"The purpose of your life is not to do as the majority does, but to live according to the inner law which you understand in yourself."
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Philosopher
Peer pressure among youth is always a concern, and with good reason. It leads to poor decisions, extreme risk-taking, and in some cases, tragic outcomes. But peer pressure isn’t just a youth problem; it’s very much an adult problem too.
As an adult, the pressure probably won’t be in the form of external taunts and dares. It's far more likely to be self-inflicted, stemming from your own self-imposed judgments.
Have you been comparing yourself to other people?
How many times have you fallen into the trap of comparing yourself to someone else? The focal point might have been your appearance and how you physically present to others. Or your social status and how well you fit into a particular social circle. When you perceived yourself as falling short, you felt an increased sense of self-consciousness setting in.
Maybe you were making comparisons related to your income status, professional status, or relationship status. Comparisons that led to feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Maybe you were thinking about the house you live in, the car you drive, or the vacations you take, and you were left questioning whether your lifestyle aligns with those of the people around you.
Regardless of the area you were focused on, you were allowing someone else to set the standards. And you felt pressure, even if entirely self-imposed, to measure up to those standards.
Seeking connectedness with others.
It feels great to connect with like-minded individuals with whom you experience commonality and connectedness. Individuals you truly feel at home with; a group where you can genuinely be yourself and know you fit in.
On the other hand, a lack of connectedness, especially when you're in a situation where you distinctly don't fit in, is unpleasant. The discomfort is exacerbated when you engage in self-blame and tear yourself down. You start to question yourself and your own self-worth, concluding that the lack of connection you're experiencing must stem from your own inadequacy or inherent inner flaws.
As you feel the squeeze of peer pressure, it's easy for your inner dialogue to become increasingly harsh, judgmental, and negative. You gradually become destabilized; your confidence and self-esteem may even start to plummet. You look for ways to bridge the gap between you and your peers:
These attempts to fit in may seem to work initially, but they come with a cost. You can only keep up the façade for so long, until it becomes draining, distracting, and ultimately untenable.
Even when you’re surrounded by people, it can be hard to find those who you like, trust, connect deeply with, and truly feel at ease with. When loneliness mixes with peer pressure, it forms a dangerous cocktail that causes you to start losing yourself as you aim to fit in.
Compare and conform vs. live according to your own inner law.
It's one thing to be flexible and adaptable. These are valuable traits for connecting with others, responding to their needs, and building relationships. But you set yourself up for problems when you start comparing and conforming to the majority around you.
As you go from day to day, you face a constant barrage of messages from a multitude of sources. These messages attempt to define who you should be, how you should live, and what you should value and strive for. All that noise can be distracting, making it hard to tune in to your inner self and your own inner law. Yet doing so is vital to your well-being. It’s how you’ll stay clear-minded, focused, and resistant to peer pressure, so you don’t wind up losing yourself in an attempt to fit in.
Image Credits: Светлана from Pixabay
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