The Bad Side to a Good Influence

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Don’t follow good advice at the expense of who you are.

Attention introverts and people-pleasers…this one’s for you!

One of my characters in Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment has a pattern of hiding his true self.  Because he has poor self-perception he often lets other people choose for him.  Another character of mine acts in similar ways.  She dreads hurting feelings, not because she genuinely cares about other people (though she does), but because of how causing dissension it will make her look.  Thoughts of confrontation and standing up for herself paralyze her.    (What will they think of me if I disagree?)

We’ve all heard of bad influences, the smokin’, drinkin’, cussin’ deadbeats that warranted words of caution from our mothers.  …You know, peer pressure and such.  Then there’s the abusers and users.  They’re the ones who, in one way or another, find a way to control and/or exploit you.  Maybe you’ve learned to stay away from these types of people, or maybe you haven’t (I hope you have).

Let’s talk about a third kind of person. This person could be described, perhaps, as a good influence.  They’re goal-oriented.  They have morals. They are kind to others. They’re not mixed up in drugs and they’re not in a troll-doll-worshiping cult.    Maybe they’re opinionated and strong-willed, or maybe they’re easy-going and non-abrasive.  Either way, you might be persuaded by this individual than you realize.  And that might not be a good thing.  

Let’s say you’re focused on a goal, whether it be fitness, career or otherwise related.  Good for you!  Things have been going alright so far, but you’re not sure what to do or where to go next.  In walks Passionate Pam.  She sure can talk, and it sure sounds like she knows her stuff, but there’s a good chance Pam’s talent has nothing to do with your goal and everything to do with persuasive speech.  You can’t blame Pam.  That’s who she is.  She’s just quoting what she knows to be true, even if she doesn’t have any experience in that particular field.  And yet she sounded so sure of herself, you go ahead and try things Pam’s (misguided) way.  And it blows up in your face. We’ve all been there.

Then there’s Cool Cam.  You admire him because he’s intelligent, soft-spoken and approachable.  He offers many solutions to your problem and even admits he doesn’t know everything.  Maybe he points you to some good resources.   Now, despite Cam’s good advice, there’s a nagging little voice in the back of your head that says “go this way!  …This way, I say!”  To said voice, you say, “nah…Cam didn’t mention doing it that way.  Cam does it this way.  I should probably do it this way, too.  Cam is smart.  I should be like Cam.”

Both Pam and Cam are good people.  But if you continue to do it their way while ignoring that little voice (I.E., you), the bad influence on you, this time, is you.   Don’t follow good advice at the expense of who you are. If you do, said advice has the goodness sucked right out of it.  Aspire to be like Cam, but not if that means discontinuing you.  Appreciate Pam for the uplifting energy she brings to the table, but don’t let your energy disappear because of it.  Learn to trust yourself.  Be confident that the decision you’ve made for your own life has just as much merit to it as that of Pam’s or Cam’s.  Don’t let yourself be talked into doing something that just is not you.  This means the ever-important lesson of learning to say no, even to Passionate Pam and Cool Cam, who have your best interest at heart.   Pam might act upset or try to convince you otherwise.  Cam might give you a blank stare or nonchalant shrug, which you then might interpret a million negative ways, all of which aren’t what Cam had intended to mean at all.  Even if Cam thinks your way isn’t the best, do yourself a favor and do it your way anyway.   Pam and Cam…?  They’re good people.  They’ll get over it.

Chances are, Pam and Cam really won’t care too much which direction you choose.  And chances are, it’s all in your head that they’re going to come unglued, think you’re an idiot and unfriend you.  Remember, Pam and Cam are good people.  They’re not likely to demonstrate such unseemly behavior.  And you…?  You’re good people, too.    Now, if you’re the black sheep in your family or social circle, you might often keep your opinions to yourself as a means of avoiding drama and the same old judgmental, head-bashing comments.  More power to you.  I completely understand.  You can keep your opinions to yourself and still take action, still make your own decisions and walk your own unique path. Just like my underdog, follow-the-crowd character from Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment, you may not be a leader, but you can be the leader of your own life.  Remember, your ideas and decisions matter, because they make you who you are.  Embrace it!

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