I browsed all over my library (aka “google”) about the origins of the phrase “you are the company you keep.” My research resulted inconclusively, as Socrates, in fact, did not coin these words as I had hoped.
I remember as a child, how hyper-aware I was of the spaces I walked into–more particularly the kinds of people in those spaces. How could I adjust myself, in order to assimilate just enough to them? Many people are able to morph into social chameleons, once I had caught wind of this ability in myself, I ran with it. While at first as a way to survive–to avoid being bullied, picked on, or left out as a child, a chubby first generation Iranian girl in a dominantly white neighborhood, I also used my reptilian skill to socially thrive all the way into young adulthood.
As a young adult the question for me was not, “Are these my people?” it was “What should I do in order to make these people want me as one of their people?” None of this was abnormal, emerging adulthood (19-28 year olds) is filled with endless transitions: leaving home, college and new careers, and navigating adult friendships and relationships. Fitting in socially can be equally as important as food and shelter.
While many of us, myself included, wish we could do-over the mistakes we made in young adulthood, how we may have compromised ourselves for the sake of social stock or in hopes of the approval of someone we liked, many continue to find themselves well into their 30’s and 40’s and beyond finding it difficult to find footing in the right company. Sometimes, we can get so good at something that was originally meant to protect us (like fitting in), we lose sight of how it suddenly started getting in our way.
The company you keep is a direct reflection of who we choose and frankly, like to be around. What are the values they add into your life? The company you keep is also an opportunity for you to choose individuals in your life that you do not need to assimilate your character or personality to in order to preserve a relationship with them.
We give something to gain something. I like to challenge myself at times when I feel frustrated with a person in my own “company”, I try to ask myself, what have I contributed? Where may I have fallen short? These questions help me alleviate frustration or perhaps clarify whether I want to give as much energy into that relationship as I had originally given. The company you keep worth fighting for is not something we achieve over night. It becomes a collection to acquire, adjust, and add to over your lifetime.