How much are you influenced by the people in your life?

Do you remember your relationships when you were a teenager? I swore I was in love. When I was nineteen, I moved from Ohio to California with my boyfriend. Moving had been my idea and when we got to California, it was pretty clear that he didn’t want to be there. The relationship fell apart soon after and he moved back home.

Why would he agree to such a drastic change if he really didn’t want to do it? (I’m going to ask myself that question in a minute.)

My next boyfriend was Jewish and his family was unhappy that I wasn’t. At the time, I didn’t consider myself an atheist yet, but I was definitely turned off by religion in general. Despite my true feelings, I started taking classes to convert to Judaism. My boyfriend’s parents were paying for them, of course. 

I didn’t want to be Jewish so why the hell did I agree to convert? (I never followed through, by the way.) 

Many years later I met my husband. Our relationship is different from any of my other relationships because we didn’t have to change for each other. Our similarities and differences seem to balance us out.

Influence can be positive or negative, but what if you lose yourself in the process?

I know someone who is heavily influenced by the women he’s with. He takes on their traits and it can be good or bad depending on the woman. It’s been going on for so long that it makes me wonder if I truly know who he is as an individual. 

How do you contribute to a meaningful relationship if you’re not being authentic?

Is it possible to be easily influenced because you just don’t know what you want?

What makes a person easily influenced? I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a stronger sense of self. I’m not saying it’s always easy to be authentic but I’ve learned that it’s harder not to. Does a less–developed sense of self make you susceptible to the influence of others?

How do you get to know yourself outside of the influence of others? I spend a lot of time alone and have had lots of time to think about the things I want. Being alone has allowed me to develop my sense of self which has given me a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger. 

Does age affect how easily influenced you are?

One thing I regret is not living alone. When I was in my twenties I had an apartment near campus for a very short time, but other than that I lived with my parents or a boyfriend. Had I taken more time to get to know myself back then, I’m sure it would have had an impact on my relationships and goals.

What do you think? Have your partner, family, or friends influenced you in some way? Do you stay true to yourself? What makes a person influenced or influential?


  1. John Morales says

    “Why would he agree to such a drastic change if he really didn’t want to do it?
    I didn’t want to be Jewish so why the hell did I agree to convert?”

    No other information availavle, I think it was likely on the basis that it was perceived as the best thing to do to remain in the good graces of one’s partner. That is, a concession made to sustain the relationship.

  2. brightmoon says

    I was raised by 2 extremely controlling misogynistic narcissistic parents and I had to continually fight to hear my own voice. My mother had self hating , purity culture toxicity and I knew that type of misogynistic sexual repression wasn’t what I needed or wanted . I was a biology student back then and knew that sex was normal then had to go home and listen my abusive toxic mom calling me a wh*re every single day from age 14 despite the fact that until I was in my 20s , I was still a virgin and didn’t have a boyfriend . Despite the purity culture crap they weren’t very religious, which I thank God for . That purity culture crap is difficult enough to deal with let alone having a toxic relationship with a church on top of it. Being a really fascinated with science helped a lot . I thought my parents were illogical and crazy rather than as people who needed instant obedience or respect. The constant toxicity over my sexuality made me have sympathy for non binaries as I know first hand how sadistically abusive it is to be mistreated over your sexuality. So I’m a cis het ally!
    Father was a raging homophobe and he also spent most of my childhood being a violent temper tantrum throwing sadist. Again I’m glad that they weren’t religious. My childhood was unbearable as it was . I had other relatives and adults that I spent a lot of time with who didn’t act like that . My adult cousins were very open minded . My godfather was the parent my biological father never was. My maternal grandmother was the complete opposite of her daughter. Lively and outgoing and a little adventurous, grandma also didn’t have my mother’s toxic sexual hang ups. I’m still trying to figure how my mother got to be so toxic . It wasn’t coming from my father as his version of misogynistic behavior was different and involved restricting me from normal behavior because “girls can’t do that “.
    Even though I’m Black, neither of my parents were poorly educated. One of my grandmother’s brothers had attended college . I thought that was bizarre because just like the crazy Westboro Baptist Church family, my parents weren’t uneducated or stupid. It still puzzles me how they could act like that and be intelligent enough to know that this was abusive behavior. But narcissists are like that !

  3. brightmoon says

    Sorry for the novel. It’s difficult to have boundaries when raised by narcissists and until I was in my 30s I was in abusive relationships . I went no / low contact with my parents at the same time. Without their malign influence I started to develop boundaries and haven’t been in an abusive relationship since

  4. vucodlak says

    I tend to be strongly influenced by the people around me, either adopting their mannerisms or ones I perceive as complementary, going along with what they want, etc. I think of it as being like a mirrored mask. I am flat, cold, throwing back shallow, distorted reflections of those around me. I’ve always been this way, because no one wants to see what’s behind the mirror. I’ve survived enough rejection, often violent, to understand that. I live for others, because there’s nothing of me, in me, of any worth to anyone else.

    It’s not because I don’t know what I want. Rather, it’s because what I want is to not be alone. I can’t say as it’s been a terribly successful tactic. My mask is bears too many cracks, and bares too many peeks. I *am* alone, as I have been for all but a very short period of my far too long life.

    I do have a developed sense of self, though. I’ve had a lot of time in my own company to develop it. I think of what lives behind the mask as the nightmare beast: a shifting, loathsome, and unlovely thing combining the traits of a rat, a badger, a vulture, a goat, and a snake. Venomous and prickly, stubborn and vicious, cold-blooded and carrion-eating; that’s the real me. That’s what people glimpse behind the mask, no matter how careful I think I am, and that’s what people reject.

    With those other traits, I am also loyal, affectionate, nurturing, and a constant jokester. I care a great deal about mercy, compassion, and justice. I know that I’m a monster, ill-suited for polite society, but I’m a lonely monster. One who is tired of the cruelty and violence of people who despise difference on principle. So, I allow others to shape who I appear to be, and put on the mask.

    I’m so tired of it. So tired. Tired of trying to fit my giant kaiju self into the tiny little spaces deemed acceptable by others. Some people like monsters. And maybe some who aren’t people like us fine, too. I’d like to not have to wear the mask all the time, but I’m also not sure that I know how to drop it, anymore.

    Tl;dr answer to the title question: A lot, and I hate it, but it seems to be the only way to survive.

  5. John Morales says

    “Does age affect how easily influenced you are?”

    This is how I see it: Until and unless dementia-related cognitive decline sets in, the older and more experienced one is the less likely they are to fall for something they failed to see earlier in life; harsh life lessons learnt tend to have a significant impact.

    As an aside, that’s the sentiment behind “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, which is often misapprehended.

  6. StonedRanger says

    At 68 I am not the person I was when I was 18. My life has been influenced by various people over the years I suppose. But I think I have managed to maintain who I figured out I was in my 20’s. My biggest influences have been my wife of 42 years and our kids. I think we all make changes to ourselves for whatever reasons, sometime good, sometimes not so good. But Id like to think Ive learned from at least some of my mistakes. I grew up in a home where physical abuse in the form of beatings was a way of life until I got thrown out of the house at 17. I had a lot of anger to overcome and I did after a fashion. I was fortunate to not be an abuser myself. When my wife and I got together she had two kids and Ive raised them as my own. They call me dad and Im happy with that. I directed my anger at the source (my parents, mostly my dad) and not my family. Through the efforts of all of us over the years, I learned it was okay to love myself and I was able to learn to love others. I think we are all influenced one way or another by the company we choose to keep. I am forever grateful that my new family taught me how to love, and how to accept being loved. Its the greatest gift Ive ever gotten.

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