The people that we CHOOSE to surround ourselves with, have a profound impact on our lives. We are directly influenced by them. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, even financially. Are you surrounded by all broke people? Then guess what? You will also be broke! Surrounded by all intellectuals? You will find yourself reading and researching more. Drugs? Eventually you will use them as well. A solid family unit? You will desire the same thing. Basically, what I am saying is, we need to be conscious of the fact that our environment and the people in it WILL influence our lives.
In my work as a Social Worker in a homeless shelter, I see women connect themselves to the wrong people all the time. It is like a magnet. Pathologies attract each other. What do I mean by that? The bully attracts the push over. The abuser attracts the person with low self-esteem. The user attracts the person with the big tax return. Ask yourself, what are you attracting? And why?
This concept is true in both your personal and professional life. Let’s look at this subject from both perspectives:
Personal – We cannot choose the family we are born into. As much as we may love our families, some people have a negative family dynamic, generational cycles/curses, and even abuse. Unfortunately, as a child we cannot do much about it. However, once we become adults we can choose how much we engage with our families. Honestly, some people need to completely cut themselves off from their family. I know this sounds harsh, but some people have suffered the most abuse from their own family, even a parent. If your family dynamic includes abuse, substance use, or another toxic pattern, then it is best to separate yourself. You may get counseling, you may be involved in church, but if you do not separate yourself from your toxic family, nothing will make your life better. Then some of us have a good family with typical dysfunctions. In this case, I suggest dealing with them in doses. Keep the connection, but limit your time with them.
Who are family members you should spend the most time with? The ones who are positive, supportive, and loving. Stay close to your supportive grandmother or aunt. The cousin who always has your back. Your children. Choose wisely who you make “close” family members.
We may not get to choose our family, but we do however get to choose our friends, acquaintances, and relationships. We “put” people in our lives. What are your standards for friendships? Do you allow just anyone in your life, your inner circle? You should be selective. I have a very strong friend support system. I have friends from all stages of my life. Friends from childhood/teen years, young adulthood, mid-life, and new. But one thing that is consistent for people that I have close is the heart. I am very attracted to people with good hearts. I don’t judge people by what they have, what they look like, if we have all of the same beliefs, etc. I look at the heart. That is why I have such a large variety of friends and I would not change that for the world.
Want to have love and support in your life? Get you some friends! Stop thinking all women are bad, jealous, conniving, want your man, etc. Are there women like this in the world, ABSOLUTELY! However, there are also good ones. If you keep drawing the negative ones, you may need to look inside yourself and figure out why. I have always drawn good people into my life and I am very thankful for that. I have had a very miniscule amount of bad experiences with friends, but an exorbitant number of good ones! My life would not be the same without my friends…………period!
It is also a good idea to keep some good associates around. People love to make the distinction between friends and associates, “I don’t have many friends, I have associates” lol people say this so high and mighty!!! Well, I have both friends and associates, and both categories have their place. Associates, especially in business, are very important. Develop a network of people that you can call for jobs, letters of recommendation, event information, and so on. Everybody is not meant to be your friend, but they may make a great associate! Stop with the condescending attitude about associates. They are important in life too.
Professional – Our job, employment, or career is most commonly the biggest area in our lives. We spend more time at work then at home. So, it is just as important how we handle this area in our life as the personal. When you start a new job, choose your buddies wisely. Don’t get caught up with the toxic group. The toxic group are the ones who complain excessively, hate all leadership, and keep mess going on the job. You have to give it time to choose the right people to connect with on your job. Start off friendly to everyone, but watch and learn who is who. Connecting yourself to the wrong people on the job can stunt your professional growth. It can even cause you to lose your job. On the contrary, connecting yourself to the right people can cause you to flourish.
I am very ambitious. I have always been a leader, and I have a very clear career path that I have set for myself. When I determined what I wanted, I also determined HOW I wanted it. I want it the right way. What do I mean by this? I mean I don’t want to sleep my way to the top. I don’t want to back stab other women. I don’t want to use shark like tactics. I want to earn my place honestly. I want to be a good person. Am I perfect, absolutely not! My platform is based on “having a past,” which includes many mistakes. The important part is that I learned from my mistakes, and I am using my experience to help other women, and to be the women God made me to be.
Part of that was earning my education, which was not easy. The next step, was choosing a career path, which I have done. Now I am working on advancing in that chosen career. Part of that growth included surrounding myself with the right people. Two of those people are my C.E.O. and Mentor Cheryl P. Johnson, and a former C.E.O. Carol Goss. Does their title matter? Only to a certain degree. The important part is they are the “kind” of leader that I want to be. They actually care about the community they serve. They care about their employees. They are educated and naturally smart. They are attractive and have great style. They exhibit qualities that are important to me.
They are not the only leaders that I know in this industry. I have known some leaders in other non-profit organizations who were mean, even to the point of being evil, and purposely hurt people, especially employees. How can I say this next part…..I have known some who were not exactly the sharpest knife in the butcher block! I even knew one who, God as my witness, I believe was illiterate. Or, what about the kind who are so high and mighty, that they do not even live on planet earth! I purposely searched for women, African American women, who were the kind of leader that I wanted to be. I wanted someone to learn from and to model myself after. You can call it kissing up, you can call it a lot of things…..but I call it smart! My advice, if there is a specific place or position that you are seeking, find someone who is already there, and learn from them.
The bottom line, having the wrong people in your life will cause you to fail. Having the right people in your life will cause you to flourish. Whether it is family, friends, associates, or professionals. You have the power to choose who you bring into your life, and you should use this power wisely. Surround yourself with the right people.