Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.17.40 PMThere is an old adage that goes, “Be careful of the company you keep.” Often this quote is used to remind us to be aware of crowds that can possibly steer us down a path of drugs, violence, jail and/or death.

While it is important to choose friends that will “live above the influence,” it is also equally important to befriend individuals who will uplift you, provide constructive criticism and not tear you down.

Choosing the wrong crowd can easily alter your nature and nurture you to become a different person.

Take me for instance; in high school I was friends with a group of young women—all intelligent, ambitious, opinionated and goal-driven. However, where we differ: I was the blunt, no-nonsense friend, who did not conform to society’s conventions, and was often labeled the “bitch.”

When you’re labeled something as negative as a “bitch,” after some time, you’ll begin to believe it. I began to describe myself as such—it became my defense mechanism. Not only did I believe I was indeed a bitch, I stopped voicing my opinions hoping to increase my likeability.

As stated in a theory tested by Victoria Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale School of Management, “often we do not like women who talk a lot and dominate conversations,” and I am definitely one of those women.

Though I consciously decided it was best to keep my comments to myself in order to make the friendship flourish, I unconsciously began to change my nature. As a result, my confidence levels diminished and the once assertive, dominant individual became somewhat insecure. I was always worried I would come off as, well, a bitch.

Fast forward, nine years later, I’ve realized —for some people—confidence can trigger discomfort with others who may not be equally as confident. However, there is a lesson to be learned. What I discovered is:

  1. Not everyone wants or can handle brutal honesty.
  2. There is a way to finesse the truth.
  3. Delivery is crucial to getting your message across.

More importantly, true friends will not break you down or leave you feeling insecure and questioning yourself. They will offer constructive criticism and provide you with useful tips that can help you become a better version of you. You don’t have to change who you are to increase your likeability.

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