My mother once asked me, “If all my friends jumped off a bridge would I do the same thing?” Being the snarky teenager I was my response was a sarcastic, “I probably would.” Years later as an adult (not two weeks ago) I actually did jump off a bridge because all of my friends did it. Since I am here to tell the tale it means things did not end badly, but my first time bungee jumping was almost entirely because of peer pressure. In our youth, peer pressure affects us differently. It is often direct pressure to do a particular thing. Once we have grown up, it often comes in a more subtle form.
Gone are the days when we are standing in the center of a room playing spin the bottle and forced to go into a dark closet with a stranger. Now, it might be the new paint of coat your neighbor gets put on his house or the delivery truck you see dropping off a furniture set. We never want to be seen as part of the out-group so sometimes these ideas linger in our heads. You may not have thought about redoing the paint on your house, but something in you gets sparked when you drive past that brand new-looking home that isn’t yours.
This streak of competition shows up in men and women alike. It doesn’t have to be something as large as painting a house. It could be as simple as the attention one gets from a new hairstyle. Trends begin this way- one action is proven to have a positive result and it is recognized by others. Rippling through communities, neighborhoods, or peer groups we mimic these actions in pursuit of the positive results.
Where we get into trouble is when we push to do things that are outside of our ability or comfort zone. This might mean getting a hairstyle that is in season, even though it may not be best suited for you. Or it could mean taking on additional expenses that you cannot afford. Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.”, and this idea rings true in so many ways.
If we look around we might see things that we would like to try simply because it looks nice from across the street; but, it takes focus and a bit of resistance not to fall in line with the trends, and sometimes that means we don’t get to hang with the in-crowd. Our decisions, financial and otherwise, should be based on where we are as individuals and within our family.
I don’t regret jumping off the bridge, but I am definitely glad there was a bungee cord attached. If I had it to do again, I would give serious thought as to why I was doing it and who I was trying to please. We should be thinking about this at home also.