Peer pressure: How to deal with it!

As I have helped people embrace what I like to call the turtle side of life (slow, relaxed, and peaceful), I have noticed a big obstacle that often stands in the way. You run into the issue that while you’ve learned to maybe to slow down your life and relish each moment a little more, the rest of the world hasn’t, and unfortunately our fast-paced society doesn’t get slow.

If you’ve recently slowed down your life, you’ve probably seen these obstacles. You’ll see people peer-pressuring you, wanting you to push yourself, wanting you to essentially live the workaholic life you just walked away from. Unfortunately, the workaholic mentality is everywhere and just because you stopped subscribing, doesn’t mean you stop dealing with it.

So, what do you do about this peer-pressure? Well let’s find out!

Notice the voices.

Awhile back, I wrote an article called Hearing Voices. If you haven’t read it, check it out. That being said, there will be a lot of times you will subconsciously pick up messages from other people. Be aware of them. If you find yourself hurrying or overworking yourself, check and make sure you chose to do that, not that you picked up somebody else’s need to hurry and got lost in their energy.

Have confidence in your choices.

This is probably the most basic and important part of dealing with peer-pressure. Peer-pressure works only when somebody is not confident in their own choices and can be easily influenced to do something different.

Take some time and think about yourself. Recognize that when it comes to knowing yourself, you’re going to be the expert. Nobody is going to know more about yourself than you. This means, that, yes, your friend may have a million ideas about what’s best for you, but only you know which of those ideas are actually good.

So, next time somebody tells you to hurry up, recognize you made your choice to live slower for a reason. Just because they don’t understand slow, doesn’t mean you have to change.

Know that you’re creating an example.

Recognize that there is nothing wrong with going against a group. In fact, in my experience, people will respect you for it.

When you don’t immediately follow what everybody else does, you create an example. You tell people, “Hey! There are other choices! Choose how you want to live.” This can be very empowering and insightful for others.

For myself, I have found that being authentic and honest is really powerful. Not only do people tend to respect me, but they feel safe around me. By being authentic, I show people that I have nothing to hide and they know exactly where I stand with them. I also find that people tend to find me memorable, and they’re more likely to be themselves and share around me.

Remember that groups can be wrong

It’s really easy to assume that, if everybody else thinks something is right, it must be. The problem with this is that there are a lot of cases where the majority may be wrong. In fact, this can go very awry if unchecked. Think of Nazi Germany and how most people went with what was happening because everybody else seemed okay with it.

Never be afraid to oppose a group. When you challenge a group’s thinking, you allow for new possibilities and change. Even if you were wrong, both the group and you will learn from that experience.

Know the difference between responsibilities and expectations

If you are in a group, you may have responsibilities. For example, you may have to pay a membership fee, or if it’s your work you have the responsibility to do your job.

Responsibilities are basic, mandatory behaviors required to participate in a group. If you fail to meet a responsibility, it should be completely reasonable to be asked to leave the group or to at least receive a minor punishment (e.g. inability to participate in a group activity or owing a fine).

These are different from expectations. Expectations are social norms. So, a group, for example, might have an expectation that you’ll gossip a lot, that you’ll only share things that are positive, or that you should always 110% of your time, energy, and effort even if it exhausts you.

The reason you want to know the difference between responsibilities and expectations is that expectations are inferred— nobody has outright told you, you must be positive or give 110% to be in this group, and often it’s not mandatory to meet them. This is important because we can often infer expectations incorrectly, and you need to know when you can break them.

A great example of this was my mom when she first joined a book club. There was an unspoken expectation that you wouldn’t bother learning names, because nobody cared and it was too much effort. My mom disliked this expectation, so she didn’t follow it.

She made an explicit effort to learn names, use them, and actively welcome newcomers. It didn’t take long before others followed her lead. Now the group is a lot friendlier and all it took was my mom standing by what she valued.

Develop a zero-tolerance policy for guilt-tripping.

If somebody is intentionally guilt-tripping me, I call them out on it, ask them to immediately stop, and demand they never do it again. If they fail to do this, I shut them out of my life. This may seem extreme, but guilt-tripping is serious stuff.

When somebody guilt-trips you, they’ve stopped treating you as a person. Everybody has their own will and needs. Basic respect for another person is acknowledging their right to make their own choices and respecting those choices even when they don’t suit you. In guilt-tripping, this rule is broken. When somebody guilt-trips you, your choices don’t matter— you are treated like a tool, an inanimate object to be manipulated for someone else’s use.

This why I have a zero-tolerance policy. Anybody who tries to guilt-trip me doesn’t care about my own well-being or happiness, or if they do, it’s only to the extent that they want to make sure I stay functional to give them what they want (e.g. I take good care of my hammer, so that I can keep using it). Frankly, it’s an emotionally abusive behavior, don’t tolerate it. Never be afraid to walk away from somebody who won’t respect your basic rights as a person.

Trust your instincts.

Everybody has an intuition, and sometimes you’ll get a vibe. Sometimes it will be to stay away from a group, other times to trust them. Learn to listen to the feelings you get. It can be a good compass when you’re not sure whether to go along with a group’s choices. Have faith in yourself, and the rest will figure itself out.

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