In my previous article, ‘Influence- how powerful is it (part 1)’, I stated that influences can be so powerful that they are completely responsible for all our actions and choices, and that they also go on to shape our personalities. So, if you have not read the first part of this article, I strongly advise you do so before reading this one. I stated that there are four kinds of influences, social influence being one of them. But how powerful can social influence be?
The first stage of social influence in a person’s life is with his caregiver, as early as the moment he comes into this world (children unknowingly show the natural desire for love, respect, and care). As a young child, even the subconscious mind of a child knows that at that stage of his life, social influence is tantamount to basic-need influence (Not being socially accepted or respected can bring about some form of deprivation). More so, the natural ignorance of a child makes him adopt many personality features of his caregiver without questioning their uprightness and moral correctness.
Caregivers considerably influence their wards. A child who is raised by an alcoholic, abusive father, and who witnesses the physical and emotional abuses inflicted by such father on his mother, may grow up manifesting these character features. He may even share his father’s demeaning view about women and begin to treat other women the same way. A girl who is raised by a tattling and disrespectful mother may grow up becoming like her. There are many insolent children who have been brought up by insolent parents, violent children who have been brought up by violent parents, and there are many gentle children who have been nurtured by gentle parents.
A child who attends a school where a vast majority of the students are unruly and abuse drugs and alcohol, and where such practices are considered normal is at great risk of being infected by their ideology and practices. I have come across a young adult who had the wrong mentality that it is expedient to steal because everyone steals. Perhaps, this is the mentality he developed while growing up because of the way he was raised and probably because of the people he spent most of his time with. It should, however, be noted that your origin and background cannot always determine your personality. In rare cases, some people have shown significant difference in character and mentality from those in their neighborhood, family, etc.
To a large extent, we are products of our environments; the influences of our parents, siblings, peers, neighbors, and religious places really shape us. Many times, children turn out to be like their parents, they share some characteristics with their classmates, they share some beliefs with many of the congregation in their churches, mosques, temples, or whichever religion they are practicing, and they enjoy like conversations with their neighbors; all of which are proofs that influences have taken place.
While external influence plays a big role in shaping us, we cannot disregard the significance of brain chemistry. And may I add that people have different experiences in life, which may contribute to having different personalities? Brain chemistry also contributes to the reason other people do not share your views. So, you might not exactly take after the interests, habits, and preferences of those around you later on in life, even though you did as a child; it’s possible for few. This is why understanding the entire being of man is pretty complex.
Birds of the same feather flock together, show me your friend and I will tell you who you are, like father like son, etc. are proverbs true to great extents. But they are not absolute (man, while analyzable, is still a complex being). A man may associate with another person for some benefits he wishes to get, Kyle may be averse to his father’s lifestyle and may be absolutely dissimilar to him. Several factors can be responsible for these deviations, one of which may include other kinds of experiences, or a natural brain chemistry not to fall in line.
There are numerous sources of influence, including those you get from your intimate friends, the social media, television shows, psychologists, storybooks, and the cultures of other people. These influences, combined with your natural brain chemistry, can cancel out the influence you get from your locality and family in time. As a result, you may not grow up to be like your father, mother, siblings, or other blood relatives. You may not even exhibit similar character features like the folks in your neighborhood. Although, most people turn out to be like their blood relatives, or like those people in their neighborhoods, the popular proverbs are not absolute.
Sometimes, we embrace the lifestyles of other people so as to belong to a system, and sometimes we do so because we don’t know any better. Sometimes it happens because it’s the only world we know (especially as little children growing up). And we adhere to these beliefs because we don’t value the essence of analytical reasoning. If your dad utters obscenities and slams you for the smallest misdemeanors, you may subconsciously begin to behave this way. If you read books that enlighten you differently, you may begin to disagree with your father’s beliefs and begin to accept new ones.
Our interactions with the world influences our self-beliefs. If other people treat you with respect, you feel accepted and secure, and this goes on to improve your self-esteem. If they commend and encourage you, rather than rebuke and discourage you, your self-confidence and self-efficacy improve. You then turn out to be someone who is cheerful, kind, and willing to take risks for the right reasons. With loving and positive people around you, who are role models as they strive to accomplish great goals, and who have positive attitudes and healthy self-beliefs, your ability to grow with the right mental attitudes is undeniable. Therefore, your interactions with the world can go on to determine how you feel about yourself.