If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas

ImageWe are never done changing and growing as human beings.

Psychologists say that by the age of five our personalities are fixed. That may be true.

But our experiences, perceptions, responses, opportunities and consequences are very much in flux throughout our lives, and the people around us can profoundly influence us.

Remember as a teenager when your parents didn’t want you to hang around So-and-So because he/she was a bad influence? You rolled your eyes in response and thought (or said) “No one is going to make me do anything I don’t want to do.” Maybe So-and-So couldn’t make you do things, but they could introduce you to ideas and activities you didn’t even know you wanted to do – and some of those things could be questionable, stupid or dangerous.

Conversely, people in your life can introduce you to brilliant, stimulating, uplifting ideas and experiences.

Studies show that spending time with the same social group can limit your growth. The reasoning is that your exposure to new information and ideas is limited. Media coverage on abuse and bullying, which happens at home, school and the workplace, reminds us daily of the low self-esteem, anger, depression and despair these situations produce.

People will come and go in your life and they will help shape your understanding of the world and of yourself.

Don’t underestimate the influence of the outside world on your growth and well being. And never forget you have the power to change who and what you keep around you. Choose well.

p.s. I mean no disrespect to dogs; I love them all – even the ones with fleas.

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A little princess

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was one of my favourite books as a child. It’s the story of Sara Crewe, a beloved and pampered child who is suddenly orphaned and left destitute. When they realize she is penniless, the other students and teachers of her boarding school treat Sara cruelly, but Sara never loses her dignity or kindness. It was a story that sang to my soul.

“Whatever comes,” [Sara] said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.” Little-Princess-main

Sara Crewe showed me that I too could be a little princess no matter what the condition of my physical world because being a true princess is about nobility of spirit and heart.

It’s easy to think the lessons espoused in this book, which was published in 1905, can’t be applied today. Too often, being a princess now means pouting and having royal temper tantrums, bullying and disdaining others who don’t have the latest glitter or tutu, assuming a haughty attitude and treating people as if they were indentured servants. Our society has Bratz dolls and “mean girls” and tiaras for everyday wear.

But, Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote her book precisely because meanness, tantrums and haughtiness were rife in her day too. Her readers could relate to these sorts of behaviours and were enchanted by Sara Crewe who, through goodness of heart and strength of character, rises above adversity and is richly rewarded for it in the end.

We choose the type of princess we will be.

Happy birthday to Frances Hodgson Burnett – born November 24, 1849.