PEER PRESSURE – HEALTHY MOTIVATION OR UNNECESSARY PAIN

Note: The post contain subjective opinions of the author

Hi everyone, K is back. Today I would love to share with you my own story as well as several thoughts on a particular issue that, as far as I believe, everyone has gone through at some point. PEER PRESSURE, that ‘s it, the feeling of being inferior to your peers. Let’s jump right into it!

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Peer pressure can be understood as the influence, direct or indirect, exerted on individuals by peer group to act in a certain way. It stems from the desire of humans as a social animal to fit with or comfort to the group’s norms and expectations. We look forward to a place to belong to, and when we have found that place, we tend to stick to it. We usually don’t want to be the black sheep, be left out.

Peer pressure varies wildly. Your friends all achieve higher scores than yours, thus you feel the pressure to study harder to do better on tests. They altogether go to a summer camp, then you accidentally think that you need to go to that camp rather than being left alone. After all, you want to be compatible with your peers, to catch up with them.

Personally, I have a long history of struggling with peer pressure. As you may recall, in the first year of high school, I was kinda heedless of my studies. My scores fell short of my expectations. I initially thought that I could just breeze through these tests. Well, life was just harsh, However, what bugged me the most was the fact that my friends have been studying very hard since the beginning of the semester. Seeing their efforts and the improvement of their performance tests by tests, I soon realized if I did not do anything, one day I would be the one to fail. In short, I was motivated to compete against my friends. I was constantly under the pressure of not losing, and I did not want to lose too. After all, it turned out that motivation worked very well, I got the highest score in the entrance exam of the Danang Biology Olympiad team and won the second prize in the Vietnamese Biology Olympiad in my first attempt. It could be said that I became that successful hugely thanks to peer pressure. At this time, I saw peer pressure as a healthy motivation.

Nevertheless, life was just harsh. It was never that easy every time. Time skip! It was now my last year at high school, the year I spent the majority of my time apply for studying abroad and scholarship. Yeah, I do have the intention to study abroad. Not only I believed that I could have a better environment to study, to conduct research, and to experience new cultures but it was also partly due to peer pressure, of course! Many of my friends intended to study abroad, and they were extremely passionate about it. They studied for SAT, engaged in numerous extracurricular activities, and made a list of 15-20 potential colleges. I felt like maybe I should try too. As usual, I did not want to be the one to fall behind.

I studied and got a decent IELTS score. My SAT II score was pretty good too. Everything, at that time, was just fine. However, the problem started here. To fit with my family’s financial situation, I could only apply to 3 schools as they provided full-ride scholarships. The timeline of the result announcement was in March for the first two school and around April – May for the other two schools. Well, the school in March rejected me. I was both extremely sad and disappointed with the result as it was, in fact, the school that I had focused the most on. I registered for the SAT II exam and asked my teacher for a letter of recommendation only for the sake of applying to this school. Life was just difficult, I reckon.

To make matter worse, my friends consecutively received fascinating results from their schools. Some of them even got a full-ride scholarship, which was something I have been craving for. You might think, this situation was similar to the previous one, then I had to do my best to prepare for the upcoming interview round of the other two schools. Well, I actually did. My friends’ success did motivate me to try my best to keep up with them. Peer pressure as a healthy motivation, right! Nevertheless, this time I think I had encountered the negative effect of peer pressure. Instead of spending the majority of my time preparing and stuff like that, I chose to ask about my friends’ result. While this might serve my sole curiosity, I actually had another purpose: to look for people who also failed.

That’s it. Whenever I heard about my friends’ acceptance letter with enormous scholarships, I knew that I should be happy for them. While I did in fact felt that way, part of me kept asking: “Why do you succeed and I fail?”. I completely acknowledged that the question itself was unacceptable. I was being absolutely nonsense. Moreover, if one of my friend also got rejected, another part of me was relieved. I know that I must not have those feelings, but they just constantly emerged.

Perhaps my inner self was just finding ways to reduce the peer pressure formed around me. One friend succeeded and I felt really bad about myself. One friend failed made me think I was not that bad. To be honest, I, even if I wanted to avoid by any means, thought that I was falling behind. I was just a loser among a pool of successful people. Sometimes at night, I could not go to sleep easily. I kept imagining every possible worst-case scenario. “If one of them succeeded again, I would corrupt”, it was impossible for me to get rid of this thought every night.

That being said, this was still, a lame excuse by any definition. By the time this post was released, I already get some positive results from the two institutions. Looking back, I really hate myself at that time. A completely selfish person who took others’ failures as his source of happiness. However, it was still part of me anyway. Perhaps comparing myself to other people and suffering from peer pressure are things I am unable to avoid, at least until now.

So after two encounters with peer pressure, what have I learned? First of all, as you can see, it is really hard not to be subject to peer pressure. Humans are social animal and we tend to fit into one or many groups. Then we would start comparing ourselves to peer members for many purposes, to see how others are doing and what can we do to be as good as them, for instance. This is where peer pressure starts to form. Personally, I think only a few people can be immune to peer pressure. Getting rid of it is not an easy task, not from “zero” to “hero” in one night.

Perhaps what we could do is to change the way we cope with peer pressure, little by little. With two nearly identical situations built upon my friends’ success, I chose to act in two different ways. That led to two different mindsets. two states of mentality. That made me realize that the question on the title, “Is peer pressure a healthy motivation or unnecessary pain” is up to you. You get to decide how to deal with peer pressure, and judge whether it is beneficial or harmful. You may not be able to completely eradicate peer pressure, but you can choose how to react. Try to think positively, to get the most out of even the worst scenario. It would certainly be difficult at first. However, at the end, I think it would certainly get better. Just do it and you never know what you would get.

That’s it. I hope you find this piece of writing on peer pressure useful. What is your story with peer pressure? Whatever it is, I wish you to overcome and live happily. See y’all.


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