Not quite as Elizabethan as Williams Shakespeare’s To Be Or Not Be but a similar concept nonetheless regarding taking a stand in society. Peer pressure was once relegated to being a problem encountered by teens during their formative years when deciding the kind of personality they wanted to develop and live with.
Hilda* displays five different cards used to buy with credit from different clothing and department stores and explains the inherent need to fit in with certain people in society. “Each month, having to pay off all of these cards is a bit of a hassle, however, it is a lifestyle I have chosen and I have to maintain it.”
According to this beautiful young lady, she would rather starve for a week than not be seen at the Gaborone’s popular hot night spots donning the latest clothes while drinking the most expensive pink drinks with umbrellas. The motive one may ask? “To fit in, I do not want to be the weirdo that stays home and does nothing with their lives. Besides you never know whose paths you may end up crossing and ultimately catching and bagging one of Gabs’ most sought after bachelors,” she says with a giggle and shyly looks down at the prospect of finding love.
Consider the fitting in aspect; Shilagh Mirgain explains that the people we surround ourselves with have a major influence on how we feel, think and behave. And that can be a very positive thing. “I think of these people as being like bumpers in a bowling lane, making sure your choices are in alignment with your values and you don’t veer off track,” she says.
The lengths and breadths that a human being will go through to conform to the norms and expectations of their peers regardless of their age and social status sees no limits and many are often left with repercussion like swimming in debt, losing their own personal identities and personalities due to this mob psychology, a phenomenon indicating that the thinking of a crowd differs from and interacts with that of the individuals within it.
From very humble beginnings herself, Hilda explained that she was first introduced to the fast life of the city when she started her tertiary education. “My Clique consists of an investment banker, a dentist and a marketing executive. I am merely a programme officer at the Government Enclave.” Putting emphasis on the ‘just’, one cannot help but pick up an air of inferiority complex which is rife among young women thus leading them to question their co-existence within the circles they have seemingly aligned themselves to.
This line of thinking, however, leads to detrimental repercussions like debt, the loss of one’s identity and ultimately not progressing to their full potential as they are always hindered by what they perceive as superior qualities possessed by their peers.
Then arises the question: To be or not be? Is one going to conform to what is normal or expected or are they comfortable enough in their own skins to be the odd one out and be themselves regardless of their peers’ opinions? Since we do not exist in bubbles and we have to co-exist in the world it is imperative for one to be careful of whom they let into their lives and consider the amount of power they have in their life altering decisions.
For now Hilda continues to look forward to her Friday nights, even if it means taking out unnecessary loans to live the life which she perceives as the ‘perfect life’.