When it doesn’t feel right, go left.

Being a teenager is hard work. It was the most confusing time of my life. People all around me said “you are now a grown up” and the very next second “why can’t you act your age, you’re just a kid”. I never understood what it is I had to be. Society didn’t make it any easier either. Teenage years are like a moment stuck in time, your legs are on both sides of the border and you don’t know which side you belong to.

Now my friends were going through the same thing. We’re just a big bunch of people who were confused about our individuality facing each day together. At this stage we behave like kids at home and adults in the outside world. Nobody can explain or tell you what is you have to do, even if they do try it only confuses you more. Now the only thing that would help at this time is to seek solace in someone. It’s better if that person is not your age, as he or she would be going through the same thing.

For me, that person was my mother. She always told me “if there are ten people including you, and nine people are going the wrong way, be the one person that goes the right way.” She was my guide, she’d been through it and being a teacher to teenage girls kept her well-a-tuned as to the ‘happenings’ of my generation. She constantly kept a track on me, and I could discuss about anything with her. And I did, for the longest time I did, that was until pressures of my friends got to me. Peer pressure. The worst part about peer pressure is you don’t really know that it’s affecting you, until one fine day it does. The way I spoke, the topics we discussed, the clothes I wanted to wear all changed and I thought I was being cool. I was one among the popular people. But, what i failed to understand and what most of us fail to understand is that person that we want to be is not who we are. We become ‘fake’ to please the masses.

Now, peer pressure is not always a bad thing, even though it’s usually used in a negative connotation. Peer pressure can have a positive effect on you too. Once I realized, with my mother’s help that the people I initially surrounded myself were a negative influence on me, I made a conscious effort to make better friends. My grades improved, I took part in a lot of extra-curricular activities and realized I was pretty good in theatre. It takes effort and good group of people to stay on the right track.

By no means am I saying that peer pressure affects us only in our teenage years. Peer pressure can affect you at any stage in life, even when you are 50 years and have a grasp on how the world works. It’s up-to us to know what to imbibe and what to let go. I’m barely out of the “teen” years, I still experience it every day and sometimes I slip. But I always find the way to claw back up. I learnt that it was okay for me to stand alone, as long as I was standing on the right side.

I had an opportunity to ask a few of people about their take on peer.

Ronaque a young employee in a banking firm said that society plays a huge role is misleading teens with the use of advertisements, as well as lack of education on the effects of peer pressure can lead them astray.

Sachin, a fellow teen himself shares his experience. He says, “Everybody wants to be part of a group, especially if you’re new”. The fear of isolation plays a huge role. When asked if he has been affected by peer pressure, he says “More positive than negative. But, negative peer pressure almost got to me when my friends tried to persuade me to try my hand at smoking. It was hard to say no to them, but it felt good after i did.”

Shobha, a teacher who deals with teenagers’ day in and day out shared her thoughts too. She says “Peer pressure does occur only during teenage years but at all stages of life. I experience it at work sometimes, but I’ve learnt to deal with it over the years”. On dealing with students who often succumb to peer pressure she says that, “it’s hard to guide them as they are more persuaded by their friends in all aspects. We have to keep constant check on them and talk to them on good values and the difference between right and wrong. They take time, but slowly realize. The most important part of falling prey to peer pressure is learning from the mistakes.”

“The one that follows the crowd goes no further than the crowd. The one that walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” –Albert Einstein

Choose your friends wisely. Question what is being said thoughtfully. Live your life truly.

- Natasha George

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