We know that like attracts like and that in relationships, we tend to be attracted to people who hold our beliefs, attitudes and morals, partially because they validate our own.
In the past, studies have shown that those suffering from depression or social anxiety are more likely to gravitate towards others who are also suffering from depression or social anxiety [Rosenblatt & Greenberg (1991) and van Zalk et al. (2011), respectively]. The depression study actually found that depressed individuals had more depressed friends and felt worse after interacting with non-depressed people.
However, research published yesterday by Tobin et al. (2014) supports the idea that if a person has an ideal self in mind that is different to their current self, they will be attracted to people who represent the person that they want to become. This suggests that whilst we may be attracted to people who are similar to ourselves, our attraction is also determined by our goals.
I have to say, when I see clients change who they surround themselves with, it demonstrates to me that an internal change has taken place and that they are well and truly on a journey towards their goals.
For example, when I work with depressed clients, I notice that as they progress through coaching and come off anti-depressants, they begin to assess their social circle, their influencers, and they begin to make changes to their circle. These changes are created so that they can eliminate negative influences and surround themselves with positive influences. Often, this is done subconsciously or for different conscious reasoning, but there is an internal drive that propels them to make these changes and that drive is likely the desire to become their ideal self, much as this new research demonstrates.
Who Are You Attracted To?
So who are you currently attracted to and what does this say about you and how you perceive yourself right now?
Are those people validating you, keeping you stuck in life, or leading you to self-refinement?
Are you surrounding yourself with people who make you feel okay about your own lack of happiness, health, or achievement because you don’t currently feel like you know how to regain control of your own happiness and life?
Who do you already know that more closely represents the person you want to become and are you building a stronger relationship with them?
How and where could you find people that are similar to your ideal future self, and how could you build relationships with them?
The people we surround ourselves with impact virtually every aspect of our life. Is it time to think about what your circle says about you and what it’s doing to you and your chances of success, health and happiness?
Tobin SJ, Osika MM, McLanders M (2014) Attitudes toward Others Depend upon Self and Other Causal Uncertainty. PLoS ONE 9(2): e87677. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087677
Rosenblatt A, Greenberg J (1991) Examining the world of the depressed: Do depressed people prefer others who are depressed? J Pers Soc Psychol 60: 620–629 10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2060.
van Zalk N, van Zalk M, Kerr M, Stattin H (2011) Social anxiety as a basis for friendship selection and socialization in adolescents’ social networks. J Pers 79: 499–525 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00682.x.