How Your Relationships Influence Who You Are

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How Your Relationships Influence Who You Are

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Photo: August de Richelieu


Do you ever wonder why you think and act the way you do? We’re all born with a particular temperament, genetics, and neurological wiring. And, of course, external factors, such as culture and socioeconomic status, have a tremendous influence on us. Another factor that shapes us is the people we’ve interacted with throughout our lives. With this in mind, by reflecting back on those who have affected the person you’ve become, you can make a more conscious decision about which influences you want to continue carrying forward with you in life.

Relationships affect how you relate to yourself, others, and the world around you. Childhood experiences in your nuclear and extended family are often foundational. And more recent experiences with them often continue to be influential. Some other people who can have a lasting impact are peers, other adults, or even strangers. For any relationship, the influence can be positive, negative, or some combination of the two.

To help you reflect on your relationships, get out some paper and a pencil to complete this exercise:

Identify categories of people in your life. For instance, you might decide on categories, such as immediate family, extended family, mentors, adult friends, childhood peers (e.g. friends or bullies), lovers, fictional figures (from books or movies), historical people, religious figures, or even acquaintances or strangers.

Name people who fit in each category and who have had a significant impact on you.Don’t worry about whether they have had “enough” of an influence. Think of this as more of an exercise in brainstorming. If they come to mind as someone who has affected you, then include them. (You can always eliminate them later.)

Consider the influence of each person in more depth. You might try answering these questions: What are their traits, or what actions did they take, that were most influential? How did they affect me in the past? How do they affect me now?How have they influenced the course of my life? Consider their effects on your actions, feelings, and thinking.

As you reflect, you can gain perspective. Rather than mindlessly accepting your current perception of yourself — in part, unconsciously living out the influence of others — you can choose who you want to be. You might even decide to pick a new role model who exemplifies traits that you’d like to make your own. Then you can commit yourself to developing those qualities.


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Important:  This article is part of the WebMD Relationships blog. The articles in the WebMD Relationships blog are for general education purposes only. They should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read in this article.