"When you prove to your peers that you're a winner, that's everything."
-Zac Posen, judge on Project Runway, Season 11
Feeling like you belong is very important for human happiness. Biologically, we are naturally social creatures who need others to help us survive. But this is just more than science. Human social structures are unlike those of any other animal, so complex and over-arching and just different. I'm sure there is scientific literature on this topic that I can reference, but this is a blog, not a research paper, so you'll have to find those on your own.
I just think Posen's quote is so true. When you're a kid in school, all you want is to be liked and to have friends. As you get older, maybe you hope you're the "leader" of your clique, or that you're a role model for other people. Even though your mom has always told you, "It doesn't matter what other people think," it really does. How you perceive yourself is vastly based on how others see you (again, I myself can't prove this, but I'm sure there are studies out there that can). I can say for a fact that I view myself as a strong, independent woman because that is how my friends see me. I'm the one they can come to for advice; I'm the one who stands by her beliefs no matter what anyone else thinks; I don't need a man to make me feel good about myself. Of course these traits may just be inherent (for example, I'm stubborn by nature, so of course I'm going to stick to my opinions no matter what), but I feel like I stick to this image because it's how people see me. For example, I would never take back a man who did me wrong: I wouldn't do this because I wouldn't want to be with a man who didn't want me, but I also wouldn't do it because I'd wonder how my friends' views about me would change. Would they think I was now a doormat for men to stomp all over? Would they no longer admire me as a strong woman because I didn't stick up to a man who hurt me?
And it's the same for the opposite situation. Let's say you were up for a promotion at work: of course you'd want to get promoted for yourself, but wouldn't you be proud that your co-workers thought highly of you to give you the opportunity? And wouldn't it feel good for your friends outside of work to think you're super-duper awesome?
I'm not saying to make decisions based on what your friends think and to not have a mind of your own. But be aware that how your peers see you has a huge impact on who you are as a person. If your peers think you're a winner, a go-getter, the kind of person who gets things done, most likely you ARE that kind of person. So make up your own mind, but listen to those around you (even when they don't actually say anything).