Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it? How can individuals be defined by the people they surround themselves with? Do we not define ourselves from attributes stemming from, well, ourselves? Motivational speaker Jim Rohn brings up an interesting idea in saying, "you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Whether you realize it or not, the people you choose to spend time with can have a pretty drastic effect on how you see yourself as well as how you are perceived by others.
At the most basic level, we crave the security and comfort achieved by the connecting with others. In fact, each level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with the exception of the first level concerning our physiological needs, addresses a necessity that can be found either primarily or exclusively in a relationship. Relationships should be judged on a basis of quality over quantity because of how heavily they can influence you. The extent of our tolerance for normally unacceptable behavior can skyrocket to worrisome heights for those we consider important. We change ourselves, diss other people and, sometimes, put our own happiness and sanity on the line all for that feeling of love and acceptance. This power that certain relationships can have over us comes with its own warning to build and maintain relationships with discretion.
Relationships that are turbulent or tumultuous add unnecessary stress that can take a toll on your self-esteem and outlook on life. We see people who have been hurt by others and have therefore soured on many things in their lives they used to find joy in. Healthy relationships shouldn't be difficult. Every relationship will have its rough patches, sure, but you shouldn't be forcing it to work. It can be a hard concept to accept for extroverts and those who strive to maintain peace, but not everyone is meant to get along. Conversely, the right relationships can boost your confidence and sense of security. It's cliche, but life really is more fulfilling if you have good people to share it with. Having solid, healthy relationships gives you the comfort that no matter how poorly things in other aspects of your life may be going, you have people who will help you through it.
Apart from the internal definition of character, the relationships we have also define how we are seen by others. As much as people love to say "it's what's on the inside that really matters," it's just not that simple. We disassociate ourselves with the act of passing judgment on others like it's some hideous crime when, in reality, it's a defense mechanism when used in the appropriate manner. The way people perceive you and, in turn, treat you isn't just determined by your physical appearance and how you carry yourself. The kind of people you are associated with also weighs pretty heavily on your personal image. Who you have relationships with can indicate many things for people who may not know much about you.
In the instance of job hunting, for example, having a connection with a well respected higher up can be the difference between whether you can afford that new iPhone or not. Trying to learn more about a stranger can be likened to falling into a dark pit; as we fall, we grasp any piece of information available to us to escape the discomfort of uncertainty. This doesn't go to say that you should let other's perceptions of your friends dictate your life and how you approach them, it's just something to keep in mind.
I'm sure we all have those friends that, the more we spend time with them, the more we begin to speak and behave like them. This convergence of mannerisms is only the beginning of the impact these people can have on who you become as a person. Surrounding yourself with people who are motivated and driven can inspire great personal growth. Moreover, this effect can also be observed in a negative light, where devoting time to those with poor habits can also lead to the integration of these habits into your own life. The relationship strictly in terms of who it's with isn't the only thing that can define who you are. How you treat others is also a reflection of who you are as a person. Growing up, my mom always told me that I should look into how a potential boyfriend treats his mother as it is a good indication of who he is and how he'll treat me. This has yet to steer me wrong.
I believe that time is the most valuable currency we have and therefore, who you choose to devote your time to is of the utmost importance. Healthy relationships involve a fair exchange of time, energy and value. Deciding who is and isn't worth this output of personal resources is the key to success in several other, seemingly unrelated, aspects of your life. Regardless, as I've mentioned in almost every other article I've written, each encounter or relationship is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and others.