Our Surroundings Affect Us?

You know the saying, “You become like the five people you are around the most” ?

I, for one, fully agree with this statement.

My last post I talked about reverse culture shock. This post kind of ties in on the heels of that post: how our surroundings (including the people we’re around) can affect us, and how they’ve affected me.

I was having a conversation with my friend and her mom about this yesterday and it got me to thinking even more.

See, when I was in the U.S., much of what defined who I was came from my surroundings. My friends, my church, my favorite places to go, how I related to people, etc.. All of those things were determined by my surroundings.

Since coming back to the U.S. after a year in Zambia, it’s been interesting to see how I’ve changed according to my surroundings in Zambia.

The people I’m spending time in Zambia are different. How I relate to people and even sometimes the language I use is different from when I was in the U.S.. What foods I eat have changed (at least somewhat).

Basically, “normal life” has a new meaning to me now.

Let me pause here and talk about reverse culture shock for a minute and then I’ll come back to the original topic. 😉

In my last post I wasn’t really able to explain why reverse culture shock exists, but after pondering it for a while I think I have a possible explanation.

When our surroundings changed, like it or not, we change as well. Sometimes these changes are good. Sometimes they’re bad. Still other times these changes are simply just changes and aren’t necessarily good or bad (i.e. like our favorite foods). And the bigger the change in our surroundings, the bigger we change personally.

Yet even still, what was once normal is still in the back of our brains somewhere. That part of our brain just hasn’t been utilized in a while. Haha!

So when we return to what used to be normal all that time ago, we become overwhelmed by the fact that this should be normal but isn’t. We tend to see more of the negatives in our “old normal” and that is also overwhelming as we see how we used to be.

This is just my theory based on how it happened for me personally…So don’t take this as a scientific law or anything! Haha!

I have been praying, evaluating, and trying to process all these overwhelming and shocking emotions since I’ve come back. After ¾ of our time here is complete I’ve fine been able to get over the overwhelming side and really look at how I’ve let my surroundings affect me from all angles.

Had someone told me before moving to ZA “your friends and surroundings are affecting you drastically!” I probably would’ve thought “ehh…maybe a little”; but would not have really evaluated just how much I’ve allowed myself to be affected.

I had let my mind be at ease in my comfort zone in southern Missouri. I didn’t really think much outside of Missouri! I didn’t sit and ponder what was going on in other nations or other parts of my own country; or even my own state. I had a pretty closed-minded outlook on life. =P

Moving to Zambia has helped me to see life from a new perspective. It’s helped me to step out of my comfort zone and take on life with a new outlook.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve been evaluating and what God has been revealing to me.

One way Zambia has affected me positively is that God has used it to help me grow closer to and value my family more. Being back in the U.S., I’m seeing the negative effects of being away from my family more often.
The surroundings in the United States had the positive affect of allowing me to be more independent. This helped me to grow in confidence as an individual. I’m far less independent in Zambia making me sometimes less confident of myself.
A neutral (not really good or bad) effect of life in Zambia is that I now use words from another language frequently. I also now have cravings for certain foods I can’t find easily here.

If I could leave you with an encouragement it would be this: Even if you’ve never left you hometown before, take time to ponder and pray about how your surroundings are affecting you. Ask God to help you weed out the good from the bad and then make any necessary changes.

Believe it or not, our surroundings have a HUGE effect on our lives and if we’re not careful we can let our surroundings control us. It’s important to examine every aspect of our lives and seek the Lord to lead us; not other things, people, or our surroundings.

Romans 12:2(a) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”