance from a certain group, you have your natural survival insects to blame.
#2: Attitudes Are Contagious
Another reason why you are who you surround yourself with is because attitudes are contagious.
If you’re surrounded by people who are motivated and hungry to live a better life, you’ll be more likely to follow the crowd and live life more intentionally.
If you’re surrounded by people with low self-esteem who don’t believe they can change who they are, you’ll unconsciously start believing the same thing.
Not because you want to, but because you have to in order to “survive.” We want to feel like we belong in this world, and friendships help us achieve that sense of belonging.
We feed off each other’s energy, goals, and even differences because that sense of connection is necessary for our survival.
When it’s working for you, that’s a beautiful phenomenon. However, when it’s working against you, you can turn angry, bitter, and resentful about your friends and who they are turning you into.
#3: We Need Our Identity Supported
A lot of us identify with certain traits like being a film fanatic, a clean-eater, a fitness freak, a productivity machine, etc.
These are all characteristics that make up our personal identity. However, we also have another form of identity, called our social identity.
While our personal identity is about our habits and routines, our social identity is our sense of who we are based on the groups/factions we associate ourselves with — religions, clubs, ethnic groups, mothers/fathers, etc.
One study conducted on a college campus showed that social identity support is the biggest predictor of whether or not two people become very close friends.
In simpler terms, best friends were often part of the same crowd. They were members of the same gym, teammates on a tennis team, members of the same fraternity, etc.
We choose to be friends with these people because they reaffirm who we are. Whether this is a good or bad thing is dependent upon one factor — whether or not you feel good about who you are.
If you don’t, then you’re likely to keep choosing friends who re-affirm and uphold traits you’d rather not have.
If you do feel good about who you are, then your self-esteem and inner happiness will rise as your social circle accentuates those characteristics.
What Kind Of People Should You Surround Yourself With?
Now that you know why you are who you surround yourself with, the next logical question to ask is — “Well what kind of people should I begin to associate with?”
The simple answer would be to find people more successful than you. And that’d be a good place to start, but it’s not really the full picture.
Here’s a better strategy — find people who embody the changes you want to make to your character.
Just because someone is successful, doesn’t mean they’re going to fit that description.
Your circle should reflect the traits and values that you want to possess. So start thinking about the top 2-3 changes that you’re looking to make over the next 12 months.
Want to become happier? Want to start working out and making health a priority? Want to become more productive?
Figure out which of these changes are the most important to you. Once you pinpoint exactly what you want to change about your personality, you now know exactly what to look for when befriending other people.
And as you spend more time with people who have the traits you want, fitting in will become an asset and not a liability.
How To Surround Yourself With Better People
We’ve talked a lot about the philosophy that you are who you surround yourself with, now here are a few practical ways to make that philosophy work for you.
#1: Location, Location, Location
Think about the type of people that you want to start befriending — where do they typically hang out? It’d be a good idea to start spending time in those places to improve your chances of coming across them.
If you want to start making friends who take fitness seriously, then start spending time in parks where people run, or join a popular gym in your area.
If you want to improve your social skills and want to meet people who are socially adept, then start going to popular attractions like bars, clubs, shows, and concerts on weekends. At these venues, you’ll typically meet people who are more on the social side given that they’re out and about on Friday/Saturday nights.
When you yourself in the best possible position to meet your tribe, opportunities will follow as long as you’re persistent enough.
#2: Show Some Courage
Let’s face it — the advice in the previous section means nothing without courage.
It can be a little intimidating to put yourself out there and start chatting up strangers. For some of you it may come naturally, but for others it won’t.
No matter how easy or hard it is for you, the bottom line is you’ve gotta do it. Depending on your social acumen, you may need to take baby steps, which is totally fine.
I had to take baby steps at first too:
Start by saying hello to strangers → Up the ante by giving out compliments → Start having normal conversations.
This is the progression that began that helped me overcome my social anxiety and become a better conversationalist.
If you’re a natural social butterfly, then you can ignore this advice. But if you need to exercise your social muscle a little, then taking baby steps outside of your comfort zone is the recipe for success.
#3: Find Gold In Your Current Social Circle
Do you know people who embody some of the traits you want to have? If yes, are you spending enough time with them?
If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, then that’s an easy fix you can start making today.
Start taking the initiative to make plans with these people. You’ve already got a foot in the door because you’re acquainted, so it’s a super low pressure to improve your relationship with them.
You can’t go through life expecting the people to reach out to you. If you do, you’ll end up knowing a lot of people without feeling truly close to any of them.
Take it from someone who’s been there, that’s a lonely place to be. Become the person who takes full responsibility for their outcomes instead of letting life happen to them.
The more you practice taking the initiative socially, the more likely it is that mindset will ripple out into other areas of your life.
The fact that you are who you surround yourself with can be a blessing and a curse.
We all have a natural survival instinct that urges us to fit in. So if you’re regularly in the company of happy, joyful people, then you’ve got a good shot at becoming one yourself.
On the flipside, this instinct is dangerous when working against you. If you’re in the company of people who complain constantly and refuse to take accountability for their life, then that can become your calling card too.
Don’t leave such an important part of your life up to fate — go meet the people you want to be like. Have the courage to chat up everyone you want to meet because you never know who you’re going to hit it off with.
Maybe that person will give you a job in the near future. Maybe he/she introduces you to people who become business partners, or the best man/maid of honor at your wedding.
You’ll never find out if you don’t take action.