I would say that I’m quite lucky that up till now, I have never really felt the peer pressure to blend into the infamous drinking culture of England. And the fact that this hasn’t happened meant that I was definitely not prepared for the one glance that had made me feel an emotion I had feared from the beginning of this new journey.
From the start, from Fresher’s fortnight, it had been made clear that it is definitely a norm for teenagers (especially university students, and even more so, medical students) to drink sufficiently more than what would be considered a ‘healthy lifestyle’. I had always accepted it to be the culture, and simply enjoyed myself in the midst of the excitement of starting a new chapter in a new place. However, in events where alcohol had been involved, it had always been completely acceptable for me to drink as much as I felt comfortable with. No one had ever pushed me to do something that I didn’t desire to do. In the midst of the small bits of crazy, I had enjoyed myself.
But tonight, I had approached someone expressing my views, and instead of getting a ‘Yeah, it’s totally fine, just do what you’re comfortable with. It doesn’t really matter anyway, it’ll be fun!’, which I had accustomed myself with, I had received a look of judgement that had left me feeling completely dispirited.
The feeling of not belonging. The feeling of guilt for not conforming. The feeling of being different.
I had left the event almost confused at this unfamiliar feeling, and the moment I had stepped through the front door, I headed straight for my room, dropped my bags, and started this post. Thirsting to untangle my thoughts in this cyberspace where the contents of my mind can be poured out and clearly rearranged into tangible emotions.
As much as I would like to say that I’m completely comfortable in my own skin, there are often moments when I wished that it could be a breeze to easily fit into any crowd. It would almost be compared to being a chameleon, blending into every setting that they have as a natural skill, with the purpose of keeping themselves from harm. The social setting seems to somehow also call for a similar type of conformity, only to prevent our own ‘social suicide’.
But as I sit here wondering the infinite ‘what ifs’, I wonder why it is so hard for everyone to embrace each of their uniqueness when doing so is much easier than trying to fit in. There had been scientific studies regarding what is known as the ‘Chameleon effect’, the desire to mimic a peer in order to create a social connection by the means of discovering commonalities. However, the study also showed that there are certain situations in which the effect of mimicry had a negative effect instead of a positive one.
There are so many inspirational quotes that circulate our social media nowadays. Things like ‘why try to fit in, when you were born to stand out’ or ‘in order to become irreplaceable, one must be different’. Even the terminology of ‘hipster’ (although with varying meanings to each individuals), may indicate the benefit of embracing the good’s and bad’s of oneself in order to become the one and only you.
I started writing this blogpost this evening with a sinking feeling within me, a feeling of guilt and dejection. But just as writing is therapeutic as it is inspirational, I end this post to go enjoy some time doing something I feel comfortable doing, without a single hint of guilt for choosing otherwise.