Do you often find yourself doing things you don’t want to do because someone else has decided it’s what they want?
Maybe you’re forced to stay late – again – at the office, doing some mind-numbing task that is outside of your scope of duties. You’re frustrated because you know that it’s a task that should have been assigned to someone else. But you do it because you don’t want to rock the boat.
Or maybe you wake up in a strange bed – again – wondering why you’ve slept with that stranger. You’re not particularly attracted to them. You certainly don’t love them or want a relationship. You sit up, pulling the sheets over you, and just feel so empty inside. You didn’t really want to do it, but you couldn’t help yourself.
It’s like swimming against the current.
You talk a good game in your head, telling yourself just what’s going to happen, but when decision time comes, you melt. You falter. You give in.
Is it peer pressure? Or nerves?
Or is it something deeper? Do you really hate yourself and like suffering? Are you fundamentally afraid of rejection, so afraid that you’ll do anything to be accepted?
I was kind of an awkward kid growing up. I had a few friends, and I was extremely loyal to them. But I wasn’t what you’d call a social butterfly. I’d rather stay home and read my Hardy Boys books than go play basketball. I had friends and when I wanted to play, I’d play with them.
But you know how it goes. You go in different directions. When I was in ninth grade, I found myself hanging around a small group of guys who loved hockey. We would play knee hockey in this one kids basement all night. We had lots of fun.
But then one day I woke up and discovered that they had all turned on me. I had absolutely no idea why. I was a nice guy. I didn’t rock the boat or say anything mean. I just couldn’t understand this rejection, and it devastated me.
They started prank calling me and ordering pizzas to my house. I’d pass them in the hallways at school and just wanted to crawl into the nearest locker. It wasn’t that they wanted to beat me up physically, but it didn’t matter because the mental agony was so much worse.
Out of this rejection and darkness came a new direction. There was this kid, Bink, who was in my Spanish class, and for some reason he began to talk to me. Bink was one of those kids who everyone seemed to like. I wouldn’t say he was popular, but he was extremely easy to get along with.
Soon, I found myself surrounded by lots of really good people. They made me laugh a lot and introduced me to conversations and possibilities that I never thought I would be faced with – particularly drugs.
As tenth grade progressed, Bink and I became really close. I valued his friendship so much, because with him there was no rejection. I knew he was loyal to his friends. So when the drugs started to become more obvious, it became harder for me to say no.
I would be at his house after school, and he would break out a dime bag of weed. It made me nervous and conflicted. I wanted to “do the right thing,” but I also didn’t want to lose a good friend. So I began to smoke weed. Then it was alcohol. Then acid.
Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t the drugs that I was afraid of. Drugs and alcohol can be lots of fun, particularly mixed with really funny, talented people. It wasn’t my parents. Lord knows I put them through hell because I wasn’t afraid of them.
What I was afraid of, plain and simple, was rejection.
It was feeling alone and unworthy.
Peer pressure is nothing more than a deep desire to feel wanted and accepted.
As humans, we have a fundamental need to love and be loved. We are designed to live in community. We crave acceptance and validation. If we don’t get it at home, we’ll find it in friends. If we don’t find it in friends, we’ll find it in strangers. Or work. Or pleasure.
Right now, what is taking advantage of you? What puzzle do you desperately want solved but can’t figure out?
Who are you trying to please?
Do you work so hard out of a necessity to please your mother?
Are you sleeping with anyone and everyone to get the attention of your father?
A teacher in grade school who told you you’ll never amount to anything?
A minister who whispered “God will never love you?
Who are you trying to please?