“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” – Bruce Lee.
Let me share a joke with you all – A manager was summoned by his boss. “This is the fifth resignation I have received from your team in two months. What’s going on?” The boss asked.
“I guess, peer pressure, boss” the manager replied.
Peer pressure is an unavoidable situation in our day to day life. It affects all of us.
What is peer pressure?
Wikipedia defines it as “Peer pressure (or social pressure) is the direct influence on people by peers, or an individual who gets encouraged to follow their peers by changing their attitudes, values, or behaviours to conform to those of the influencing group or individual.”
As human beings we all feel the need of acceptance. No one wants to live in isolation. When a child finds all her friends are playing ‘Pokemon go’ she feels compelled to do the same as she doesn’t want to be left out. When a young adolescent boy sees his friends are smoking cigarettes, he feels the temptation to try it out once. Children may or may not get rhapsodies of praise if they do what their friends are doing, but they are sure to get an abundance of criticisms, jokes and taunts if they don’t follow their peers.
That makes me wonder if peer pressure amounts to bullying. More than the feeling of being left out, it is the fear of criticisms, shaming, taunts, jibes, jokes, remarks or even hostile reactions from the peers that forces anyone to conform to the acts and behaviors of the peers or peer group.
Does it apply only to children and adolescent kids? No. It applies to all of us. When you grow up, even as an adult you would find that it exists in a corner of your mind and obstinately refuses to leave you. If your co-workers are all buying smart phones, you rationalize to yourself that you also need one lest you become the laughing stock for everyone.
How many different types of peer pressure exist?
Active – If you are asked why you don’t drink alcohol, or if you are directly offered to smoke a cigarette that is active peer pressure.
Passive – You hear all of your peers talk about buying shoes from Adidas, and that fills you with the desire to buy a pair of Adidas shoes as well. That is an example of passive peer pressure.
Peer pressure can also be categorized as described below:
Normative – Normative influence is a type of peer pressure where you are directly asked or coerced into doing something. You conform because you want to fit in.
Informational – This form of influence takes place when people are led to change their opinions to agree or disagree to a certain group. For example election campaigns, music, advertisements, etc.
Facilitative – This refers to ease of access to certain things, for example you may socialize with people who consume weed and if it is easily accessible then you may also feel the need to consume weed.
Positive –Imagine that you are afraid to play football (I mean soccer, it doesn’t matter if you read American football) and your peers nudge you to play the game. Soon you realize that you are good at the sport and your confidence grows leaps and bounds. Consider another situation, all your friends are taking a course on Analytics and you tag along with your friends and that gave you a new career option. These are examples of positive peer pressure.
In a recent development, the British government came up with a unique solution to tax payment delays. They set up a team called the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) which is unofficially known as the ‘nudge unit’. They combine behavioral economics and psychology to come up with strategies to improve the services and policies of the UK government. To make it simple, they help create peer pressure among the citizens so that more citizens pay their taxes on time. Now, that is an interesting way to deploy peer pressure!
As long as the outcome is a good one, peer pressure is not really a menace. Unfortunately, those instances are far exceeded by those where the outcome is negative.
How do you deal with peer pressure then?
- Inculcate Self Belief – As an adult you must believe in yourself first. It is equally important to instill confidence in the young ones. Everyone is vulnerable to self-doubt. We all think that others are either smarter, cooler, prettier than we are. Insecurity forces us to seek acceptance from those whom we hold in high esteem. There is no harm in looking up to someone who is truly great, but not at the cost of your own self-esteem. You are just as smart, just as cool, just as intelligent, and just as beautiful as anybody else. You must believe that yourself, for your own sake, but more importantly for your children’s sake. Because if you don’t believe it, how will you make your children believe in themselves?
Here are a few quotes from the greatest teacher I ever came across, Swami Vivekananda.
“He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is an atheist who does not believe in himself.”
“The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of strength that is already within them.”
“Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin? To say that you are weak, or others are weak.”
“You have in you a thousand times more than is in all the books. Never lose faith in yourself, you can do anything in this universe. Never weaken, all power is yours.”
These words of wisdom were uttered more than 150 years ago, but they are just as relevant today as they were at that time.
- Remember and teach that Bullying is act of insecurity – If you practice the first tip, then you won’t succumb to bullying. Neither as a bully, nor as a victim. As teachers, as parents, as adults it is our obligation to teach the young generation to free their minds from the bounds of ignorance, self-doubts and fear. We must teach the importance of love and self-belief. We must teach and learn to embrace every individual as they are. We must learn to tell ourselves and our little ones that it is okay if you are different from others. Celebrate what God has given you, because that is what makes you unique. We become what we teach and what we learn. Every time someone tries to pressurize you to do something they want, remember it is because they are insecure and weak inside. Don’t give in. Stand your ground and stand firm. Even if it means that you have to walk alone on your chosen path. It takes courage to do that. The world will eventually see the truth.
- Ask yourself is there any merit in it? Stand Out– Do not blindly follow your friends and do what they are doing. Always ask yourself – Is this worth a try? Will this help me in the long run or will it be detrimental for me and others? Does it help to bring out my uniqueness, my talents, my skills, and my passion? If yes, what are the costs? Try to see a bad habit for what it really is. It is not cool to smoke or drink, or use drugs, or abuse somebody, or violate someone’s modesty. It never was and it never will be. Don’t be afraid to call it out, just because your peers indulge in it. At worse, you will make some enemies. It is better to have enemies. It will mean that you stand for something and that you will not do something because other are forcing you to do so.
- Accept failures – Do not be discouraged by failures. They are the stepping stones for success. You can learn more from failures than you will ever learn from successes. Don’t change that philosophy when you deal with your children. Let them know that you will be by their side even when they fail. All you care for is a sincere effort on their part. If they failed, help them learn from their mistakes and encourage them to try again. Picasso did not become a great artist from his first attempt. His greatness is a shining example of the countless times he failed and felt encouraged to try again. This will ensure that your children will look up to you and not to some peer group for vindication and support when they need it the most.
Let me share a beautiful poetry with you to conclude this article –
‘Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved, but hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling Your mercy in success alone;
But let me find the grasp of Your hand in my failure.’
– Rabindranath Tagore
Have you experienced peer pressure? How was that like? What are your thoughts about peer pressure? Please share your thoughts and opinions.