Fitting in: my struggle with pressure in high school

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Fitting in: my struggle with pressure in high school

Noela Bae

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Nike’s famous slogan “Just Do It” often serves as an empowering and motivational mantra. But to me, this slogan was a phrase that fueled peer pressure throughout high school, giving my friends and family the leverage to persuade me into changing my values and behavior with the simple utterance of the phrase.

Just do it,” my peers said, pointing at the bottle of alcohol sitting on the table before me. “Just do it,” my parents said, expressing their frustration over my reluctance to take a more challenging science course. Throughout my four years at Lynbrook, I constantly struggled with gratifying those around me and staying true to myself — and the worst part is that I gave in to these times of peer pressure more often than not.

They say freshman year of high school is the easiest, but I disagree. My freshman year was marked by constant stress, as I tried to figure out my friend group, repeatedly argued with my parents about whether to continue volleyball and experienced many rejections with club officer positions and summer camps, all while trying to discover my passions. And it turns out that the decisions I made my freshman year have carried me throughout the rest of high school. I have stopped playing school and club volleyball for three years, and I’m not sure I can get back into playing the sport now that my skills are rusty and the field has become more competitive.

What I want to leave you with is that once you give in to peer or parental pressure, there may be no turning back. I think that’s what’s so scary about pressure: once you give your “yes,” it’s almost as if you’re relinquishing your sovereignty.

Don’t let what others say dictate your thoughts and actions. I know that is easier said than done, but once you learn to respect your feelings, saying “no” comes a lot easier. I feigned interest in STEM my freshman year, applying for the STEM class offered here at Lynbrook. But I also applied for The Epic that same year, and as you can already guess, I chose to pursue journalism for three years rather than reluctantly taking the STEM class.

My decision to join The Epic helped me realize that I am more interested in the humanities than STEM. My interests particularly lie in politics and government, and of course, that news came as a shock to my parents. Yet they eventually came around. The change of heart came only after my many discussions of American politics and local issues at the dinner table, applying for political internships and summer programs behind their backs, joining political clubs on campus and attending community events whenever I got the chance, such as naturalization ceremonies and court hearings. While I don’t condone all of my actions, my parents came around to support me because I sincerely and persistently showed them that my interests lay elsewhere.

The same goes for friends. If you sincerely demonstrate that your personal interests don’t align with theirs, they should understand, and if they can’t respect your decisions, they are not worthy of being your friends.

Next time you hear the phrase “just do it,” take a moment to pause and think about whether chasing after this “it” will benefit you. That is not to say that you always have to refuse your parents’ and friends’ propositions because after all, they probably have your best interests in mind. So as cliché as it may sound, do learn to respect your own thoughts because at the end of the day, you are the one who knows yourself best.