Not many of us left school without attending at least one lecture on peer pressure. Study after study has shown that within groups of teens, simply the perception of a behavioral “normal” will influence members of the group to conform socially in their environment.
To put it frankly, people don’t need to be told directly what the rules are; as long as they perceive it to be “normal” in that setting, they’ll find themselves feeling the pressure to conform.
As adults, we’ve largely moved beyond the more obvious throes of prepubescent insecurity, and we have a better sense of who we are and what values are important to us. Unfortunately, it does not lessen the way that pressure from our “peers,” our coworkers, friends, and our family, has major influence on us.
Not all peer pressure is a bad thing necessarily. Through it, we can push others to be polite, work together, and consider one another before making decisions. However, the pressure to conform may have a more sinister effect on the unaware adult.
So many Americans are unhappy in their jobs, and it’s usually not the pay that’s the problem. Rather, it’s the negative reaction that workers are having to the people around them; their bosses, their coworkers, their clients.
It’s the same outside of the workplace, too; the fear of missing out socially (or FOMO as the kids call it), the amount of functions or groups we do attend to, and scrolling through the highlight reels of other people’s lives on social media.
All of these relationships can create conformative pressure that causes stress in so many people’s lives – both at work, and eventually, at home too.
We spend more than half of our waking hours at work. Our free time is largely spent either with our friends or some type of media. All day, we are bombarded with messages on what to believe, how to act, and how to succeed in life.
The people delivering those messages are going to have an impact on an individual’s behavior over time, no matter how “alpha” the personality of that individual is. But the reality is the same as it was in junior high – our choices on where to work, with whom we associate, and how to respond in those stressful situations, is entirely on us.
Ultimately, we as adults and working professionals have to make hard decisions on where we spend our time – and with whom.
Do you have a goal in mind for your life? Values that you want to live by? Areas that you would like to grow in? Make sure those goals are clear, and then think hard about who you spend the majority of your time with, voluntarily or otherwise, and what they do on a day-to-day basis with you.
Do those people:
- Encourage your vision of success through their actions and words?
- Have the same values as you?
- Reinforce the values that you do have (and actively demonstrate them through their behavior)?
- Keep you accountable in the areas that you want to grow and develop?
- Have an active, engaged, vested interest in you, and want the best for you?
Not every relationship has to fill each question, but a relationship that is drawing up too many “no” responses may be worth reconsidering. Very likely, this person or group may be negatively impacting you and the goals you have set for yourself.
Think about the effects of a draining job or an unhealthy relationship on an individual – stress leads to lethargy, lethargy leads to pessimism, and pessimism can redouble stress and even lead to severe depression (just look at the situation over in Japan).
If you’re finding yourself unhappy in your situation, or if you have ambitious goals for the future, it is just as important to know what you want to change as it is to know who will and will not help you get there effectively. The decisions are not always easy, but once you make them, you will directly impact how quickly you will get to where you want to be, and how much support you will have along the way.
Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.