Voluntary conformity disturbs me because our brains are unique for a reason, but I’ve come to realize that no matter how hard people try to assert their individuality, we can’t help but morph into Power Rangers the people with whom we surround ourselves. That’s why I’ve been trying to get in touch with Emma Stone, Candice Swanepoel, and Oprah. #callme
One of my best friends growing up was my beautiful partner-in-crime named Kira. Kira is three years older than me, so I loved riding her coattails of coolness in order to be accepted by the older athletic and well-dressed crowd, which worked about 40% of the time. No shame in my game. By the end of her senior year of high school (my freshman year), we were so inseparable that one or two people actually said we looked alike. Here is a picture of Kira and me circa early-mid 2000s:
I don’t know about you, but I can barely tell us apart.
The power of spending so much time with someone that your appearance and mannerisms become identical while you finish each other’s sandwiches sentences is almost alarming. (If you didn’t get the Frozen reference, stop reading this and go fix yourself.) In the last 48 hours, my coworker Meghan and I have been mistaken for twins 2,834 times. Probably because between work and play, I see her more than anyone else in my daily life. Here we are with our favorite dog named Petunia (Petunia’s face always looks like that):
Definitely a closer match than Kira, but still. She has the youthful glow of a 22-year-old that I lost two relationships and 100 bottles of wine ago.
I use these two friendships as examples because beyond looks, Kira and Meghan are both inherently very different from me. Kira is super laid back with a natural leadership gene that she kind of wishes she didn’t possess, but people follow anyway. I want to be as chill and influential as she is, but if we’re being honest, I’m slightly socially defective and the kind of person who has to have other people present my ideas for them to be taken seriously. Then there’s Meghan, who is a free spirit/businesswoman hybrid who knows the secretly-trendy places to eat, clothes to wear, and music to listen to, but she’ll hate me for saying that because it sounds too pretentious, which she’s not. And I’m over here wearing a sweater from Target, eating Chipotle, and listening to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack, only vaguely aware of my dull choices. I think I have underdeveloped senses.
I promise I’m getting to my point. Be patient.
Despite original differences, we grow into the people around us because Homo sapiens are naturally social and impressionable creatures. It’s just the way we’re made. We have to be cognizant enough of this fact to not get swept up in groupthink or lose the ability to distinguish our preferences from those of others, but also to make the best of our chameleon ways. Put some thought into who you’d be proud to be mistaken for, because those are the folks you should probably invite to Happy Hour.
I’m pleased to say that the crew I hang out with, though scattered and not necessarily interwoven, is comprised of individuals who have steady jobs, don’t do drugs, and can hold conversations about the complexities of life. Of course we are all noticeably different to an extent (there’s usually only one Kira/Meghan in your life at a time), but ultimately, we’re cut from similar fabric. I love meeting people from different backgrounds who are drawn to varying lifestyles and interests because they challenge my world and keep me from becoming mentally stagnant, but by this point in my life, I know what kind of person I want to be and the lifestyle I like to maintain. Therefore, I put greater effort into relationships that nurture those choices.
Some may think that being actively conscious of who you spend time with is judgmental or close-minded, but I believe that only becomes the case when you treat others poorly or don’t take the time to discover possible commonalities with everyone you meet. The fabric of your soul has nothing to do with fabric on your back. When I say that I am careful to surround myself with the “right” kind of people, I just mean that I don’t want to get pulled into gossipy, shallow, argumentative, haughty, or legally rebellious crowds. I connect with people due to complimentary thought processes, not appearances, so they can wear whatever the heck they want. Besides assless chaps.
As you grow through life- and growing never stops- keep in mind that no matter how strongly you’ve defined your morals, ethics, and demeanor, others can and will influence those ideals. We will never lose the tendency to slowly, unknowingly mold into reflections of our networks, so step back and evaluate the company you keep. If you don’t like what you see, it’s probably time to wipe off the mirror, too, and make a few adjustments.
I leave you with BFFs Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss as scientific evidence.