Why do we succumb to peer pressure if we’re supposed to be special?

When I was 10 years old, a trend in school started. Rather than having the usual Transformers pencil boxes that us boys had, a new pencil box was in town. The one with 5 buttons or more buttons.

Each button opens a new compartment that can store an eraser, some pencils and one button even popped up an attached pencil sharpener. It took my class by wildfire. One girl had it first and then the rest of us knew we had to have it. We went home prepared with arguments on why we needed a new pencil box and the old one wasn’t good enough and for some reason our parents’ all obliged. Soon we all had this new pencil box.

When I think back about that experience being one of my early experiences of peer pressure, I get a little puzzled. On one hand as kids growing up in this era, we celebrate individuality. Society tells us that we should be different. To stand out from people. To take the road not taken but yet someway somehow we get peer pressured into having the same kind of stuff.

I see the same thing today too. I sometimes hang out with a group of young successful entrepreneurs. Well okay when I saw young I mean late twenties and early 30s. All of them millionaires.

When I first hung out with them everyone had their own different watches. One had a Rolex, another two had a Panerai and a Hublot here and there. All of them expensive watches but not expensive enough it seems. A couple of guys had an Audemars Piguet which is so expensive you could buy a car for that.

As we continued to meet up over the months I noticed the watches that the group wore began to change. Eventually every single person in that group was wearing an AP. If you think about it, it’s really odd. Each one of these people became successful as entrepreneurs because they were different but somehow we all still feel the need to have the same thing.

The honest truth is that I was once upon a time I myself was very heavily affected by peer pressure. I bought whatever society would expect a successful entrepreneur to have. It’s like the money in my bank or my personal net worth wasn’t enough validation to myself. I had to buy something material to prove my worth.

I went on a buying spree and today it’s something I sort of regret. Well a part of me feels that maybe I had to go through it at least once but another part thinks of all the unnecessary watches and designer clothes and the depreciation I pay for my cars.

A billionaire I know wears simple clothes from mid ranged brands. Wears a cheap electronic watch and has a private jet that he never lets anyone else know about. Sometimes I think it’s true that we buy expensive things to feel more secure about ourselves. Perhaps we all feel insecure in spite of our successes in our jobs or businesses because clearly if we can afford to buy something nice for ourselves, we have to be somewhat successful right?

More importantly my thought today is “Why do we succumb to peer pressure if we’re supposed to be special?”. Because peer pressure by definition is really pressure to conform or be the same as everyone else.

I wanna end this with a quote from Steve Jobs.

“Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life”.

Amen to that.

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  • Crystal Ho

    I think group communication theories- social norms: injunctive and descriptive norms, social learning theory, social comparison theory explain it to some extent 🙂 what i learned in class recently!