The effects that social pressures can have on students.


We have all experienced a time when we have either felt excluded or pressured to comply with standards that prohibit us from deciding on who we want to be. In every public school, a small town being no exception, lies the unwritten social standards that students are expected to acknowledge.

What makes high school a difficult environment to spend time in is the constant pressure hanging over the student body to look and act a certain way. These norms are often unspoken, but exist because students willingly and unconsciously accept them.

Social norms are expectations that can guide an individual’s behavior and people’s expectations on how to act in a specific environment, but also inhibit individuals from being themselves.

It has been proven, through numerous social experiments, that humans have a need to conform to what the majority of people around them are doing. Because of this, people can develop bad habits or engage in unhealthy activities simply because the people around them are doing so.

When everyone decides to act a specific way, comply to particular trends, and engage in certain activities, it’s easy for those that do not necessarily want to be like everyone else to suddenly become excluded.

For example, cliques often form from a group of people who share a common belief/interest, mutual friends, or social status that become inseparable which makes it difficult for other people to be accepted into a tight friend circle.

Cliques are a norm in schools as they were created to satisfy the human desire to belong, but also to destroy one’s confidence and contentment with themselves.

Handling the responsibilities of being a student is difficult enough and feeling pressured by social standards adds to the stress. It becomes so much more difficult when you are pressured to conform to the ways of those around you in this experimental stage of life.

The root of societal standards comes from our quickness to judge people who are even the slightest bit different from ourselves.”

— Molly Balison

It is obvious that popularity has superficial importance in a school’s environment and we tell ourselves that we are invisible if we are not ‘popular’ or that we’re the center of attention if we deem ourselves as a known figure.

It must be known that there is a fine line between confidence and haughtiness that can become blurred when one tries to uncover their identity.  

It is interesting that people say looks don’t matter, but if that were the case, we wouldn’t be trying so hard to appear flawless on social media, keeping up with the latest trends to avoid seeming out-of-the-loop, or changing our appearances to distract attention away from whatever we are insecure about.

The root of societal standards comes from our quickness to judge people who are even the slightest bit different from ourselves.

I had attended a private school up until freshman year so the drastic culture change was quite a shock for me. By stepping back and observing the culture of public school, for the short time I have been a part of it, I have learned that there are ways to peacefully oppose demeaning social standards.

The first, is to avoid being quick to judge despite our human nature to want to feel superior because when we judge others, we think of ourselves as being better than them. The next, is avoiding making comparisons between yourself and another because this crushes your self esteem. Another, is surrounding yourself with people who you don’t have to transform yourself for in order to feel accepted and who will make you a better individual. Most importantly, look at the bigger picture.

When we are all grown adults, no one will care what your social status was in high school. Five, ten, even fifteen years from now, you will be glad that you didn’t spend the majority of your high school years carrying the unnecessary burden of social standards.