When we think of peer pressure, fraternity houses and freshman dorms typically spring to mind. We understand peer pressure as something every parent and high school assembly cautioned against.
Through this line of thinking, we ignore the other kind of peer pressure: the profound influence we have on one another’s development. The other kind of peer pressure facilitates the growth necessary for a successful college career. As a particularly strong-willed person, people do not typically associate me with peer pressure. Yet, through this other kind of peer pressure, I have become a more reliable friend, better student, stronger employee and more.
Second semester freshman year I found myself in a state-of-the-art pressure cooker. I was well on my way to finishing the major requirements for political science. I started exploring a second major and the whispers began — the other kind of peer pressure. I was told repeatedly that I needed to have a second major with more “marketability.” I slowly, albeit illogically, began to see the merit in my peer’s arguments. I drastically altered my schedule for the next semester, signing up for four business school prerequisites; I even convinced one professor to open more seats in her class. The following semester was miserable. I quickly realized that I was wholly dispassionate about the subjects I was studying. My GPA dropped and I prioritized “prestige” over mental health. Nonetheless, this experience taught me the invaluable lesson of following my instincts and sticking to my passions. Through peer pressure I learned to trust myself more.
Late sophomore year, the then presidents of the Emory International Relations Association convinced me to run for head delegate — something I neither would have considered without their efforts nor would have become president one year later. My peers, who hold wide-ranging political beliefs and come from across the world, taught me to see the nuance in political ideologies. Most importantly, because I had so much to learn from my peers, I improved as a listener. Both my extracurricular activities and my personal relationships demanded I strengthen my listening skills. Through years of practice with my peers in many avenues I developed listening abilities that will be a resource both personally and professionally.
The other kind of peer pressure pushes us to challenge ourselves and grow as people. The other kind of peer pressure challenges our preconceived notions and deserves much more credit and attention than it receives.
Before I conclude, I want thank my peers. Thank you for making me a better listener and more self-assured. Also, thank you to the ones who helped me write this reflection. To evoke something of the original peer pressure: cheers.
Mustafa Hassoun is from Huntsville, Ala., and served as Emory International Relations Association President.