Adult peer pressure is hard to pinpoint but can lead to a lifetime of wrong choices... Learn to be your own person

Being an adult you might think your peer-pressure days are behind you but in reality, adults aren’t immune to peer pressure either. Adult peer-pressure is relatively subtle, implied and hard to fight sometimes. Wanting to ‘keep up’ with friends, neighbours and extended family could become an endless process and affect a lot of our material pursuits. It could make us desire a certain lifestyle — right from fashion choices, brands we buy, choice of hang-out places, travel plans, investment, gadgets to buy or where we live.

It’s natural to cave into likes and habits of peers but it is when you shed your common sense and judgement that the problem arises. The impulse to buy a pair of branded jeans or bag arises because of peer-buying patterns, even if it makes an unnecessary dent in our bank account. Buying diamonds or hiring a personal trainer might not be something you need or want but peers act as a powerful driving force.

Malini Krishnan, psychologist, Inner Space Counselling Centre, says, “Peer pressure leads to a fear of rejection, since individuals who are prone to peer pressure often have a vulnerable self-concept. Whether they think well of themselves or not is dependent on what others think of them. In such cases, it is possible that one chooses others’ approval over financial prudence, which if left unchecked could become a cycle, affecting financial security in the long run.”

The constant need to measure up against someone is destructive and creates emotional havoc too. Dr. Rashmi Joshi, counselling psychologist, Psychological Aura Wellness Clinic, says, “People rely on peers for friendship, day-to-day support, and social affiliation. One may face social rejection and diminished self-esteem in a work place, when they are unable to conform to group norms due to personal choices, perceptions, and attitudes.”

Social networking sites are constantly buzzing with feeds of people’s exciting purchases or luxurious trips. While some of us would merely browse through the updates, a person vulnerable to peer pressure could repeatedly feel the need to ‘match up’ when he sees that others are doing/buying fascinating things.

There is a certain insidious peer pressure among parents lately to put their children in top schools or to buy them the latest gadgets. Dr. Mini Rao, psychologist, says, “A parent came to me concerned about her rebellious daughter. She was moving her from a top school because her neighbour had recently admitted their only child in an expensive international school. This move was irrational.”

Positive peer pressure

What is worth adapting from peers is their constructive ideas and thoughts which can stimulate our own motivation and give us new perspective about things. For instance it can push people to take up volunteering, make healthier lifestyle choices, join a book club, do charity or join salsa classes to unwind. According to Malini Krishnan, to keep peer pressure under check, all of us need to realise that uniqueness is as desirable as imitation. “As much as we like to be accepted and loved by others, we are all unique individuals with our own interests and needs in life.”

Dr. Joshi suggests that one must acknowledge their positive qualities, utilise opportunities, and their capabilities to influence their own lives. “Cultivate feelings of satisfaction from associations and learn to give and take positive influences.”