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“Run, run, run, run
You better make your face up in your favourite disguise
With your button down lips and your roller blind eyes
With your empty smile and your hungry heart
Feel the bile rising from your guilty past
With your nerves in tatters as the cockleshell shatters
And the hammers batter down your door
You better run” – Pink Floyd

When the cult British band wrote these lyrics for one of their most famous anthems, you can judge that they were referring to the manic lifestyles of modern society. Read it again and you will perhaps see a hint at behavioural patterns that stem from having to deal with that relentlessly demanding friend most of us can live without – peer pressure.

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It all seems to start at a very young age with the obligation of having a flaunt-worthy social circle considered a status symbol today. Youngsters are inevitably driven towards doing things that can help them secure more ‘friends’ and please their ‘peers’ than ever before. The fear of being ostracised if the unwritten rules of ‘friendship’ are not followed, burdens most youngsters to follow peer actions as the call of the day. From dressing styles to career decisions, to life-choices, the youth tend to adhere to the trends set by their peers or perhaps even doubt their own judgement.

Cases of youngsters succumbing to underage drinking and smoking due to peer pressure are not uncommon. In fact, a study by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine revealed that 70 per cent of the students quoted peer pressure as the reason for initiation into tobacco chewing. It’s also a known fact that students in their early teens feel the need to own luxury goods when they see their friends flaunting them. Thankfully, there are some who stand out of this whirlpool of negativity, are grounded and can think practically about priorities.

It is everywhere
Peer pressure makes its presence felt in the life of students from all economic classes. Whether it’s the rich kids, who try to outshine the richer ones, or the not-so-fortunate ones who struggle to match standards with them, those who can’t afford the luxuries or privileges enjoyed by those born with them, might start suffering from an inferiority complex, which affects their self-confidence.

What is more alarming is that peer pressure may also distort the academic vision and life-goals of a youngster. Despite a large number of career options available, youth tend to opt for the most popular course rather than pursuing their dreams and end up regretting their career decisions. Imagine the consequences?

What about work-spaces? Are they free of this malice? Of course not. ‘Cubicle-Pressure’ is perhaps one of the major reasons for our young professionals suffering from ‘Blood Pressure’ related ailments. The outstanding performer in the team or the boss’ blue-eyed stooge is guaranteed to cause hair-loss, stress and anxiety, lack of sleep and discontent. Ambition blinds reason and peers become enemies to be vanquished at any cost. It doesn’t help that these peers exert subtle pressure through politicking and it then becomes a game of rapid chess played in between running a marathon at speed.

Before we know it a decade or two has passed. It is all a blur of faked performances and half-hearted attempts at excellence. It is all I, Me and Myself against the so-called group of well-wishers whose only aim in life is apparently to sow seeds of doubt and negativity. It is a flash of masked happiness dominated by moments of despair and incompleteness that were compensated for by materialistic indulgences.

Eventually it becomes a race against time, against instinct, against self-will and against sustained joy. It is akin to the dog chasing his tail. Round and round the whirlpool of discontent, spiralling down towards a life full of regrets. And then when the protagonist is tired of chasing the mirage, realisation is bound to set in of lost identity. The urge to rewind and restart the journey afresh with a clear purpose shutting out all those voices of influence comes bursting form within. We crave for another chance to follow our own dreams and desires that come from deep within and create a wholesome life that we can proudly call our own.

Can it be a good thing? 
Peer pressure is not always negative. Healthy academic and work-place competition among students and colleagues is beneficial and symbiotic. A good educational institution or work-place therefore encourages individuality and healthy competition in the right mix.

The fact that one’s peers are notching up better, encourages one to perform better. When we have a good circle of friends during student life, they help us understand our strengths and weaknesses and offer heartfelt suggestions. We feel inspired to match their excellence but will also feel genuinely happy with their successes and vice versa. More importantly, this ‘inner-circle of growth-promoters’ is always supportive of our independent decision-making and each member feeds off the other to make the best career-choices. Similarly, a good set of colleagues help bring out the best in us in terms of skills, innovation, team-play and overall growth.

The over-arching endeavour has to be to ensure wholesome oneness in action, where individual brilliance feeds into collective excellence because there are always a few encouraging words to spare and a helping hand to extend to fellow mates. That is when there is no depreciating difference in perspective and there is a feeling of abundance, love, skill and purpose.

Sadly, the negative influence of peer pressure right now seems to be overbearing and the positive side of the story is still abridged by it. Whatever the case may be, in the battle between peer pressure and one’s own inclinations and interests, the one who acts according to his own needs and capabilities, and not that of others, will emerge the winner. The key of course is to identify, engage with and revel in that ‘inner-circle of growth-promoters’ at home, at institutions, at work-spaces and preferably, all stages of life.

On a lighter note, here’s a satirical video on how to deal with the dreaded 2Ps