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December 17, 2013
I recently came across a segment of MSNBC online, that featured a young college student who received exposure and recognition for submitting a video to a rap artist. The video was of her tweaking, in the hopes of winning a  fifty thousand dollar scholarship for tuition. I personally believe that there are other avenues where she can raise or earn money for school that don’t evolve arousal of male and select female libidos. However, this post is not an attack or critic of her decision, rather what caught my attention was the number of hostile responses I read in the comments section of the blog where I first read this story and watched the video.

It wasn’t so much that people where taking up for her, but it was the insistence that what she was doing was somehow noble. I found myself asking, “surely they don’t believe that.” I find it hard to believe that most mothers in any community would raise their daughters to perform an erotic dance for a largely male audience in order to raise money. Could it be that most of the commentators secretly condemned the behavior but felt the need to defend the girl out of principle?

Such a phenomenon would be known as groupthink, a psychological term where individuals against their better judgement support their group’s decision or collective stance because they perceive it to be a decision that supports the morals and values of the group, when it’s probably not the case. Also, where there is groupthink there is peer pressure, where people regardless of their personal beliefs make it their mission (out of loyalty) to see to it that other group members conform to the group’s values (real or perceived).


The combination of these two phenomenons reminds me of my days in  the military. God helped you if you so much as publicly spoke up about your disagreement with the war in Iraq. Yet, in one on one conversations, most soldiers I spoke with disagreed with the war. On a more relatable level, group think and peer pressure is something most of us encounter in everyday life. From how we raise our children  to the clothes we wear to finance decisions, etc..

So how do you overcome peer pressure to conform? More specifically how do you overcome peer pressure accompanied by personal attacks to confirm to a dysfunctional group dynamic that yields an undesirable and costly consequence?

You overcome peer pressure by focusing on the long term consequences.

Take for example, a hypothetical situation where members of your community suddenly decide to stop brushing their teeth, or engaging in any form of oral hygiene whatsoever. Not only does this become a popular trend, but people who are discovered to be performing daily oral hygiene, find themselves on the receiving end of ridicule and personal attacks. Furthermore, for those who practice conscientious assertiveness, (such as those who warn others of the dangers associated with no oral hygiene) the pressure and personal attacks become worse. The best way to stay consistent with your oral hygiene, and be consistently resilient to the pressure to conform, is to bear in mind the costs in the not so distant future from no oral hygiene,  (think teeth loss).

This is because regardless of the number of people engaging in a particular behavior, the consequences of the behavior are still the same for everyone engaged in the behavior. Being a member of any community big or small does not protect us from the consequences of our actions, even when we are surrounded by others who willfully deny the consequences of our actions.

The standards of living are the same for all of us. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of hostility due to a disagreement with lifestyles, check out this post on the three rules for arguing with anyone.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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