National Blog Posting Month – January 2014 – Pressure
Prompt – Tell us about a time you bent to peer pressure.
Peer pressure. Ugh. I like to think I’m beyond peer pressure, but I’m not, really. It’s definitely not as bad as it used to be though. It took some serious growing up to learn that some times bending to peer pressure is among the greatest wastes of time in life.
I remember once, way back in middle school, when I was most awkward and trying to fit in. It was really hard, because I was far more interested in school and learning (and art, too) than I was in any sort or fashion trends or anything.
This was a time when it was obvious if you didn’t fit in. Back when Michael Jackson’s Thriller had just come out, and everything either had a billion zippers or was in fluorescent colors. So if you didn’t have neon yellow shirts and heavily zippered jackets, you must be one of those kids.
I had a single pair of pants with a bunch of zippers, and a bright yellow pair of socks. But for the most part, it was drab, functional clothes for me.
The truth was, I was fairly oblivious to the pressures of fitting in and being with the right crowd. I could easily get lost in books, and would happily hang out with anyone who would care to listen. In retrospect, I hung out with lots of kids from “the wrong side of the tracks.” Only, I didn’t realize it. They were interesting and creative people. Whatever.
I had one friend, however, who was from the cool set. Or at least she seemed to be. He family had the money to get her the cool kid clothes, so she dressed well. But she had a academic bent and very, very thick glasses, so she didn’t fit in so well either. We were friends, I think, because we both did well in school. It was only years later that she wasn’t really that great of a friend.
At the time, I thought it was a weird, but acceptable request. You see, she thought that my ‘wrong side of the tracks’ friends were damaging her reputation, so she asked me to get rid of those other friends. Well, ok, maybe they weren’t good friends to have, so I actually tried to dump one of them.
Well, that didn’t work. I realized that I’d rather hang out with my ‘wrong side of the tracks’ friends than the one whose reputation was being damaged.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. I know that my ‘friendship’ with the with the one concerned for her reputation didn’t last much longer. She started telling me to ditch my hobbies because they were childish, and I knew at that point what I had to ditch.
The ‘wrong side of the tracks’ friends came and went. Those friendships survived, and then we grew up and apart as most middle-schoolers do. I’ve had plenty of friends even to this day who fall into that category. These are always the very most creative and interesting people I know. Many have questionable habits, but then, who cares? It’s not my place to judge, they’re not endangering anyone, and they never expect me to participate (because I won’t). They’re good people.
So, what did I learn from this middle-school episode?
1) My friend’s choice of friends has no bearing on what my reputation is. A person’s reputation is based upon their own actions.
2) Only the shallowest – and most dangerous – of people would expect you to drop your friends for them.
3) The only person you should ever really do anything for is yourself, unless in doing something for another will also give you happiness. (So you’re still doing it for yourself.)
I don’t think I phrased that last one right. It sounds really ego-centric. Obviously, there are lots of good reasons to do things for others. The point is that if you’re being forced into doing something that makes you unhappy, you need to think carefully about whether or not you should still do it.
Suffice it to say, this kind of scenario has never again arisen in my life. My life is my own. I have my interests and my goals, and I avoid toxic people who would stand between my goals and I.