” Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
- Mark Twain
We all grew up with our mothers chiming in our ears “You are who your friends are” and “Be careful who you hang out with”. Most of us promptly pushed those words of wisdom aside and went on our merry way. The reality is mother was right. Who we associate with greatly impacts who we are and how we feel about ourselves.
An article published recently on Oprah.com interviewed a neuropsyichiatrist Dr Luann Brizendine who said, “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking.” Appartently it is larger in women then men which makes us more sensitive and more aware of non verbal and emotional communication. When interacting with others she said “Some days the feedback will reinforce your self-confidence,” says Brizendine, “and other days it will destroy you.” Knowing that as women we are scientifically impacted more by others feedback and opinions of us it is essential that we chose to associate with those that encourage and uplift us and keep the negativity away.
Mark Twain said it best “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.” We all know people who enjoy putting us, or others, down. They throw cold water on your ideas, discourage you, and leave you feeling like you will not be able to accomplish what is in your mind to do. Regardless of whether they do this out of personal insecurities, unhappiness, or concern the result is the same. You are left feeling put down, discouraged and small. As women we tend to make excuses for this type of behavior whether at home or the office. When we do so it is detrimental to us.
I experienced this first hand. When I started my career my social circle consisted mostly of people in very traditional family roles. The men worked and the women stayed home with the kids. Regardless of whether they had a degree or ambitions this is what the social roles dictated. I, however, was determined to make something of myself, to have a career, to become the person I knew I was and could be. Because I continued to surround myself with people that were more comfortable with women being in a secondary role I started to doubt how much I could accomplish. I looked around and I did not see any other women standing with me. I began to ask myself if I should reach any higher. Was it alright to have aspirations beyond what people around me could understand? As a young woman this was difficult and it created an internal battle, real me vs. small me. I realized that surrounding myself with those people made me feel small and deminished. When I brought up my dreams I would get negative reactions and learned to stop bringing them up or to lower my expectations. That was wrong. It took me getting older and experiencing more of life to realize that no one should deminish your goals, dreams, aspirations and talents. The only way they can is if you let them and it starts by chosing to associate with them to begin with.
The second part of the quote is important to remember when going through life, “Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” It is the small minded, insecure, fearfull people that feel the need to squash and put down others. These people go out of their way to express their negativity. On the other hand people that have succeeded are typically very humble and willing to share their knowledge with you. They will give you tips, tools and encouragement along the way. They will point out the potential inside of you and help you to realize your dreams and goals. Truly succesfull people do not have anything to prove so they will not be competing with you. They are able to help and assist.
A crucial component of success is surrounding yourself with people that believe in you and can help make you better. Think about people you know who when you tell them of your latest project, idea, new client, dreams or hopes get excited and build you up. They may offer sound advise rather than jumping on board with high fives but they still believe in you. These are the people you want to associate with. These are the people that will help you become great.
An example of this is Soichiro Honda. He was turned down for an engineer job at Toyota (not good enough?) and was unemployed for some time. He worked on scooter designs in his garage and it was his neighbors that encouraged him and gave him the confidence to start his business. Oprah was told she was “unfit for TV”. Obviously she did not listen and the rest is history. Stephen King was told no by publishers 30 times on his first book and wanted to quit. His wife encouraged him to keep going and he went on to become a very succesful author. There are many more stories like these of people that have achieved great success in life being first told they were not good enough. The funny thing is no one remembers the name of the small minded person that did not believe in them, told them no, or put them down. What we remember is the person that left the small minded person behind to achieve greatne
Learn to recognize early what type of person you are associating with. Let go of the small minded people. Chose to no longer associate with them. Otherwise you may end up just like them, stuck and afraid. Instead seek out people that have reached levels of success you aspire to and spend your time with them. Become who you are meant to be. Become great and surround yourself with greatness along the way.