Your roommate gets the internship for which he’s been aspiring for so long. Like the good friend that you are, you feel extremely happy for him. You celebrate with him and revel in his success. Yet, that ever so tiny feeling nags you in your head. You begin to contemplate. You try calming yourself, to no avail. Panic ensues. Eventually, one thought remains inescapable from your head. ‘What exactly am I doing with my life?’
In college, one has to rely heavily on one’s friends. This is all the more essential as one is far away from one’s parents, surviving on his/her own. While there are many positives to living it out in the company of fellow students of one’s age, there can be certain drawbacks. We tend to compare ourselves with our friends so much, to the extent of it affecting our personal behaviour and who we are. We may find ourselves doing things which we may not necessarily like, just so that we fit in. We may find ourselves stifled by the competition in the race for good grades. This, my friends is what is commonly termed as peer pressure. It’s something that all of us face in our everyday lives. Handling it is one of the most important aspects of college life. So how exactly does one go about it? Let’s have a look.
The need to score marks, the need to get into clubs, the need to be the center of attention or just the need to be accepted. These are some of the ways in which students define peer pressure. You see the people whom you surround yourself with achieving things that they aspire for. The first thought that comes to your mind is ‘Where am I headed?’
Humans are social animals and are divided into circles based on their tastes and interests. When a student enters college, he is forced to leave his comfort zone and is thrust into an environment with much more stimuli. He is given the chance to explore new avenues and cultivate his interest in subjects otherwise considered esoteric. Character building also happens in the background. To help supplement all this are his friends or the people he considers competition. There is no denying the fact that people need an external impetus to feel better or worse about themselves. This is best seen when you try out for your first club and do not get in while your friends do.
It need not be limited to just academics or college related activities. Peer pressure affects us in every facet of life. Your friend might hand you a cigarette or a bottle of alcohol and you might be compelled to participate in their social habits. This may be in spite of the fact that you are not interested. Yet you give in as you don’t want to be socially rejected. You do not want to be a social outcast. You also worry about the perception other people have of you. It is normal and a part of growing up to feel the need to please everyone; especially the people you look up to. These certain people end up being your peer group.
Your sense of competition is not limited to the people with whom you interact with in college. Friends and family or even friends of friends help cultivate the urge to challenge yourself. The need to be better always persists. It cannot exactly be defined as jealousy but the need to get rid of the feeling of inadequacy which constantly persist in one. You might be a confident person but your surroundings induce unwelcome and depressing thoughts. Confronting these thoughts require a level of maturity and mental strength that we may or may not acquire.
What Peer Pressure actually is:
Social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted.
College is a place where people are expected to acquire mental maturity and also create their own identity. The environment is supposed to enable you to do this without much stress, although not everyone has a smooth transition. Peer pressure can be caused by many factors like loneliness, social awkwardness or inadequacy and interpersonal communication problems. Many people who excelled academically in their respective classes back home face a whole new level in college, where everybody is as smart as they are. They have a tough time dealing with a sudden change and coping with the taxing system. Those who are lonely, have low self-esteem or are unable to talk to their peers, tend to become clinically depressed. People generally cope by talking to their friends, and when they are unable to vent, the situation spirals out of control.
Stress affects different people differently. Since NITT has a multi-cultural society, everybody has different perceptions of life. Expectations and reality however, are very different.
Many feel that the system itself has too many problems. The education system’s form of assessment aggravates peer pressure. Though the assessment process is necessary, the current one doesn’t necessarily judge the holistic performance of a student. The problem begins when they fail to live up to the expectations. Teachers need to be sensitized to be able to spot the people who are facing problems with peer pressure and be ready to cater to the struggling lot. There are too many people and not enough infrastructure to give individual attention to everyone. Students feel that they are not empowered to do what they wish.
In some cases, your peer group might not be the ones you regularly hang out with. It might even be you comparing yourself to people you know in other institutions. You might want to achieve similar goals and are internally pressurized to do so; for instance, your friends who might be applying to the same university as you. Clubs also play a vital role in shaping your college life. Your self-esteem might take a hit when people who surround you in these clubs are more talented or work harder than you. Living up to such expectations can turn out to be a daunting task.
Peer pressure may initially seem an innocuous issue, to be lightly dismissed. However, as it is with many psychological issues, the seeds of a problem when sown can often grow to something disastrous. How so?
For starters, peer pressure may lead to depression, low self-esteem and low confidence. When someone sees his peers succeed (in the victim’s eyes at least), he often tends to degrade himself as he feels that he isn’t doing well enough. In some severe cases, this may affect the person for the rest of his/her life.
This is probably the mildest case. In cases where the impact is more severe, the affected victim may sometimes tend to shun the company of others. This may lead to him becoming a bit of a social recluse, robbing him of interpersonal skills as well, thanks to the constantly negative mindset that he develops.
The above case is usually observed in introverted people. In other cases, the affected person may attempt to hide this loss of esteem by external acts of aggression. He may tend to be more short tempered than usual, be extremely defensive in justifying his actions and may tend to place the blame on other people, his environment and the system in general for his problems.
While it isn’t usually the case, some extreme scenarios can cause alarming reactions. For example, certain activities such as drinking, smoking and substance abuse are generally seen as a means of escape from the situation at hand. One may end up depending on these substance to the point of it becoming a dangerous addiction. This will naturally tend to be a drain on one’s finances.
Even beyond this, if a person feels that he cannot deal with the situation, he may decide to end it all by taking his life. Granted, this is an extreme scenario. However, it is one that is becoming increasingly relevant. This is a worrying issue in many institutes across the country and the frequency of these instances are increasing as well.
|GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING CELL OF NIT TRICHY
One office in the library which is probably not heard of much, is the guidance and counselling cell. It was started to reduce the rush since the psychiatrists had a lot of students and staff coming over to their private clinic. While there have been serious cases in the past, the response for the counselling cell hasn’t been overwhelming because of the stigma that comes with it. They are open every Wednesday for three hours from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Source: Poll on NITT Calendar Board by Feeds
The complications caused due to peer pressure may seem unbeatable. This is not necessarily the case. Even though most people have experienced it in some way or the other, they have managed to overcome it. It helps to share your troubles and emotions with either close members of family or friends, since most people have similar experiences that you can relate to. Another way to tackle the problem is by grasping it by its roots. The most helpful method is to change your mind set about yourself and how you think people perceive you. College is the place for change and gives you the opportunity to psychologically re-wire yourself.
Here at NITT we would be right in saying that more than peer pressure, at pivotal moments peer support does come through. Apart from the people, the campus also provides a healthy environment to flourish and develop one’s own brand of creativity.
Expectations need to be pitched at the right level. When one has a misplaced sense of success disappointment hits harder. It is easy to blame your friends when the problem lies within. The college’s system does try to do its best to help you. Most of us, more than academics tend to become stressed about internships. People with long term goals, who tend to worry about the smallest deviation from the “plan” should relax and stay positive.
5 Steps to Combat Peer Pressure
1. Talk to parents.
2. If parents are part of the problem or fail to understand you, talk to your most supportive friends.
3. Find a channel for all your frustration. Other interests such as reading, writing, playing a sport or even listening to music and doing nothing can help you alleviate some of your stress. Keep yourself busy.
4. Keep a journal or blog to express yourself.
5. Try to believe in yourself and stick to your decisions.
Keep calm and carry on.