Recently because of all the news about political events I have been becoming aware of the power of peer pressure. The concern about appearing a certain way to others has an enormous influence on most of us. Even those who don’t want to care, usually do to some extent. So in contemplating this I realized that most of all peer pressure doesn’t come from peers, it comes from me. I simply ask myself, “What will other people think?” and I have all the internal peer pressure I can use. I construct a story about what others think and let that pressure my actions.
I can see how I was conditioned into needing others approval and it’s tied to social support. It’s not about having others approval, we all enjoy that, it’s thinking I have to change who I am and how I feel in order to gain or maintain approval. How strange.
And somewhat dangerous because in real time I can get caught up in a situation doing things I would never do if not for believing peer pressure needs to be attended. And, the disturbing part is I am reacting to what I “imagine” others will think. I don’t know, nor will I ever know, what other people think. I gave up on that fantasy a long time ago. Who knows what lurks in the depth of the human stream of thought? I have enough trouble trying to understand my own process much less thinking I know yours.
Becoming aware of the internal self-induced peer pressure has diminished it’s impact. Trying to be aware that I’m responding to the pressure is so automatic. The need for approval rises and fades rapidly followed by behavior. But I guess that’s why a practice of paying attention to these present moments is important. It helps noticing when those, “what will others think” thoughts appear. No one’s ideas and concepts of who you or I are are truthful or real. It’s like trying to know the water in a rushing stream.
As a somewhat strange side benefit I realized how little use there is in maintaining opinion about other peoples speech and behavior. I know when I do that I’m barking at the moon. I can never know the depths or content of another’s stream of thought.
Take amazing care of you, smile at the universe today, and laugh. Why not?