We often think of peer pressure as a negative thing. The thought that we would do something we normally would not do just because someone else is, makes people very uncomfortable. As parents, there’s a fear that you will get a call that your kid got hurt or did something foolish because one of their friends was doing the same. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “and if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?” growing up. I want to make sure my own son knows that he should be his own person. That he should go against the grain if that’s what his gut tells him to do. That he doesn’t have to do what everyone else does.
Being an individual is all well and good, but we are total hypocrites too. I’m guilty of it myself. “Hey buddy, why don’t you go ahead and give the ride a try. Look at all the other kids enjoying the ride.” I have caught myself doing it on more than one occasion. And, on more than one occasion it has had fantastic results. Did I hate myself a little for doing it? Yeah. Was it worth it? Totally! Would I do it again? I am pretty sure I would. Is it wrong? Maybe, maybe not.
Lately, I have been doing the same thing to myself. I mentioned that I signed up for the Tri Swim class. Part of what is making that successful is that I have the pressure of more than one person watching. I have Gary, the instructor and anywhere between 3 and 10 other people trying to swim the same or similar sets. The other night we had a really hard set (for me) and I desperately grabbed at the wall, gasping for air. Gary said “you look like you’re gonna puke.” I said I felt like I was going to puke. He reminded me that I had one more to do. I told him I didn’t think I could do one more. His response was “Oh, I think you can” and he walked away. Huh? I thought to myself. Did that just happen? Wait a minute, I just said I can’t! You just said I looked like I was going to puke! I was a bit put off, but caught my breath and did another set. When I finished, we laughed and he said he was glad I didn’t chum the water. While I know he’s in the position of an instructor, it was more like peer pressure to me. I knew I didn’t have to do it. I am paying to be there, I can up and leave or just disregard if I really wanted to, but I didn’t.
Sunday, I did the women’s global bike ride. It was only my third group bike ride. The fastest, longest ride I had done before that, was an hour at about 16mph average. For me, that was pretty good. On this ride we were going to do about 17mph for two hours. During the ride, I was constantly checking to make sure I was keeping with the group. Then, it happened. The lady that was acting as the group’s leader shouted “switch.” The two front riders dropped to the back of the pack. We were riding two abreast and I was now in third position with my partner on my left. Switch! Her voice rang through me like a chilling sound you would hear in a horror movie. I began to sweat just a little more. We were now second back. Was I going to have to be in the front? I don’t know how to do that. Surely they must not realize that I have never done that before, I thought. I shouted over to her that I had never pulled before (learned that new lingo…) “That’s ok, this will be your first time” she said and just smiled. I smiled back, but can’t help but feel it was one of those smiles you give where you curl your nose at the same time. A smile you might give when a nosy neighbor brings you a casserole.
Surely we must almost be there, I thought. Then it came….”Switch!” she shouted. My partner and I cranked up the pace some since we were now riding in the front. I now had to make sure I called out any road kill or debris that could result in an issue for a rider. Thankfully, my partner Nan was awesome and she explained the nuances that came along with pulling. We finally made it to the half way point for a break. Since not every pair had made it to the front, I was pretty sure I could mark that experience as my first and last pull of this ride. I was wrong. We headed back and not long after, there I was again. “How did we end up in the front again?” I asked. Nan laughed and said we should have paid better attention to where we positioned ourselves in the pack when we headed back out. The point of all this is that if it weren’t for the peer pressure, I am not sure I would have ever volunteered to pull. While pulling on an overpass is with a headwind is not at all my favorite thing to do, I was totally stoked that I did it.
It would have really sucked to not give leading the pack a try. Was I terrified? You bet. What kind of wimp would I have been if I didn’t do that swim set? Thanks peer pressure. My son went on a few roller coasters because he was with friends at the school trip to Disney. He realized that he really likes the rides and now we go on them when we’re there. My swimming has started to improve as a result of being in a class with others. I see them just as apprehensive, falling to the same peer pressure I am. By the end of the class, we realize that the peer pressure lead us to learn that we were capable of things we didn’t think we were capable of. You could say peer pressure is a lot like the latest research on eggs. Good for you one day, bad for you another, ok in moderation. I’ve told my son it’s ok to do some things because others do them, if he wants to. That’s how some amazing movements have taken place. That’s how people get inspired by others. I have told him to just be sure that he knows right from wrong and never lets someone pressure him into doing something he knows is wrong.
I think it really comes down to who the peer pressure comes from. If you surround yourself with people who do great things, then you may do great things too. I’m grateful for all the amazing people I have been surrounding myself with lately who have inspired, and yes, sometimes pressured, me to do awesome things.