Funso was overjoyed when he finally found a good-paying job after 4 years of joblessness and doing odd jobs. He had always consoled himself that he was building his capacity and adding value with every odd job he did, having worked as a waiter, receptionist, personal assistant – anything to pay his bills. Finally, he had gotten a big break and landed a job with a multinational company where he wowed them with his confidence and competence. He soon discovered after joining the company, however, that he was part of the minority who did not own a car or live an opulent lifestyle. He wondered how they were managing to do so because the pay is generous but insufficient to live in such opulence. Funso prides himself as a man of integrity and high morals who had always been content with a slow and steady climb of the social ladder with patience and hard work.
Within a year of joining the company, he noticed some gaps in the projects handled by his group. Every budget was padded with extras that were not executed. He brought it up with the Manager who simply told him to mind his business and wait for his own opportunity when he will also be among those to share from the extras. Funso was uncomfortable but felt helpless. Until he was invited to pad a budget for a project he was leading. They explained to him what his percentage cut will be, and it was a huge figure. More than his salary for 5 years. They reassured him that everyone was doing it and it was his own opportunity to also become successful. He struggled with his conscience but decided to play along so he can also blend in with everyone and enjoy some opulence too.
Peer pressure is the process by which members of the same group persuade others to engage in a behavior or activity that they would not otherwise participate in. It is also used to describe the influence on a person’s willingness to conform and carry out behaviors that they would ordinarily not engage in, so as to be accepted by the group. Peers are not always friends, but can also be people of a similar status, such as people of the same age, abilities, or social status.
The impact of peer pressure affects people of all ages and walks of life, and it may play a significant role in an individual’s emotional well-being. Peer pressure may be direct (which could be unspoken or verbal), or indirect, where it is implied and covert.
Individuals such as Funso who cave under peer pressure may still be plagued by emotional turmoil, loss of self-esteem, sense of personal integrity, feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression and may turn to drug abuse to drown out their inner voice of conscience. Others may refuse and suffer emotional abuse, harassment, and bullying as well as discrimination in the workplace or school. Thus, peer pressure to conform usually does not end well but is frequently a case of heads you lose and tails you still lose.
It is therefore critical, that adolescents and young persons learn early, how to hold their heads high and resist peer pressure in a positive manner that enhances their self-esteem. When under pressure, it always helps to take a step back and reflect on the best line of action moving forward. Do not be stampeded into a rushed decision that you may well regret for a long time to come.
If you are being pressured to engage in an activity that makes you uncomfortable, it’s best to listen to your inner voice and refrain from doing so. Other things to consider when experiencing peer pressure include:
- Have clarity about your values and beliefs.
- Be confident, bold, and self-assured. Cultivate it intentionally over time.
- Have a diverse group of friends from various backgrounds who share your beliefs and values. They are more likely to reinforce and encourage you when you are vulnerable.
- Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others around you.
- Cultivate patience to grow steadily over time. Avoid the temptation of shortcuts and ‘easy wealth’.
- Avoid the trap of drug abuse as a coping strategy.
- Minimize the impact of external validation on your sense of self-worth. You are not the type of car or house you live in.
- Pay less attention to critics and more attention to your pathway to success and stay focused.
- Speak to a mental health professional if the pressure is negatively affecting your emotional well-being.
In conclusion, healthy self-esteem, and the ability to withstand peer pressure is a lifelong task that should start from childhood and persist all through life. It is made easier when you have a circle of supportive friends and family to encourage you.
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 20th October 2022