Does Peer Pressure Keep Us From Succeeding?

A few years ago, I used to spend a lot of my free time with a small group of friends. We did a lot of things together – road trips, games, and so on – and I had a lot of fun with them. What I later realized after the group broke up, though, is that we were all keeping each other from being successful in life because we constantly imposed a pressure on each other to do things that weren’t leading to success.

Here’s an example: I’ve always been an avid reader of almost anything I could get my hands on. I feel, for a lot of reasons, that reading makes me a better person, yet for a long while I largely gave up reading because of the peer pressure within the group that reading was a bad thing.

Similarly, the group developed a belief that anyone well-dressed was not to be trusted, and dressing well was very much eschewed by the whole group. You wore blue jeans and an ironic tee shirt, or maybe khakis and a golf shirt if golfing was the activity, but anything more than that was a sign of mistrust.

The years I spent hanging out with this group were fun, but they set me back greatly. I spent several years with these guys disdaining things that I saw value in, and eventually it was that conflict (and the start of my own family) that more or less caused me to move on.

This is an obvious case, but I’ve come to observe that in many cases friendships and social interaction prevent us from making good choices.

Here’s another example. Not long ago, I was talking about an automobile purchase with an old chum of mine. During the conversation, he basically made the statement that his primary interest was getting an automobile that would impress “them,” with them referring to people he only vaguely knew in a social context. Reliability? Who cares! Gas mileage? Doesn’t really matter. What matters most is the vague possibility of impressing someone you barely even know.

I notice this trend in younger people as well. One teenage boy that I know is a fantastic and weirdly creative artist – he can draw these little quick sketches that remind me a lot of Edvard Munch. In fact, a few years ago I got him a big book of Impressionist art that he absolutely loved – he spent days poring over it and sketching things.

I asked him not too long ago how his drawing was going and he gave me a rather odd look with just a bit of pain in it. He told me that he loved to draw, but that everyone else – meaning both his family and all of his friends – thought it was kind of pointless. Instead, he took up playing basketball, something he is fairly skilled at but doesn’t have a burning passion for.

Peer pressure can be a dangerous thing, even in a subtle way.

You might watch the “big game” on Sunday just so you can talk about it around the water cooler on Monday morning, but deep down football seems boring to you. You might spend way too much on a gadget to impress your friends, but you barely use it other than to show off. You spend hours with your friends shopping for clothes and buying piles of them, but you just yawn and grab whatever’s handy in the morning.

Why do we do this? The easy answer is acceptance.

Almost all of us strive to be accepted by others and to have things in common with the people around us – it’s completely healthy and normal and we should strive for this to a certain degree.

The big step, though, is to realize that the only person that you fall asleep with and wake up with every night is you.

If you’re making choices that are drowning a passion of yours because of others, stop. If you’re buying things because others are convincing you to buy them, stop. If your image is your most valuable attribute, stop.

Instead, try these things for a while to see how they fit you:

Don’t spend a dime unless you see the purpose in it for you.

If you’re out buying a car, pick the car that’s right for you – you’re going to be the one driving it, making the payments, and looking at it far more than anyone else. If you’re going clothes shopping, ask yourself whether you actually need anything new in your closet.

If you’re passionate about something and really want to try it or explore it, go for it!

Don’t listen to the people surrounding you who try to poo poo what you’re most passionate about. Explore it, learn about it, and grow in it – don’t bottle it up because of what others say or think. This may lead you to making new friends and going new places, but that’s a good thing – it’s a sign you’re growing and understanding yourself.

Don’t make choices you know don’t fit you because you’re worried about the impression that it gives others.

As soon as you do this, you’re starting to pretend to be something you’re not, and the inevitable day when you have to remove that mask will be a painful one. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

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  1. Johanna says:

    So choosing a car to impress people you barely know is a bad thing, but choosing clothes to impress people you barely know is a good thing?

  2. Amanda D says:

    Great article. I think this is a very valid argument and the sooner we realize that we are sucked into that hole, the sooner we can break free from peep pressure.

  3. dave d says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It was especially like this with my high school friends. I find that my college friends are like this, but I’ve certainly allowed myself to be harassed for a night or two of not going out and partying (still in college) on a weekend if it means spending more time studying or doing something more productive – even if it’s just sitting around on the computer reading up on financial information or even sleeping; I then have that money to use later for something that is of more value to me than getting drunk.

    I think because I have this mentality now, it has made me look at my friends in a different way. My roommate, for example, works two jobs (about 40hrs/week) and has school as well. He’s making more money than I am making, and we both have virtually equal expenses since we live together (so our housing and tuition cost us the same) yet he manages to save very little. I on the other hand find myself with quite a bit of extra income to do whatever I want with – save, buy toys that i don’t really need like new computers, or something else like that – with only working 20-30 hours a week at a similar-paying job.

    Long story short, I think that a key to overcoming the obstacle of your friends ‘dragging you down’ so to speak is to not care what they temporarily say about your decisions if you know you’ll be better off for one reason or another because of it. You can always splurge on things like, for me, going out, every now and then to ‘keep them satisfied’ and stay ‘cool’ and accepted.

  4. jtimberman says:

    When people call into Dave Ramsey’s radio show to scream they’re debt free, he often asks if anyone made fun of them while they were doing it.

    Almost everyone has someone that made fun of them for being weird and getting out of credit card and car debt. In some cases people say this was discouraging, but they did it anyway.

  5. Trent – Interesting ideas. Re: being influenced by friends to buy things, spend money, etc. against your best judgement, I have a saying to share: “Remember, if you’re going to shop with friends, please shop responsibly and always appoint a Designated Cheapskate.”

    Stay Cheap!
    Jeff Yeager, The Ultimate Cheapskate

  6. Well said. I certainly fell into this trap a lot. I think I’m doing better now. I had to quit hanging out with some friends because they spent money like crazy and I want to get out of debt.

  7. I’ve recently been trying to put myself into “uncomfortable” situations. I don’t mean wedged between the desk and the wall (although I was there recently … but that’s another story). I mean agreeing to speak in front of people. Doing some freelance work. Negotiating. All things that I used to have trouble doing (and still do). I’m getting better at them and I’m getting better at listening to my own advice even when others are telling me it’s too risky.

    Reluctance comes from many places and peers are just one good example.

  8. Woody says:

    Sounds like you had dumb friends… and let them influence you more then they should have. I have a few different “groups” of friends, some of which had similar misgivings (in my case that people who didn’t wear “label” clothes were poor and/or un-cool). I didn’t change my behavior, my dress, or my spending habits because of them. After a short time they came to change their ideas on what was important and what was not.

    I think the real thing to take away is to do what you enjoy, and live as you want to. If people are going to judge you for something as stupid as what you wear or on how you spend your money, then they’re the loser… not you.

  9. The Super says:

    My grandfather has always been an interesting person to talk to. He has always been an investor and frugal person and somebody I look up to more and more as I get older. At Thanksgiving this year he reminded me of a quote that applies to this post… “People spend money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like”

  10. Heidi says:

    I think that there is something to this theory. I am actually working on a post on a similar vein.

    I used to work at a job were everyone looked the part of the a slick banker – designer clothes and brand-new luxury cars. I nearly killed myself trying to fit in.

    I’m in a job now where C-level executives tout the importance of saving for the future and being frugal. A lot more Hondas and a lot fewer BMWs in this parking lot – and a much better fit for me.

  11. Stephen says:

    What a great heartfelt post. I had a lot of friends in High School that were very superficial in this sense, and would make decisions based upon what the group thought was good to the group, not to the individuals…in fact I still have friends who are this way (mostly in spending all their free-time with video games or TV). It’s not just about cars, but it envelops almost everything you do or want.

    This really speaks to the dangers of groupthink, and I’m amazed to see it addressed here and happy it is.

  12. Ron says:

    Allowing peer pressure to cause you to make poor choices and poor decisions is called immaturity.

    Congratulations on making it to adulthood. I know some 70 year olds that haven’t made it yet.

  13. Tarits says:

    as usual, another great post Trent! This line resonated with me the most:

    Don’t make choices you know don’t fit you because you’re worried about the impression that it gives others.

    I am experiencing a very long bout of quarter life crisis, where I am perennially confused about what to do and what I really want to do for the rest of my life. Suffice to say this is a wake up call.

  14. Victor V. says:

    IF buying clothes will create a better image of you when it comes to things that matter to you, then yes.
    The thing is, if you have a burning passion for cars and race, buying a car that will increase your performance isn’t a problem. If you like more things known as “serious”, then buying clothes isn’t a problem either.
    The problem would be: you don’t mind the car and buy one to impress your neighbor or; buy uncomfortable clothes to impress say, a designer friend of yours.

  15. Mrs. Micah says:

    I think another thing that can keep us from succeeding is parental pressure. It’s similar to peer pressure–we’re nervous about letting down our parents’ expectations (or those of other older relatives and parental figures). So we take jobs we don’t like or we don’t take chances. My parents are good people, better than most, but I still feel some pressure–and Micah feels even more pressure to be a “good provider.”

  16. Jim says:

    great post. this sort of realization is what has changed my life.

  17. Debbie M says:

    I long ago realized that I do best when I surround myself with the kind of peers that give off the kind of peer pressure I want. I’m not strong or charismatic like Woody–in a contest, the person more likely to cave is me, not the other person. (At least when I was a camp counselor, being a good example didn’t make my scrooge co-worker any more cheerful, and after a while I found myself wearing out.)

    The other side of the story is that lots of times my friends talk me into trying things I would never have thought of trying on my own which I turn out to really like. This is especially probable when you are bored all the time or when you are single and trying to meet people. You just get much more open about trying things out.

    It’s interesting that people are noticing all kinds of other bad pressures too beyond peer pressure. I think sometimes these pressures can even keep you from realizing what you’re passionate about, as you just go around doing what you’re supposed to.

    Johanna, good point. But there is a book called Dress for Success and (probably?) no book about driving for success, so these probably really are different (with some exceptions, like real estate agents probably can do better by driving their clients in something halfway impressive than in a reliable beater.) And there are other things like showering to impress (or at least keep from offending) random strangers that most would agree is a good idea, even though it costs money for that soap and shampoo.

    Jeff Yeager, your saying cracked me up.

  18. Lizki says:

    Thanks for making sense!

    I’ve sent this post to my 16 year old brother; who knows… he may read it. Ahhh, teenagers!

  19. sandycheeks says:

    I’ve been looking for a post like this!

    I was a part of a SAHM club and joined the board b/c I like to get involved. Turns out that the meetings were always at a restaurant and were just an excuse to have an evening out without the kids/DH. Since eating out wasn’t in the budget for us, I attended but basically sat there while everyone ate.

    Most of their activities were at places with an admission fee. Since I was really looking for some no-cost fellowship and and this wasn’t it, I quit the club.

    It’s no surprise to me that very few of the members keep in touch.

  20. Dee says:

    Good post, Trent.

    I noticed that going to college with a bunch of rich kids changed how I spent my money. The bargain shopping I once prided myself disappeared in favor of looking for name brands to fit in. It was silly and I am glad I have broken away from that mentality.

  21. Anna says:

    Hmmm…I sense an organic link between the views expressed in this excellent post and the comments on buying “It” toys for our children. In both cases, groupthink.

  22. Paul K. says:

    Well said, Trent. I believe that as we mature we have to take a look at the people we’re connected to and decide which relationships deserve an investment. Often, this leads to difficult choices, because family can hold you back just as much as friends. I like the term “naysayers,” because it accurately describes what these people say to you to keep you where they want you to be.

    In her book, “There is Nothing Wrong with You,” Cheri Huber says there is no such thing as “constructive criticism.” This is just a term used by people who want to beat you up and at the same time tell you it’s for your own good. In my experience, a lot of what you describe as peer pressure comes in the form of constructive criticism.

    Also, Christine Kane had a nice post in her blog on why we hang onto things. She relates clutter to guilt, and I think she’s right on target. Perhaps the same is true with regards to relationships. We hang onto relationships we should let go of because we’d feel guilty if we moved on.

    Anyway, nice post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  23. dong says:

    I think peer pressure can be a great thing as long as you’re hanging out with the right people. As Warren Buffet says associate people who are your bettors, and you’ll pick up good habits. Like most things in life, peer pressure can cut both ways. Peer pressure can just as easily lead to academic success as it can lead to drug use.

  24. Thomas says:

    Just watch how those most succesful behave – usualy lacking morale, asocialistic,… – and that’s why they win.

  25. STL Mom says:

    I’ll never forget the day my husband came home from work (on Wall Street) and said, “How come we’re the only people I know who don’t have a weekend house?”
    Of course I could have named dozens of people we knew who didn’t have a weekend house, but it seemed more useful to remind him that his secretary and her husband spent every weekend of the winter working on their house so they could rent it to other people in the summer to pay the mortgage.
    We’ll be moving in a few months and my mom said, “Make sure your kids aren’t the poor kids in your school or they’ll want things you don’t want to give them.” I hate to admit she’s right, but it makes sense for all the reasons mentioned in this post.

  26. Mrs. Micah says:

    It’s sad, STL Mom, I was one of the poor kids in my class (even though we were comfortably middle class) and it sucked. Left that school after 4 years.

  27. BigRed says:

    Good post. Peer pressure doesn’t ever seem to let up, does it? But, you can “cheat” a little. For example, you can find perfectly good “pre-owned” clothing at consignment shops or thrift stores (I just got a lovely wool suit, still bearing the tags from Britches Great Outdoors, that will be very appropriate for meetings and church; also got a J Crew cashmere turtleneck sweater, 2 pairs of jeans, plenty of plain all-cotton turtlenecks from LL Bean, Lands End, and a great 4-in-1 parka from Columbia, all at the local Goodwill). It does take some looking–I usually check out the Goodwill or Purple Heart stores a few times a month, and I do have to check under STRONG light for stains, rips (which I can repair) and other signs of wear, but if you are diligent, you can find great buys. Then, it;s a matter of not bragging of your stuff to the sort of people who look down on frugal folks.

  28. Awesome post! Frugal Bachelor was once involved in a hobby which was very expensive, where popularity and respect were basically dictated by how much one was willing to spend. Frugal Bachelor had tons of friends but was also burning money big time, for that reason he had to ditch his friends because it was not financially sustainable. Now he is thriving financially.

    But it is not so simple – now he doesn’t have those friends any more. Although one could argue that they were superficial, there is no question that it was exciting and something was lost in his life by ditching everything. Is his life better off now? No question, but he also needs to do better on “money/life balance” and that WILL require spending more money than he’s currently spending.

  29. Ashley says:

    The trick is to imagine that everyone else is stupid. It’s fantastic. You stop caring what everyone else thinks because they’re stupid anyway. :-D

    I’ve thought like this for as long as I can remember. And it’s not that I tell others they are stupid. And I’m not mean. I just know that no one else’s opinion of me matters – unless of course I’m trying to get a job, then I might dress a little nicer!

  30. JB says:

    I’ve found it becomes easier with age to push away peer pressuer and do your own thing.

    It’s like that saying ” Those that matter won’t mind and those that mind don’t matter!”

  31. Rachel says:

    Peer pressure, and pressure from others is a constant. My husband feels this and responds to it more than I do. I am comfortable in my own skin. Take my church for example, it is a great church, teaches the word of God, but there is a lot of the living in the right neighborhood, wearing the right clothes, jewelry, driving a new car, etcc. I have not had a new dress in 4 years, except for one I found at goodwill. Most of my lifestyle choices go so far against the grain. My sister came by yesterday and asked why I had clothes on the line. “To dry.” She also loves to make fun of me for using coupons,etc.. Oh well, I have a feeling that most of these folks are truly miserable if you knew the truth.

  32. Steve W says:

    Agree with JB — the older I get, the less I care.

    But, I will say this, I was one of the “poor kids” at my comfortable, suburban high school, the kid with the blue-collar dad and mom who got pregnant after high school (with me). All my friends had parents who were college-educated professionals. Then I went to a small, private college, with kids who were **much** wealthier than mine, many of whom graduated from elite private high schools. Always I was the poor kid (though I was economically average compared to everyone outside of my schools). This brought out my competitiveness. The were wealthier, but they weren’t smarter (well, not usually) nor would they out-work me (not usually…). I think being in this situation made me a more ambitious person, gave me something more to reach for. And maybe those were shallow reasons, but in the end, I feel strongly that I’m the better for it. And now, oddly, I don’t much care about the comparison, perhaps because I have achieved more than I expected, or perhaps because I’m older, and am “there” and don’t notice anymore.

  33. Sarah says:

    Agree with everything, just an aside:

    Edvard Munch… soooo a century ago. As an art student, I hate talking to the “average Joe/Jane” about art, because they only bring up a) Van Gogh or one of his peers, b) Munch/the “Scream” guy,” c) Andy Warhol, or d) Jackson Pollock. I respect all those artists as masters, but I am so tired of hearing people talk about them, because it’s all the artists they can name!

  34. rob says:

    Good article. Yes, peer pressure is definitely something to be avoided, and it takes a strong person to act on his best interests, even if it is the unpopular thing.

    You can also use friends and peer pressure to your advantage by being the one exerting peer pressure towards good habits. For instance, I would often recommend good books to my friends, and kind of influence the group away from pretentiousness and having to impress others, while making frugality the ‘cool’ thing.

    I’ve also learned quite a bit from my friends, so in my mind, friendships and social interaction can be a good thing. A positive peer pressure in the right direction can be rewarding and beneficial.

  35. Ryan S. says:

    I agree; there is also such a thing as positive peer pressure. I don’t think I’d have made it through graduate school without that.

  36. tightwadfan says:

    SO true. Even if your peer group is supportive, and if you are a naturally frugal person, if they all wear nice clothes, have nice cars, etc., after a while it can lead you to overspend to keep up, or keep your budget but just feel really unsatisfied with your own stuff. I was also one of the poorer kids in school and know how that can be.

    My husband’s best friend wasn’t good with money to begin with, my husband was trying to help him out, show him how to get out of debt. Then he started dating a girl from a different (higher-income) background, with high-spending friends (the kind of person who grew up thinking it’s perfectly normal to spend $30 on a bottle of shampoo). She made him switch from Old Navy to Abercrombie. They sold her $120,000 condo and bought a $330,000 townhouse. (the condo was “too small”. For 2 people!) They bought 2 new cars.

    All the while my husband kept trying to encourage his friend to live within his means. The friend just married that girl. We consider him lost to good sense. They are going to live the rest of their lives financed by credit. Their idea of frugality is to open a HEL and use it to pay off their credit cards. “Then we have 30 years to pay off the HEL and we can deduct the interest.” If disaster strikes, his wife’s daddy will bail them out.

  37. Workinprogress says:

    Seems to me that the bettr quality items also tend to be the “IT” items. Consumer Reports rates the Apple Nano very highly. Why waste $’s on items of lower quality?

  38. Tim says:

    I wish I could read all these comments, but I’m supposed to be working… anyway interesting post, it made me think.

    I was always a sort of lone wolf, so I wasn’t affected as much by peer pressure but the point being made seems to be contrary to that classic tale, A Christmas Carol. The whole article could easily have been written by a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge.

    My girlfriend has lots of friends and it seems she spends 80% of her money, and whatever she can get out of me (stone that I am) into impressing her friends. She is sinking deeper and deeper into debt!

    The moral of my comment is to practise moderation.

  39. Amy says:

    Peer pressure comes in so many forms. Peer pressure for me doesn’t come from my friends love for designer labels, it comes from friends (mostly artists) who look down on people that wear designer clothing. Everything should be vintage and unique, you should be unique or you’re just like everyone else. That’s pressure.

    Peer pressure (although not peers) comes from parents. As you get older (mid thirties) your parents ARE more like peers. The pressure now is to have kids. It’s hard to separate yourself, your thoughts, your wants, when people you love an respect want something for you (for them) so badly. When I think of having kids, do I want it for them or for me? It’s hard to tell.

  40. Heather says:

    Hi Trent, Love the post! Wish more people would speak up about such things. Like you, I hung out with a group of friends while in my mid-20s that well, for a lack of better words, shrunk my world. We did everything together, and normally I’m a person with a variety of groups of friends. Thank God, I started dating a man that went against the group, which also helped me to see the light. Things got even “worse” for the group and better for me when I decided to do more of my usual and also traveled abroad for a while. It was the best trip of my life! As for the guy, he didn’t make the cut but I’m glad to know him.

  41. Paul says:

    Outstanding post as with many of your posts. I am impressed by this blog – it encourages folks in a good way. Too many people fail to completely grow up and become comfortable with themselves, seeking admiration and comfort in all the wrong forms/places. It is better to live for a higher purpose, and you may truly be content.

  42. Peter says:

    I think that you are always influenced to do things to fit in with those you hang around with, even if you are in a positive group. For example, two of my friends have gotten new vehicles this year, which I frankly envy both in their choice of vehicles and their ability to pay for them without impacting them finacially. It has triggered a strong response in me to buy a newer vehicle to match them, probably because I’m planning on replacing my 12 year old vehicle with a newer one in the next year or so and seeing theirs makes me want one now. I think the difference between today and ten years ago, is that I can acknowledge the feeling, know where it comes from, and deal with it without altering my plan. I’m still a bit envious, but I can acknowledge my friends good choices and strive to be in a similar position in the near future. It also helps that I’ve got friends who aren’t particularly interested in the kind of car I drive or home I live in and so the pressure is mostly self imposed. But it’s always there, and you should always recognize it, both good and bad.

  43. Jake says:

    I noticed that you didn’t mention faith in this article which can be a GREAT thing that is hindered by group think.

    One thing that I realized is that most of my friends that acted similarly to yours is that once someone broke the barrier everyone else followed. They may make fun of you at first but if you are yourself and confident they will soon follow your lead.

    I don’t think you have to stop hanging out with certain people because they have different outlooks in life- as long as everyone is comfortable with themselves they will tend to judge others less.

  44. Ria Kennedy says:

    It’s been shown that our habits are all influenced by those around us. So choosing your associates is a matter of survival. But some of it goes to how you value yourself: in healthy relationships people aren’t carbon copies of one another.

    I hope your post helps those in need find their unique self-worth, and to encourage them to set their own values and standards through their own internal processes and not solely through the eyes and mouths of their friends.

  45. Laura says:

    This is a great post. This has gotten me into major trouble. To the point that 20 some odd years ago, I married one of the peers. Some people do not outgrow this. I must have this or I am nothing. Meanwhile, after being a middleaged single parent, and digging out of a mess leftover from some 20 odd year marriage, I am happy to be nearly debt free. It’s hard trying to explain to your children, why do we live this way and dad doesn’t. One is on his own now, and understands. Thanks mom for encouraging me to never go into debt.

    It’s interesting also, that I have started to date again, and still find the same type of people out there. They have been nice, but don’t understand my self imposed limits on spending and going out. I don’t judge them on how they choose to live, but they have been rather judgemental of me. Oh well, I will keep looking.

  46. Shay says:

    I find I did the same, I was buying things to keep up with the jones and then I realized I wasn’t happy with what I had and where i was….My “friends” soon disbanded when I said no to going out and buying expensive stuff I just didn’t need anymore…now I have a close small group of friends that support me in my endevours to be debt free and finacially secure….and no we don’t keep up with the joneses…the closest we come to that is what great baragains we find at the local op shop!

  47. ammb says:

    peer pressure comes from family, too. far more difficult to get rid of family than friends.

  48. Jen says:

    Interesting…I wonder what separates peer pressure from peer motivation? One’s reaction to those peers, perhaps.

    My heart twists for your teenage artist friend. I was always very good at math and science, but those disciplines didn’t sufficiently inspire me. (I chose to pursue theatre instead.) Oh, the time I’ve spent wishing I could want to be an engineer!

  49. turbogeek says:

    Trent,

    Wow — that is an impressively insightful post.

    Jen: What a wonderful turn of phrase, and highly insightful as well; “Oh, the time I’ve spent wishing I could want to be an engineer!”

    What you are good at, or what you are capable of (like overspending on something that your friends like to spend on), should never dictate your activities (Plato be damned). I agree with you wholeheartedly. Your passions should dictate your resources. You have to be good with who you are. Be comfortable in your own skin.

    Knowing that I can pay cash for my kids’ college; knowing I can walk out of work today and not bat an eye or disrupt any other fiscal plans for years; knowing I have the fiscal resources to weather any storm; or simply knowing I can retire securely at a young age; that is the stuff that drives my passion. Those idiots who often pose as friends can be driven by the external, but anyone who visits this page often has already made a decision to be driven by a more legitimate sense of self worth.

    It’s not about the money I save, nor the things that money can buy. It’s about the choices I can make for myself and my family because the money is there.

  50. Allie says:

    Turbogeek: the last two sentences of your post are the best thing I’ve seen in at least a month.
    Trent: what an excellent post! Thank you for writing it!
    I was always the “poor kid” no matter where I was, so the pull to feel like I was “good enough” has always been very strong. In the past few years, however, I’ve come to realize that the “I need a brand name ___” was a justification fueled by that fear of inadequacy, rather than actual need. As soon as I became more comfortable with myself, “people” stopped judging me.

    BTW: What really forced me to re-think my attitude was my former roommate, who surpasses her sales goals month after month, year after year. The woman could sell ice to Inuits. Does she always look nice and well put together? Of course-she’s in sales. But her closet is filled with clothing — *none* of it brand name, *all* of it purchased at clearance sales, thrift stores, garage sales and ebay. Two of her best purses are from a drugstore. I’m not kidding.
    Whatever you’re going for, you win it from the neck up.

  51. There’s been peer pressure in our lives, but mostly from the side of my husband, who has had old friends since elementary school whom he hangs out with to this day. But in dealing with one person in this group of friends, you’d think you’re dealing with any one of the others since they are very similar people, almost with strangely similar personalities. The good thing is that they are very upstanding people who respect boundaries and each others’ privacy /decisions made in life. A little peer pressure occurs in the form of “keeping up with the Joneses” but it’s not too pronounced. We’re very happy about our friends but you are right, peer pressure can be great and exert a big influence in your finances and life.

  52. huna says:

    Peer pressure can be much better handled if you do have SOME friends who share your own money values and attitudes – that way even if one particular group of friends is more spendthrifty than you may be, its manageable and may even be a kick to get to hang out with people who are so different if you have some sort of support system in place. If you’re overwhlemed by peer pressure because ALL your friends are spendthifty, then maybe its time to find another group who you can be more comfortable with.

  53. Shek says:

    Trent,

    This is a really good article. I have a story too. A year back, I bought a fairly nice four door sedan, brand new at a great price and a good interest rate. It has all the luxuries I can afford and coming out of the dealer, I knew that I had the most bang for my buck.

    I have a close friend who grew up around high end german luxury cars and immediately pointed out non-parallel lines and minor squeaks and stuff. For a while, I did not think too good about my car till recently, I drove a smaller rental sedan and knew exactly how much better my own car was.

    The truth is that I have a very nice car that is professional, reliable and good on gas. Now, I can take his criticism and turn it around and not let it affect me.

    This brought me to think how much of an influence a few comments were on my thinking. I am an engineer like to tackle issues very objectively. Looking back, I can see a few other decisions that were heavily biased on my friend’s decisions. I do try to think for myself but the truth is that friends do influence you.

    The only way out is to have the right friend circle. You are what your company is.

  54. Elizabeth says:

    I once got an essential piece of advice from an old man: “Choose your friends the way a man chooses his wife.” It’s true. Friendship is seen as such a casual thing, but it can have a huge impact on how you see yourself and the world. An unhappy marriage makes an unhappy life, and unsupportive friends make for wasted time.

    I recently had to re-evaluate all of my friendships with other people, do some painful self-assessment, and see how little most of them cared about me. It was difficult but worth it–and now I can see that they’re not all bad people and I’m not some poor widdow victim, but it’s best that we not have contact and move on.

    And speaking of all this brand-name kind of stuff. I met a group of people recently, each of them dressed very gothic-like with a bunch of piercings, dyed hair and tattoos. And let me tell you, they were worse than cheerleaders, in terms of superficiality and judging people. It was astonishing: anyone who looked different from them just had to be stupid, or a total conformist (snigger), or…It was pretty awkward, as I look pretty square, and am reserved, which they seemed to view as an affront to them. Don’t think it’s just cushy suburbanites who do this!

  55. scath88 says:

    This is a great post! I wish I had read this several years ago, when I found myself at a crossroads. It took me a long time to leave a lucrative job that I hated, mostly because I was worried about what other people would think. And even after I worked up the the courage to leave and pursue what I loved, I had to deal with a lot of naysayers, in the form of my peers and loved ones.

    If you aren’t careful, peer pressure (and family pressure) can destroy your life. I’ve seen it happen to many young professionals. Striving to “fit in” or keep up with your peers will eat at you, and it’s possible that you’ll never be happy because there’s always someone who’s richer or better or smarter than you.

    I hope this post helps people to free themselves from unhealthy group mentalities and learn to value themselves as individuals. And if your friends give you s*** about pursuing a different path, then they weren’t really your friends in the first place.

  56. moneymonk says:

    A real friend will not make fun of you. If so they were not your friend to begin with.

  57. MoneyEnergy says:

    Nicely said…. it makes me think, though, peer pressure doesn’t only exist for kids… adults have their own ways of shooting down anyone who steps away from the herd. I think it all comes down to living authentically, which is just what you’ve said.

  58. Leslie says:

    While I agree that one reason for this behavior is for acceptance, I also think that some is for the comfort of not having to challenge yourself. It becomes a convenient excuse why we can’t change our habits.

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