This I Believe

Sharon - Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Entered on May 29, 2007

I believe that peer pressure affects every decision. While humans constantly believe that morally and ethically they will make their own decisions, our habits revolve around the pressure exerted from others. In high school, teenagers are constantly pressured to get the highest grades from their teachers, to be well-mannered children by their parents, and to just be cool by their friends. Yet, on the way to obtain these high goals, teenagers can compromise their own values. Perhaps they do not want to major in Chemistry but their science teacher aptly believes that they could succeed. Possibly they don’t like the red sweater Aunt Irma gave them, but they still have to wear it every Christmas because it is what Jesus would have done according to their parents. Maybe they do not like to eat tofu or vegetables but their friends guilt them into not eating red meat by repeating constantly that eating red meat is bad for the environment and it kills animals cruelly. These are all random scenarios but the truth is teenagers are constantly belittled and forced to do things against their own values, ideals, and morals. Instead of trying to push teenagers into making decisions we should be constantly reminding them of who they are.

I have two brothers who are both seven years older than I am. As a toddler and a tween, I was denied the right to bond with them because they did not want to be caught by their friends interacting with a child. Now, the age difference is not as noticeable although there is still pressure on me to act more mature to be accepted. Over the past Christmas break I spent a week with my eldest brother Kevin, an aspiring journalist, in Manhattan. On New Years Eve, Kevin invited thirty of his nearest and dearest friends plus random strangers over to his house. The majority of his friends were from his outrageous drinking days at Fordham University. As all members of the party except me were over the age of twenty-one, alcohol was in abundance: Jack Daniels, Jose Cuerva, Smirnoff, Sam Adams, Jack’s Hard Lemonade. At any second, I could have swiped a bottle and began to chug a few sips without anyone noticing.

Did I succumb to the peer pressure and begin to drink the overlarge frat boys under the table? No, I did not. Morally, I believe that upholding the law is more important than trying to be accepted. Yet, every few hours I had a sneaking doubt that my convictions were wrong and I should tap a keg. However, I never succumbed to my doubts or peer pressure because Kevin constantly reminded me about my own personal values: little nudges, small gestures, bragging about me to his friends. I believe everyone needs a reminder or jolt to help him or her stay off of the bandwagon. Without the comparison from others values to our own, there would not be a hope to escape from peer pressure.