Sex, drugs and alcohol are things that we’ve been told, from a very early age, to steer clear of. If you do them, you’ll die. And like all other bad deeds, they share a common denominator – one that gives birth to all things malevolent: peer pressure.
Peer pressure is the root of all evil, we learned. That is why our parents made it their moral duty to incessantly remind us to “be ourselves” and to “never let anyone define us.” They foresaw all the drunken escapades and drug-ridden revelries that would ensnarl us during our teenage years, so they made certain that when the time comes, we’d know how to say “no.”
It is understandable, then, that our concerned parents did everything they could to veer us away from the herd mentality. No one wants his or her kid to turn into some push-over who simply can’t stand his ground in the face of persuasion. But little did our parents know, the lessons we learned about peer pressure could bring about detrimental effects in the long run.
College campuses are breeding grounds for peer pressure. Take, for instance, those of us who swore we would never drink alcohol. You innocently agree to accompany your friend to a party with no intention of drinking, but once you get there you wind up taking one sip – or six sips too many.
Back in grade school, being the only kid who didn’t collect Pokémon cards was tough, and our parents made our lives easier by making us believe we were “unique” and that we didn’t have to conform in order to fit in.
But kids who grew up believing they are “special” no matter what anyone else says about them turn out to be one of the following three: arrogant pricks, rebels or hermits.
The arrogant prick who lives life assuming everyone else is wrong used to be that kid who could never play softball correctly. He was either physically inept or mentally incapable of comprehending the rules. But instead of learning, he picked up the ball and walked off. Why? Because his mom most likely said, “Honey, you don’t have to play by their rules.”
This guy never learned how to adapt because he was told it was okay to do whatever he pleased with no regard for others. This is the guy that will not hold the door open for you or yield to pedestrians because, quite frankly, he just doesn’t give a damn.
Next, we have the rebel. While all the others girls were collecting Beanie Babies, she most likely collected dead bugs. And when everyone was wearing Sketchers, she decided not to wear shoes at all. She probably grew up to be that hipster girl sitting next to you in class, the one who thinks she’s better than everyone else because she’s not a mindless follower.
Ironically, she’s conforming to the “non-conformist” crowd. Suddenly, wearing holes in your shirt is no longer being different; rather, it’s fitting in with the rest of the rebels who wear holes in their shirts. This goes to show peer pressure cannot be avoided, unless you’re a hermit.
Kids who were told to “just say no” when situations got uncomfortable grew up to be recluses of society. Back in third grade when the class went on a camping trip to the lake and everyone pressured little John to jump in, he said “no” and was then eventually pushed in anyways.
Now, at the age of 20, social gatherings give him heart attacks and he distances himself from society in an attempt to avoid all instances of peer pressure. He lives an unhealthy life cooped up in solitude because he never learned how to deal with confrontation. He was told to “just say no” and walk away.
Hence, as ideal as “being yourself” sounds, it would be much more pragmatic to adapt and get along with others. Kids who don’t learn how to accommodate and make compromises when confronted with pressure grow up to be less confident and less successful than their counterparts.
So perhaps caving to a little peer pressure isn’t so bad. After all, everyone’s doing it.
MICHELLE NGUYEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.