As you move from the sole influence of your parents, you begin to be influenced by the friends you have. If you think back, your self-esteem has been prejudiced by your friendly relationships from childhood to the present moment. They play a vital and crucial role in your life, your beliefs, and most importantly, in your actions.
A Source of Development
During your developing years, one of the most important attributes of friendship is proximity. This has two definitions: that you are close enough geographically to keep the relationship alive, and that you have beliefs, interests, and desires that are closely related.
If you scrutinize the friends you have had in the past and the friends that currently surround you, you may begin to see a pattern — they are like you. You seldom have friends who are diabolically juxtaposed to your own beliefs and values. Sure, you have friends who do different things, have different religions, and espouse different ideas, but at the core, your friends, more often than not, are much like you.
As you grow older, your friends become your primary source of support and guidance. This changes when you become involved in intimate love relationships, but for many years, your friends are your supporters, aids, and champions.
Here's to the Life
Friends help shape your self-esteem and friends aid in good health and long life. In California, over 7,000 people were studied over a nine-year period. The people who had the best health, lived longer, avoided disease more often, and dealt with life's difficulties better were the people with strong social support.
Divorced men are more likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, strokes, stress, and hypertension than married men. They are also more likely to commit suicide and die earlier than men with close relationships.
Conversely, people who were isolated did not enjoy these benefits. When you are in caring relationships, you are not lonely, and the less lonely you are, the longer you live and the better you feel about yourself. On the other hand, when you see others in caring, loving friendships and you do not have them, your self-esteem and health suffer. This can affect you over the course of your life.
If you do not have the relationships that you see others enjoying, you may negate your own beliefs and values so that you can “fit in” to a group and be socially accepted. This, too, is detrimental to your self-esteem. Countless people are in “friendships” to combat loneliness only to find that the relationships are abusive, controlling, and unhealthy.
These people are called toxic or contaminated. They infect the way you act, think, and feel. They bring poison into your life and it takes a great deal of work to cleanse yourself of the debris. It also takes time for your self-esteem to heal because of these relationships.