Pressure to Belong
A lot of problems are blamed on “society,” but when you really look at it, society is just a network of smaller social groups, starting with your family and moving outward to your extended family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, community leaders, state and national governments, and so on.
Society, and each of the smaller communities that it is made of, has rules and expectations that urge you to fit in with the mainstream — for better or worse.
Whether you know it or not, you judge your own behavior by testing social rules to see what will happen. Some social rules are very unique to your culture and background, while other rules are the same for just about everyone.
Just as a toddler acts out to see what he or she can get away with, you have spent your whole life pushing up against rules to better understand how to get what you want.
For example, let’s say that all through elementary school you found math fun and interesting, which made you work harder. But when you got to middle school, your friends started to say that math was pointless and a waste of time; they stopped paying attention in class and barely did homework. They even started to call the students who performed well in math class nerds and losers.
You were faced with a tough choice: Would you pursue your own love of math, knowing that you might lose your friends? Or would you choose to keep your friendships even if it meant falling behind and sacrificing your own interest?
The answer lies in your values. If you valued your own growth and academic achievement, you likely would choose math over your friends. But, if you valued your friend group more, then you likely would have thrown your calculator in the nearest trash can.