Peers, the people you identify with, are typically close to your age when you’re young. As you get older, they’re often the people you interact with, in your workplace, neighborhood, social group, or faith communities—regardless of age.
Peer pressure occurs when you’re influenced to adopt views, beliefs, goals, or behaviors of those in your peer group. We often think of teenagers when we hear the words “peer pressure.” That’s appropriate because those developmental years lend themselves to trying to belong and fit in.
A peer pressure story: There was an elderly nun who taught calculus in my high school. Many students called her Tobor—robot spelled backward. (I never understood that reference; she seemed frail and aged, not robotic at all.) One day, when she left the classroom, some students decided it would be fun to leave the room and hide until the next period-change bell rang. I was really uncomfortable with the prank. It was wrong and mean-spirited, and in my internal conflict—choosing to stay in the room, and in essence, “rat out” my fellow classmates or succumb to the mindset of the majority—I failed. I left the classroom like everyone else, yielding to peer pressure.
As adults, we’re still susceptible to peer pressure. It doesn’t go away, it merely “grows up,” reframed as social pressure, but in the end, it’s the same issue wearing a different label. We start believing that to “fit in,” we have to think, speak, and behave like our peers. We experience a tug-of-war between being unique, valuable individuals, and being accepted and respected in our group.
Adult peer pressure can influence what we wear, the vacations we take, the cars we drive, where we stand politically, the religion we ascribe to, even the way we view and treat people who are “different from us.” We paint our self-portrait with a palette of other people’s ideas rather than being “who we are.”
Just like a 13-year-old girl who comes home from school saying, “I’ll never wear this shirt again; the other girls said it’s ugly” or the seven-year-old boy who insists he needs the newest electronic game because “everyone else has it,” we sometimes lose sight of what we really want, need or desire just to fit in.
I have an adversity to violence, which eliminates much of what’s popular on television or in the movies. I don’t “process” it the way most people must, so I simply don’t subject my spirit to it. Even when I’m told that it’s about good triumphing over evil or part of the reality of life, I simply say “no,” to honor who I am, instead of folding under pressure.
Don’t allow another person to dictate how you live, or make you feel like you need to conform to fit in. Listen to your inner voice; follow that guidance.
Don’t give up your identity; that’s what makes you unique.
Don’t ever believe that where you came from determines where you can go!
Don’t forget that, just like in high school, adults can be bullies too; don’t be one, and don’t be intimidated by one.
Don’t let other people influence you to lower your standards, bringing you to their level.
Analyze your relationships; if you’re copying others’ behaviors, so you fit in or are making excuses for why you don’t want to do something, consider creating new relationships with people who lift you up and value you for who you are. You’re awesome just as you are, and you deserve to live into your highest self!
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