Peer Pressure: The conformity trap

Behaving in ways which we aren't comfortable with has a profound impact on our self-esteem. Such fake behavior makes you lose the feeling of autonomy and control in your life.

Peer Pressure: The conformity trap
Peer Pressure: The conformity trap

When 10 men stare at the sky with curiosity, the 11th man crossing by them has a great probability to stare at the sky. If you wish to carry out this experiment, you can carry out to see the results. Just ask your friends to look at the sky with a pretentious curiosity at a marketplace with you!

Peer pressure works because our primate brain tends to mirror the action of others into ours, pretty much similar to the monkeys. This is how, we humans, as a primate has evolved collectively in a band or a tribe. The tendency to copy others is inherent in us.

A classic example is in India, a huge chunk of students opt for engineering because their friends opt for engineering!

Peer pressure is the influence of people in the same social group on one another. It even includes the pressure of conformity to be accepted by the group. Peers are mostly considered to be friends but it even includes people in the same age group, with the same abilities and socioeconomic status. As children grow peers play a more important role in their lives influencing from their clothes to taste in music.

Solomon Ash's conformity experiment showed that people would ignore reality giving incorrect answers to a vision test just to be a part of the group.

All of us make dozens of decisions every day big or small. Few of them are influenced by peers. It's natural to be influenced and want to be accepted by others around us. Peers bring changes in behavior, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Adapting to peers' behavior, opinions and appearances helps gain personal and social power. Peer pressure has Negative effects because forces people to indulge in experience instances that they normally would not opt for. At times it leads people to get astray and adopting illicit activities like excessive drinking, drugs, and smoking.  It can have internal damage which takes time and professional help to overcome.

Behaving in ways which we aren't comfortable with has a profound impact on our self-esteem. Such fake behavior makes you lose the feeling of autonomy and control in your life. Canadian lung association found that 70% of people who smoke, started smoking under peer pressure. Substance abuse and disruptive behavior are initially done under peer influence and later develop into habits. Conforming to peers doesn't let you see the bigger picture and be open to new ideas.  For instance, during the fifth century when Catholic Church was active it was difficult for people to understand and believe scientific discoveries. Believing the earth wasn't flat rather an oblate ellipsoid or that earth revolves around the sun, not the other way round. If everyone always conformed to their peers we wouldn't ever see any changes in the world.

Peer pressure can be active when someone convinces you to do something. For example, two friends convincing another to bunk class. Passive peer pressure is modeled behavior. It is copying a behavior because masses do it.  Passive pressure being unspoken sometimes has more influence than active pressure. It seems easy to go along with the crowd to fit in.

Individuals having extreme experiences of self-doubt, anxiety, and inferiority are more easily experienced by others. During adolescence, one starts looking to peers for praises and approval. Thus starts the cycle of looking for approval of people in your social circle. A poor support system and less self-acceptance push for peer approval. Most individuals have a strong longing to be fit in. to be a part of the group and not stand out they follow what the group norms state.

Peer pressure is always viewed in the shadows but sometimes it can have a positive effect as well. Research has shown peers to play a huge role in pro-social behavior. When peers endorse altruistic behavior people especially young adults are more likely to engage in the behavior even when others aren't watching. James Surowiecki in his book the wisdom of crowds researched why people reached better decisions as a group. People who look where others want to reach achieved their goals faster or when people as a group can easily guess the weight of an ox collectively.

Peer pressure impacts teenagers to adults. It simply means getting influenced by people who are a part of your social circle. It is critical to understand that in what way peer pressure is affecting you. The important question one should ask:

a: Am I losing control and agency in my own life?

b: Are all of my decisions influenced by someone else's thoughts and ideas?

c. Am I always looking for external validation?

These are not easy questions to answer and at times the wrong that is done to us is not identifiable. Don't force yourself to do things you aren't comfortable doing. You don't have to do what others want you to do, success is individualistic and subjective to every person. One should exercise one's agency to understand what one wants to do.

A very important aspect to avoid peer pressure is to learn the art of saying a NO.

One has to be affirmative about what one wants in life, ethically make a decision and then make a choice. Once the choice is made, you have to stand by it. You need to ask yourself if the next step is important for you or needed by you. It is important to set boundaries, it's not being selfish but rather self-care. Your mental health and wellbeing come before anything else.

Be assertive, keep your points forward.

However, one thing must be kept in mind: The pursuit of being a non-corfmist for the sake of appearing different or a rebel is an unhealthy motivation.

Do something because you feel it is right, not because everyone else is doing it!