I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘influence’ this week and what it means to me. That word gets tossed around all the time now because of the term ‘influencer’ but honestly, the reason an influencer goes by that term is accurate. If an Instagram influencer posts about an ad or a product, they’re doing so because that company recognizes their influence and knows that what they say matters to tons of people. And while not everyone might have an audience of thousands or millions hanging on to our every word, we all have some sort of influence on others. But the thing is, we don’t always know in what way.
My life impacts other people. That’s not a brag or an opinion, but a fact. I don’t like it, I don’t believe it, but I have no choice to admit it. And though I don’t personally know everyone who reads this blog, my guess is that your life impacts other people as well. I’d bet money on it. Because here’s something about impact that I’ve long ignored: whether or not we impact others isn’t always up to us.
We don’t always know or understand the influence we may have on other people. In some cases, we might never know. As someone who constantly struggles with self-worth, I’ve gone back and forth about what my influence could be. In my head, I’d be worth more if I knew the impact I had on other people. But over time I learned why that was wrong – not every impact or connection is direct.
Thinking about impact in terms of the ripple effect was easier for me to understand. Everything we do impacts someone or something else. That, in turn, impacts something else, and so on and so forth. Sometimes it’s direct; other times the ripples continue years later. The person being impacted understands the trail of that ripple quite easily because in retrospect it’s clear. But the person with the original impact? They don’t always know.
Whether you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or some other mental illness, it can be easy to minimize the impact and influence you have on other people. In some cases, it’s easy for me to disqualify that impact because I measure it myself. Not only is this an unhealthy approach, but it’s also not even accurate. If you’re measuring your influence on people, you’re speaking for them. Would you say there are people who have influenced you in ways that are surprising or unexpected? The same goes for other people! We don’t always know HOW we impact other people, and that’s okay! In fact, sometimes that makes things easier.
There are people around the world, young and old, alive and deceased, who have played a massive role in the human I am. Some of them are aware, and some might not ever actually know. Some impacted me for a bunch of smaller reasons; sometimes it’s just one big thing. Regardless, they are all part of my story. And it’s helped me understand that each one of us could be a part of someone else’s story in a similar way. We’re all going to have an impact somewhere, somehow, some way. So what will yours be?