Have you found yourself in a room or speaking to someone and suddenly you begin changing your body language to match theirs?
For example, you see they have their arms crossed and after a few seconds or minutes of speaking to them you see yourself with your arms crossed as well? This is the unconscious behavior of mirroring others. We all do it and it’s actually a fascinating act of the human behavior that happens in our limbic system (the part of the brain that deals with emotions and memory).
But how does this behavior impact us in our paths to becoming?
I call this kind of behavior being in synchrony with another person, empathizing with their way of talking and being which helps us establish a connection to each other. Think about the last time you met someone for the first time, how did they act around you? Were they responsive to what you were saying in a way that you felt they could relate or were they detached and hostile? Empathizing with others on such a level establishes a sense of mutual rapport, safety and overall feeling of well-being between two people. This is great when we’re meeting potential business partners, friends and lovers as it shows them receptivity and understanding.
However, can mirroring others actually create an adverse effect in our Paths To Becoming?
Before we get to this, let’s look at the neuroscience behind this behavior which has everything to do with the mirror neurons (a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another) and how empathy develops in the brain. In the late 1980s, researchers at the University of Parma in Italy found that “the brain cells of macaque monkey fired in the same way whether they were making a particular motion (like reaching for a peanut) or watching another monkey or human make that movement. In terms of motor cell activity, the monkey’s brain could not tell the difference between actually doing something and seeing it done. The scientists named those brain cells "mirror neurons.”
In human beings, it was found that mirror neurons not only reflect intentions and feelings but also actions.” This means that if we see someone doing something we also want to do, our mirror neurons mentally places us in the position to do the exact same thing. So for example, if we see someone is starting a business and we also want to start one but haven’t yet begun the path, we are more inclined to feel and believe we’re able to do it too. While this can facilitate our paths to becoming, can it also create an adverse effect?
If we’re acting and feeling solely based on what we see others doing, then in whose hands are we placing our paths to becoming? Ours or theirs?
Taking the time to step back and ask ourselves this question is important as a lot of what we hear is “you have to see to believe '', which means that in order for us to believe in our paths, we have to see someone else who has followed the same path. However, each one of us is unique. We not only are genetically different but we’ve also come into this dimension with a different purpose. Yes, there are a lot of people who are fulfilling similar purposes but when we take a closer look, they are really doing it in a very different manner.
Using others as inspiration and motivation can be a source of continuous momentum for us and is completely valid. What we need to be careful of is placing our own becoming into other people’s hands because when we begin to internalize this mantra, “see to believe”, we begin feeling frustrated when we see that the person we’ve been "seeing to believe" doesn’t actually like everything we like, or doesn’t come from the same place we did etc. And then we keep trying to find other people who can fit the "see to believe" mantra and keep failing because it is virtually impossible to find another human who will fit the exact paths we will follow.
Understanding this concept alleviates comparison and the need to fit into a certain box or criteria.