Remember when you and your girls were, like, total rebels back in high school and you got busted for boozing and sneaking out of your house to meet up with some boys? Well, after your mom gave you a good butt whipping (we kid, we kid!), we bet she also expressed a few concerns regarding your group of friends. You probably heard variations of, “I just don’t know about so-and-so…” Or, “Maybe you should hang out with [insert goody two-shoes’ name here]. She seems like such a nice girl!” Um, yeah…
Looking back, your mom definitely had a good point. For better or worse, our friends have the ability to impact our decisions. And oftentimes, we don’t even realize it’s happening. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and even the career moves we make, check out these 7 ways our friends can influence us.
1. Your Relationship
While friends often mean well when giving relationship advice, it's essential to remember that everyone is giving counsel based on their own experiences (and projections) — plus, they’re only hearing half the story, notes Brenda Della Casa, author of Cinderella Was a Liar. “Independence of thought and confidence are invaluable when it comes to accepting the realities of your own relationship. So, if you're constantly comparing your couplehood to the 'perfect' ones you think your friends have (we know we’ve all done this before!), you're going to frustrate both yourself and your partner and possibly erode your relationship by devaluing it.”
2. Your Eating Habits
“Have you ever gone to a restaurant with the healthiest of intentions — a salad followed by grilled fish and steamed vegetables — only to find yourself halfway through a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings? Or, on the other hand, have you ever listened to everyone at your table order a salad with grilled chicken, only to hear yourself echo their order?” As it turns out, eating is a contagious behavior, notes America’s Eating Strategist, Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH.
In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which analyzed data from 32 years, found that your chances of becoming obese actually increase by 57% if you have a friend that’s obese, a chance that’s even greater than sharing genes, she says. “So if your overweight friend orders dessert, you assume it’s okay to do the same; you’re changing your eating habits to mirror hers.” It’s not necessary to stop going out to dinner with these friends in real world scenarios, says Rania, but these findings do suggest that mindfulness is especially important when dining out. We’d definitely have to agree with that one.
3. Your Exercise Regimen
One of the best ways friends influence each other is to encourage, irritate, remind, show up, and be there for exercise, says Anne Kelly, President of Junonia. “Research proves that having friends to exercise with really improves both persons’ health, even if that friend is just a walking canine companion.” Vice versa, if your friends aren’t physically active at all, it’s likely that exercise will become less of a priority for you.
4. Your Self-Esteem
Think about it: we tend to compare ourselves to the people in our social group, and the social group we wish we were in, so if our friends have more than us (money, looks, things, etc.), then we tend to feel worse about ourselves and our lives, notes Dr. Don Nations, professional coach, consultant and the founder of DNA Coaching. “On the other hand, if we have a bit more than most of the people in our group, we tend to feel better about our lives.” Obviously, self-esteem should come from within, though, so take a step back and reevaluate if you find yourself guilty of this.
5. Your Goals & Aspirations
Did you know that over 80% of women have “frenemies”? In other words, people who don’t have our best interests at heart and actually undermine goal accomplishment? Well, according to professional coach and author of Creating Your Best Life, Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, it’s true. “Research from Shelley Gable, called ‘What Happens When Things Go Right?’ says that how our friends respond to our good news can predict whether or not we continue to pursue what matters to us,” says Caroline. “The only right way to respond is called ‘active constructive responding,” which is an upbeat, engaging response that begs to know all the details.
6. Your Style
Along with your geographic area, your family, and the media, friends have a big influence on what you wear, says style consultant and author of Steal This Style, Sherrie Mathieson. “The more important fitting in is for you, the greater your friends' influence will be. So when it comes to your clothes, whatever style it is that you’re used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, the more likely it is you’ll adopt this look for yourself.” Why? Because it becomes your visual norm, says Sherrie. This could be good or bad. So for instance, she says, are you “Dallas/Jersey Shore” or “Greenwich/New Canaan Connecticut?”
7. Your Career
“How many times have you heard, or said, ‘It’s who you know,’ when speaking of someone successful?” It’s true, says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids. “In order to succeed in many things, you need to know the people who have the power in that field. Throughout your school years, you build friendships with people who will turn out to be the powerful ones. And when you build good relationships with people who have succeeded, you find mentors and get an extra boost up the ladder of success that doesn't exist for outsiders.”
So tell us, how have your friends influenced you in your life, for better or worse?