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Influence and Impression

30 Dec

There is a constant myth that Napoleon Bonaparte had a chip on his shoulder because he was very short, and today people sometimes refer to shorter men who are disagreeable as having a “Napoleon Complex.” However, historians say Napoleon was actually taller than the average male for his time and seemed short because he was surrounded by body guards who were much taller. If they are right, his short stature was just an interpretation of how he compared to those around him, and not a true reflection of who he was. When we think about that, it changes the entire picture. If he wasn’t short and didn’t have a complex about his height, the reputation associated with him is unwarranted. We, too, may be considered to be something we really aren’t simply because of where we are or with whom we are associating. It may be assumed that we have specific qualities because they are the attributes of those around us. We can seem to be very different than we really are because of situations we place ourselves in. They say perception is reality, and that’s often true. If we think something is happening a certain way, we believe it’s fact. But we can be wrong. And others can be wrong about us.

There is an old saying that “birds of a feather flock together.” That means we tend to spend time with others who are like us. We may feel more comfortable around others who share our perceptions and beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have friends and acquaintances we enjoy or with whom we spend time that are very different than we are. We all know all kinds of people, and sometimes our differences are very pronounced. If those differences are things that others find disagreeable or uncomfortable, they may be concerned that we share them. And like Napoleon, we may find we gain a reputation for being something we really aren’t. When that happens it can be complicated, especially if it impacts relationships close to us. Even though it’s just a perception and not reality, those we care about may confuse the two and we may find ourselves in a difficult state of affairs.

There is nothing wrong with having all sorts of friends around us. But if we notice their choices are damaging or hurtful in some way, we may want to re-evaluate our time with them. For instance, if we have a friend who deceives and struggles with the truth, our association with them may lead others to believe we share the same characteristics. Or if we have an acquaintance that has been in trouble for breaking the law, there may be some carryover of influence. This doesn’t mean we should only have people close to us who share our values and standards, however we should be aware of the influence of association. But there is a flip side to all of this. We have the power to influence as well. If we are strong in our beliefs and personal choices, if we set an example for a higher standard, we can be a positive force to those near us. And if we are, we may well impact them for good. And then our association with them will change, and others will see their growth and instead of worrying about us will be happy we were there for them.

Today if you’re concerned about an association or friendship you have because of differences in your personal choices, be the one who sets the example. Display behaviors that are positive and helpful. Others will be influenced by your good works and may be impressed to make a positive change in their lives. You can set a great example and be the light that leads the way.  We are all influenced by those around us. Today let your influence be excellent.

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