We all have that friend that tends to weaken our ability to abstain from culinary pleasures. You go to a restaurant together and stuff your mouth with all sorts of foods like there is no tomorrow, nothing under 1200 calories of course. The waiter comes to your table and asks “did you save room for dessert?” You stare at your friend with mischievous eyes seeking approval for your next 800 calorie move. Once you’re done, you look at each other with an accomplice yet shameful look and say “we’ll run an extra mile tomorrow”. On the other hand, we also have that friend that you'll order lettuce, chicken and stuff like that when the two of you are together. You talk about healthy things like your next race or your Burpee and Suicide Push-Up performance the day before. The same waiter comes to your table with a smile on his face offering you a dessert but this time you look at your friend with pride in your eyes and then look back at the waiter saying “oh’ no thank you! I think I ate too much already.” The waiter leaves confused as he has been a witness of your extraordinary performance during the previous visit. Does this mean that your hypothalamus works better when you’re with your healthy friends? Or does it mean that you’re just a plain hypocrite acting all healthy in front of some people because you can’t truly be yourself with them? The answer is No. We have different traits that are triggered by some people but not by others. It’s like having a different flavor of you.
I was talking about this issue with a client in one of my sessions recently and then I noticed how this is such a common issue. Hundreds of years ago, I dated a girl who had a history of domestic violence with her former partners. I didn’t have any exposure to domestic violence in my life, so I didn’t think much of it. One time, we'd begun an argument for some stupid reason and the argument escalated to a point that she said something like “are you going to hit me or what?” The argument continued to another level when she said “hit me then!” I got a little freaked out but we continued arguing until all of a sudden she said “you’re not even man enough to hit me!” The thought passed through my mind and it just felt right! It felt like it could be the best idea I’ve ever had. I grabbed my things and left before anything happened but I was surprised at how I was actually entertaining the idea. Some time after, I started dating another girl who had a “minion” (despicable me character) complex. She was a happy go lucky girl and had the capacity to find a funny perspective to absolutely everything. I noticed that I was a complete jokester in that relationship and have to admit that I had a really good time. Even though she made me laugh like a 5 years old all the time, it was incredibly difficult to maintain a serious conversation and needless to say a serious relationship.
Thinking about it, I was a completely different person with each of them although my personality remained the same. Both of them enabled a part of me that I was not aware of. It was like having a different flavor of me. I have realized that people behave differently when exposed to certain situations and people, so here are a few suggestions to consider:
Know your main ingredients
All of us have specific personality traits that when combined with our environment and experiences form a unique public image. Personality traits are individual patterns of our behavior, feelings and thoughts. Whether you are a little more extraverted or a little more neurotic, these traits come together to form a distinctive character that turns into your base flavor. If you are a funny person, you will probably be funny with most people around you. In return, you may trigger people’s funny bone and get them to be a little funnier just by being with you. This doesn’t mean you are a perpetual joker, it’s just a big chunk of who you are.
We are inevitably influential to others; therefore, knowing our main flavors gives us a good perspective on the effect that we have on others. If all of a sudden you see people going girls gone wild when you are around, then you may be a bad flavor to them. On the same note, if you are not aware of the kind of person you are, it will be harder to wisely chose the people around you.
Get your mixing right
Every once in a while, we will find people that are just an instant mix to our life. You blend like peanut butter and jelly over bread and it will never get old. On the same token, you will find people that are just not a good mix for you. Your personalities and temperament are completely detrimental to each other and make nasty combinations like beans and fruit marmalade.
Needless to say, we don’t always follow our taste buds. Sweet, salty, sour and bitter get a little blurred when we stop paying attention to our common sense. If you have toxic people around you, eventually you will become toxic as well. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people who bring good influence into your life, you will become a good influence yourself. The main issue is understanding that not everyone will mix the same and not because we are used to someone means that it’s a good person for us.
Sweet’N Low is not the same as Cane Sugar
My daughter was in a vegan restaurant once and ordered mac n cheese. In a child’s mind, mac n cheese is a very global concept and it should taste pretty similar in all establishments. She had this facial expression of “there is no WE in food” and I could tell that she was starving. The waiter approached with her plate and I saw her staring at it with great expectations. She grabbed her spoon and took as much mac n cheese as she could into her mouth. Almost instantly, I noticed a complete change in her expression. She placed her spoon on the table and looked at me with confusion. She took a smaller bite again and started sobbing while saying “this is not real mac n cheese!” She had no idea that it was not “real cheese” but cashew cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against choices, but I am not going to eat a veggie patty expecting it to taste like a USDA prime stake burger.
The same way we wouldn’t expect food replacement; we would expect to replace relationships. We can’t get into a relationship, of any kind, expecting it to fill in the blanks for a previous one. Relationships, whether they are family, social or romantic, change over time and sometimes we try to get the same flavors we had at the beginning. This may be impossible at times; therefore, we need to accept the development of it’s flavor. Some things get better with time and all it takes is appreciation of it’s new characteristics. Here is where you can really spice the relationship up!
Understanding that we are not the same with everyone is not precisely a bad thing. We change in an effort to be comfortable with ourselves when exposed to certain people and environments. We will just have to make sure that we are happy with the mix we bring to others and how others mix with us.