Life Lesson #2: Misery Loves Company

Career, Happiness, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Self Development, Wellbeing / Monday, April 22nd, 2019

OR: Why You Need to Surround Yourself With the Right People

Today’s lesson is definitely one of the most important ones I have learnt: Misery loves company. They say that the five people you spend the most time with influence you the most, good or bad. While I don’t think it is necessary to focus on the number five here, the general rule speaks a lot of truth. Relationships are incredibly powerful, whether we want this to be true or not, and we need to make sure we don’t let other people drag us into their misery or negativity. Because this happens so quickly.

Check For Yourself: Who Do You Spend the Most Time With?

So the first thing you can do is think who you spend the most time with. Then ask yourself whether these people are positive, lift you up and help you move into the direction you want to go in. Are they encouraging you to become better and to take risks? Do they tell you honestly when they think you have come off your path and need to change something? Or are they jealous, negative and try to keep you small?

Let’s take long-term friendships as an example. While they are great and friends you have had for many years often know you best, it is not always good to only stay in friendships you have had since primary school or high school. Why? Because you have developed so much since then. Possibly in different directions. And while this is natural and nothing is wrong with that, you may misunderstand each other or never move forward in your friendship. Because you both have new interests, hobbies and lives now.

Mix Up Old and New Friendships

Personally, I still have a few good friends who I got to know during my teenage years and I am glad I have them. Although I live half-way across the world from them now, I know I could fly back to Germany tomorrow and they would welcome me with open arms. Without judgment. Without negativity.

But quite a few friendships have ended as well. Not necessarily because our lifestyle has become too different, but more because I felt the effort to keep the friendship going was only one-sided. And that kind of relationship does not encourage me to grow as a person or give me the opportunity to have meaningful conversations. In that case it was better for me to find some new friends with similar interests and motivation and to invest myself into that.

What About Family?

You may think this is all well and good. Old friends, new friends, ending friendships if they no longer help me grow. Sounds challenging, but doable. But what about family? We cannot choose our family and some of our family members may not understand the personal journey we are on and criticise everything we do instead of encouraging us.

I get that and it is true. We cannot choose or change our family members, but we can decide how and how often we spend time with them. If you have a family member who only spreads negativity wherever they go, try to not meet with them too often. If they are close family members (e.g. parents) have an honest conversation with them and tell them that you love and respect them, but that you need to go your own path. Of course you can still see them regularly if you wish, but establish clear boundaries. Avoid some topics if you need to. But more than anything be honest. It may take some time, but you will establish a routine that works for you without a negative mood taking over every time you have met with a certain family member. Let that be your goal.

My Personal Tip: Distance Yourself

My personal tip for bigger family events, work parties or other gatherings where you may encounter people who bring out the worst in you: Move away. Distance yourself for a little while. If you feel a negative body or thought reaction during a conversation, excuse yourself and go to the toilet. Or to another room. Change the topic deliberately, but honestly. Move away physically or mentally from what has got you down. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is their misery, not yours. It will take some practice. But it can make a huge difference. Especially if you develop a pattern with it.

We take over thought and behaviour patterns from the people we spend the most time with. Other people shape us a lot more than we often think. But the good news is: When you realise it, you can change it. Again, misery loves company. Certain people will always be negative and try to take you with them. There’s nothing you can do about it, except to be aware.

Relationships Can Lift You Up

Luckily, this also works the other way around. If we surround ourselves with the right people, we are lifted up emotionally. We will feel happier, more motivated and supported. More than the negative part, this is what we should concentrate on. Find people who do that. Make them our favourite people. And spend less time with people who do the opposite.

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