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How to Avoid Compromise: The Peer Pressure Never Ends

Aren’t we all just bundles of nerves? We feel so many stimuli surging into our bodies: the soft brush of a person, the accidental mark of a pencil, the cool kiss of a raindrop. All of these prompt action either in stepping back or nudging closer, erasing away or scribbling on, and seeking shelter or smiling skyward. While we react almost effortlessly to physical impulses, we struggle to respond to the pressures that our nerves cannot detect. Cultural, ancestral, and societal influences shape our actions, thoughts, and beliefs sometimes without our recognition or permission. But change is not always bad. Some communities want to see us flourish, but others want to see us assimilate. Individuals should strengthen their emotional and intellectual nerves in order to categorize their responses to stimuli as either growth or compromise.

While some of us easily discern the intentions of those around us, others battle a low sensitivity. I am often told that I am too apologetic, too easily swayed, or too gullible. Unfortunately, calluses only form after continual rubbing, chafing, and pinching, and in the same way, self-protection often only develops after pain. After relationships have hurt us, we typically realize that we gave others too much power over our decisions and identities. Ironically, sometimes recognizing strong opinions comes from following strong opinions. I am a naive person, and this has never changed. What has changed in my life that affects how I respond to pressure is my friends. My family and friends warn me when other relationships contain disagreeable, or even impossible, standards. In order to identify community-imposed stimuli, we must first recognize that positive and negative influences exist and subsequently lean on the healthy relationships in our lives to combat the overpowering ones.

The goal of pressure is to change someone. Change can positively develop us or mold us into submission. To categorize pressure, we must reflect on our own personal beliefs and opinions. What do you truly believe? We all have certain values that if compromised will contradict our identities. My religion forms a key element of who I am. For me, pressure to abandon my beliefs negatively coerces while anything that supports it positively guides. Pressure can be a cast that causes a bone to heal correctly or it can be a blade that breaks the skin.

In my experience, a vital step in responding to coercion has been recognizing that communities can either grow or undermine our individual principles. Healthy relationships reinforce the parts of us that should not alter while simultaneously encouraging the elements of us that have room for growth. Community can be a crucial key to not conforming to manipulation or intimidation. Ultimately, how we respond to community-imposed pressures should depend on if the change will disfigure our identities. We should protect our identities by allowing guidance from those who care about us and truly support our various quirks and individuality. A true community sends out stimuli that guide us down paths of growth and away from roads of compromise.

Hey! My name is Lydia Goff. I am a first-year at Duke and plan to double major in English and Biology in order to pursue a career in science writing. I was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin but raised primarily in the Charlotte area.
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