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Peer Pressure; Be YOU and Beat The Odds

Updated on April 2, 2015

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” Rita Mae Brown

Peer Pressure

By definition: "Peer pressure is influence on a peer group, observers or individuals that encourages others to change their attitudes, behaviors, and values, to conform to groups." Source:

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“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain

I believe I was born with a "different" gene, something that keeps me from joining the crowd. I'm suspicious of the majority and have always longed to NOT be like everyone else. Whenever I see people lined up, I wonder 'What's in the Kool-aid'? Even if this gene skipped you and you find it difficult, at best, to define YOU within the crowd, I've got some answers.

The original tale of Little Goody Two-Shoes
The original tale of Little Goody Two-Shoes | Source

Little Goody Two-Shoes

" Goody Two-Shoes is a variation of the Cinderella story. The fable tells of Goody Two-Shoes, the nickname of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentleman gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone she has "two shoes". Later, Margery becomes a teacher and marries a rich man. This earning of wealth serves as proof that her virtuousness has been rewarded, a popular theme in children's literature of the era." The theme of the book is that good deeds shall be rewarded- something we like to teach our kids. The phrase became known as someone who is a do-gooder. Source:

The Tale of Two-shoes

My tale of two-shoes is similar, but without all the fairytale drivel. Early on I learned it wasn't easy to do good even though I had a strong desire to. Later in life I learned I would not be rewarded for it. In fact it can be a downright hassle, but truly this is WHO I was/am. No matter who you are, it can be a struggle if it's not aligned with the standards from everyone around you whether it's peer pressure, pressure from media's standards, or even parents.

This might not be the tale you're hoping to hear, and I realize this, but stay with me here. Either you're doing a lot "wrong" and you don't want to hear anything about how tough it is to be a good-deeder or you're doing everything "right" and you want reassurance the path ahead is neatly paved with a "reward" waiting for you around the corner. I get it. I do. I promise my tale will apply to you.

And here's my tale: Google "Good girl" and you'll see a myriad of slutty girls posing as good girls. It's a joke unless you're truly a do-good girl. I was Snow White minus all the singing with bluebirds. I had lofty personal values. I didn't get good grades or star as the school's top performing athlete. No, my values and goals were different. Uncompromising, conservative values. No sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, etc.

I wasn't raised like this- these values didn't stem from an unrelenting religious upbringing nor strict parents. My dad smoked pot and my mom had multiple boyfriends. My values were purely me. How do I know? I've got two kids, one who is clearly following in my footsteps and is only 3. He's been like this since he could walk and talk- he wants to help, he wants to do what is "right", to do no harm, to put others before himself, to be responsible , to be polite. to do good. I should be happy, but I worry because that road is tough- probably one of the toughest choices out there.

My road, and likely to be my son's, was lonely. I had few friends in high school. Those friends were some who drank, smoked. did drugs, and had casual sex BUT they never pressured me to be like them or do the things they did nor did I expect them to be like me. You'd think my parents would be thrilled I didn't do any of the typical "bad" stuff, but I constantly got accused of doing it anyway. They didn't like my friends of course. I argued I don't have to be like those I hang out with- I can like them but not be them. They never understood that difference. Parents hang onto old clichés like a tattered baby blanket. 'You are who you hang out with' is what they'd tell me, but it just wasn't true. And parents also don't like being wrong.

So how did I hang out with some of the "bad" kids and maintain my inner values? Inoculation! The inoculation you've heard about, if at all, is the type of inoculation against a disease such as a weakened form of the strain injected into the body to prevent the worse one from possibly killing you (measles, mumps, flu shot, etc.). Being exposed to people who were my friends, who happened to have undesirable habits, made me "immune" to the habits themselves.

The rule of thumb here: If your friends care about you, they won't pressure you to do anything you don't want to. They let you be YOU. Being around people like this will help you resist others who are not your friends and try to pressure you. I had already been exposed to people who had "bad" habits that when others came along to persuade me with those types of habits, I was disinterested.

I want you to know, no matter what road you take that isn't similar to others, you will be judged. I was being judged with comments for just being ME such as, "snob", "Goody two-shoes", "she thinks she's better than us", "Pollyanna", "she doesn't know how to have fun", "who does she think she is?"

You may not have been born with a sense of "doing right" like my son and I, but you weren't born for half of the ill-perceived misconceptions you are dealing with today. Some of those are even self-inflicted. I need balance and structure, which may not be your thing, but we all have an inner guide that shines true for us. when you stray from that, you lose a sense of self and others tend to steer you in their direction.

I had ample opportunity to get in trouble- my single mom worked two jobs often until midnight. I was proud of that yet so many looked down on me. Still, at 40, I get odd looks when it comes up that I've never smoked or did drugs. My husband, who did everything under the sun as a youth, struggles with self-esteem to this day. The difference? Others steered him- he lost who he was. Eventually I had sex with someone I loved (no, he wasn't the man I married) and yes I partake in the occasional drink. I'm human!

Some things I learned:

  1. Weight and Wings: Know the difference between your "two shoes": We all have two shoes- figuratively speaking. You have that one shoe you've had for so long- it is who YOU are. Down the road you acquire another shoe to appease others. It certainly doesn't make you happy or complete like the tale of Little (Miss) Goody Two-shoes when she's finally given her second shoe. I like to refer to this as weight and wings (the original shoe is like your wings- it is WHO you are- instinctually YOU while the other shoe is acquired later on from a lot of expectations and garbage which weigh you down).
  2. WHO are/were you? Write it down now- always keep it with you or readily available. Write down who you remember yourself to be as a kid, things you enjoyed, your earliest memories of how you dealt with sadness, happiness, what you admire about yourself and certain role models, etc. With outside pressures it's difficult to remember our first shoe. We really need time to reflect on who we were as kids, who we were from the very beginning. That's our default button. When you're at your lowest, pull out what you've written about yourself as a kid (what you enjoyed, who you knew you were before people started telling you what you are).
  3. Take a time-out- It's easy for me, at age 40, to tell you that being who YOU are will give you pride when outside influences are stripping down that pride and exacerbating you to the core. I've been there before- second guessing my values. wondering why I don't give in when this is such a struggle, sometimes faking who I am in peer groups just so they'll leave me alone with all THEIR pressure. At the end of the day, or often enough, you must have some time to yourself to remember yourself. research in psychology shows even willpower needs a break. It uses up energy and all forms of energy need a re-charge.
  4. Just remember there is a place and time (someday) where you can be yourself: That place may not be right now, in high school or at this particular job or point in your life, but it's out there. Surround yourself with supporters, not haters. I spent my high school years with a nagging feeling that high school wasn't my place to shine. Who am I kidding? It still isn't. Of course I felt out of place as do 97.92% (just a guesstimation) of high school students do. I went to my 20 yr. reunion feeling the same way, but now I don't care. I've had years of being me in my place where I shine, in my life, doing what I love, surrounded by those I love.
  5. It will be difficult: I guarantee it. Here's where the generation gap comes through between myself and the younger folks today. Peer pressure and bullying are as old as time itself, well at least since the dawn of mankind. My generation still knew about winning and losing and fierce competition at young ages, which I believe prepared us for future difficulties, disappointments, and let-downs. How are we preparing our kids for these difficulties today? I don't think very well. While raising some of the most sensitive and amazing group of people, they are inadequate in handling hardships. The popularity of the "like" button phenomena on facebook is rampant on all social media. How many page views, how many likes- Geez, how bad do you need to be liked?

"Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction." Margaret Thatcher


Survival of the virtues

The two most important psychological traits (backed by science) is resiliency and self-control or self-discipline. I don't care if you're more similar to the mischievous Peter Pan than Pollyanna, you need certain traits for optimal existence and survival, if you will. These traits have been fine-tuned over the course of the evolution of man.

On my road to doing good, I wasn't expecting a medal or looking for special recognition. In fact, I became rather solitary at times- it was easier. I wasn't looking for a reward, but I wasn't looking to be put down either. Since being put down seems to be a part of life, especially young adult life, it is crucial you garner specific traits to combat this uphill battle.

Self control:

"Self-control is not just a puritanical virtue. It is a key psychological trait that breeds success at work and play- and in overcoming life's hardships" Roy F. Baumeister (Social Psychologist). "Conquer Yourself, Conquer The World", April 2015. The Scientific American. Turns out it's NOT self-esteem that is deemed necessary to combat the social slopes. Self control is described as the ability to change ourselves in environments and adapt. This tidbit of info was founded on the principal that controlling one's instinctual impulses cultivates a progressive society and the betterment of everyone's existence.

Research in self-control suggests this trait is like building and flexing a mental muscle- in other words, it takes practice. You don't have to be born with do-good traits to beat the odds. Just flex that muscle. You practice other things, this is one of them.


In evolutional terms, is the ability to adapt and bounce back. According to Wikipedia it is also "facing difficult experiences and rising above them with ease. Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone."

Research in this area proclaims people who are resilient are not without negative or unaffected emotion. They also are not those who maintain a positive outlook in all situations. Quite the contrary.

Resilience can be viewed in someone who has:

  1. Good outcomes despite high-risk status
  2. Competence under stress
  3. Recovery from trauma
  4. Uses challenges for growth that makes future hardships more tolerable


Something to think about...

"New findings suggest that any brain changes occurring in addicts do not lead to a loss of self-control. People can choose whether to give into a craving or resist." Source: Roy F. Baumeister (Social Psychologist). "Conquer Yourself, Conquer The World", April 2015. The Scientific American.

Do you know what this means? YOU have more personal power than I bet you ever realized! This is your brain on science! AND...when put to the test, you can exercise this muscle more often and Lord knows, you'll be tested in your youth. The good news is the more you practice this, the easier it will be to become a better YOU and resist peer pressure. You don't have to avoid peer pressure, you just have to resist enough times until it's second nature and ultimately benefits you with an additional, valuable trait called self-control.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Coco Chanel

I think I can...

In our culture, we're taught:

  1. Thoughts precede actions.
  2. You are what you think.
  3. Think positively to get a positive outcome.
  4. Think of something and the universe will conspire for you to get it.

Blah, blah!!! Our life is not shaped by one thought or even many thoughts and who thinks before they react? An automatic reaction is more important than one preceding thought. YOU shaped by what you do over and over again- it is your actions. I believe the principal of "you are what you repeatedly do."

OK, I'm done with the cliché's my point. Every time we do something we have thoughts that follow that action. For instance, if you have sex with someone who doesn't love you or someone you don't love, what are the thoughts you will have about yourself afterwards? It is the thoughts after your actions, that matter and lead to better or worse thought preceding better or worse actions later.

Believe it or not, peer pressure can sniff you out like a starving dog on the trail of a meaty bone- or a predator that smells weak prey. If you don't have that strong sense of self (practice, practice, practice), it is because you haven't said NO often enough, you've done more of what others want you to than what you want to, you haven't confirmed your own beliefs, and/or you're surrounded by too much peer pressure and need a time-out...alone.

Self control

My words...

You don't have to necessarily relate to my story or have even experienced much peer pressure in your life yet, and I know my words can only take you so far. They may not even be too far off from what you've already heard from parents, teachers, and corny informational videos or after-school specials bloated with blatant goody-two-shoes themes. I'm a big nobody to you, BUT I've done you a BIG favor.

I've done the research! You can't argue...much...with science. I've looked at relevant and valuable studies that confirm YOU have control over this, over your life. This is science! A bunch of people/participants have gone before you and helped us learn how you (the average human) will react to gain specific outcomes in your life. Apply the principals in this article and you CAN maintain YOU and beat the odds.


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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      A very absorbing and thought provoking hub! You have tackled the subject beautifully. Most of us face peer pressure or similar pressures in life. I believe we learn to handle it as we mature. I personally believe in giving space to others as I would like for myself. So it is wise to listen to other's views with patience but act according to your own conviction.

      Thanks for your helpful suggestions and tips!

    • profile image

      Julie K Henderson 

      4 years ago

      You are welcome. I am pleased you enjoyed writing this particular hub. I certainly know that feeling.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Julie- nice to see you again. I always appreciate your feedback. Although this isn't one of my most popular hubs I really enjoyed writing it.

    • profile image

      Julie K Henderson 

      4 years ago

      This is a helpful article. Thank you for sharing. I like the idea of wings versus weight as tied into the two shoes story. Well done.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Izett-Irwin 

      4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Drbj!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      4 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks for echoing - in a much more brilliant fashion that I ever could - the mantra and tips I have always shared with those who need to enhance their self-confidence and self esteem. Well done! m'dear. Voted Up!


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