The Tyranny of Public Opinion

Peer pressure can simply be defined as the conscious or unconscious act, which you do under the influence of your colleagues/friends so as to gain acceptance of your peer. These influences may be direct or indirect. For example you may be asked to do something directly by someone or you may perform certain activity, which your group of friends is performing around you. Peer pressure is what we face daily, be it your workplace, your gym, your own sports team, your classmates, your business partners etc. we have it all around and functioning fully. It is completely normal to follow peer pressure, as we the human beings, are ‘social animals’. We need to love and to be loved, to care and to be cared for, to make friends and feel good among them. But peer pressure can be fatal if not countered and regulated. It’s like a slow parasite. It feeds on your emotions and mind and may become the reason for your retardation in life.

The irony is, we don’t really see when peer pressure is making its way in, on us and we just start following patterns blindly without even knowing why we are doing so. There are many factors why we fall prey to peer pressure. Imagine what if you were left out of a group? Trust me, this is the strongest force, which drives people, especially teenagers to do things they don’t want to. It may be smoking for the first time, going to a late night party, lying to parents and fetching finances, drinking, drugs, unusual betting, contemptuous communication, buying products, sex, secret getaways and numerous others.

Have you got some odd habits? Or do you listen to your own heart? Well eventually, you’ll change. But if you have been practicing your own patterns without changing, then surely, you are a master of DISGUISE. Today or tomorrow, willingly or un-willingly you will follow your peers. It may be still unnoticed by you but it is a hard fact, totally inevitable and unshakable. You would probably end up with following others’ suit as everyone wants to be liked and feel wanted. Are you afraid of being a ‘joker’? Imagine someone wearing western styled suits among a group of khadi followers. Despite of the hardest efforts he will continue to do so for some days by avoiding puns and humors made on him but then eventually will shift towards his fellow dressing styles. Why this happened? He was afraid of being laughed at, as he was the odd one out.

There comes a time in teenage when you want to appear grown up. Right? This factor is responsible for intoxication and drug abuse in teenagers. Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes just because you are being made fun of a ‘Mamma’s boy ‘, and want to prove your ‘manhood’, it is the best way to do so. Go on, booze off till the very extent of sanity and ensure your ticket to the one-way journey of the land of the dead, because soon it will only land you in a hospital at the very age of early 30’s leaving your family alone and helpless. Or for the better of your sanity, by self realizing the addictions while growing mature, you’d be spending a hefty amount in rehabilitation centers as these habits, my friend, are very adamant for not leaving their host. Sometimes you don’t know how to escape a scenario. Well, for this case, you are not the first one. Thinking yourself to be the next Sherlock Holmes or James Bond of your college you make the dumbest, silliest, wackiest excuses when it comes of escaping or avoiding a situation which finally lands you in a state of being laughed at and finally busted off of your smartest excuses, you end up doing what you were avoiding. Don’t be disheartened, think of some of the clever ways to handle a situation and seek help of the experts.

Think about what someone gets out of pressuring you to do something. Is this really for your benefit? Or for theirs? What do they get out of forcing you to do something you don’t want to? Ask yourself these questions before getting influenced. Remember, pre judging a situation is essential for deciding the right path. It happens many a times that your peer forces you to do something wrong or illegal just because they feel you to be superior to them. Yes, it is highly possible that you might never say that you are superior to them but they, your peer, also know sometimes in their subconscious that what they’re doing is wrong. To escape this guilt, they prey on every one and try to make everyone alike them so they’d never feel guilt in doing wrong deeds among you and others. This subconscious thing of human mind is dangerous. It makes you do things you never thought of. Learning skills like assertiveness can help. This can mean using messages like “I think..”, “I feel..”, “I will..” or “I want..”. And if they’re really your friends, your decisions and values will be respected. If someone is pressurising you to do something you don’t want to, talk to someone you know will listen and help you. Keeping it inside and carrying your worries around can make things even harder to deal with. If things go out of hands and you’re not ready to share with your parents, seek a counselor to help you out. They (counselors) are professionals in psychology field and can help you in a way, which is the best. You can even meet a counselor for general tips on peer handling.

“Positive Peer Pressure”, the other facet of the sheet. Peer building has some positive aspects as well. Your self-esteem is your identity and your self-confidence is how you portray your identity. Your self-esteem should be high. It not only helps in building your unique personality but also helps in times when you need to be focused and people around you change. A strong yet humble self-esteem is necessary. As young people journeying through life, it is often difficult to find clarity. This is again a natural part of growing up. There is no standard manual but perhaps one safe rule that one can apply is this: asking oneself, does the action bring out the best in me or does it make me uncomfortable and bring out the worst side, leading me to being addicted to something external?

While throughout history, peer pressure has always existed in some form; accelerated changes in the last twenty years have made us more vulnerable to its effect. Our inner strength is molded by our family and the values they teach us. Today when families are increasingly becoming nuclear and influences are mainly from television and social media, children often have to meet the world outside without a strong core. This might make the journey more precarious as there is no base to refer to. To be rooted is not to become rigid or fanatical. It is to be strong on one’s centred yet gain wings to change and negotiate; the changes that come one’s way. Nobody is immune to the effects of peer pressure, so know that you are not alone. Your life is a wonderful opportunity to bring out the best in yourself. On that path, you might fall many a time or take a wrong turn. The absolute delight is in rising again and dusting off the fear of failure and moving ahead.

Aviral Arora

Writer is a student of Mechanical Engineering

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 18, Dated 05 September 2015)

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