Teens and preteens find themselves in situations where they must make important choices almost daily. They find themselves choosing between right and wrong actions and behaviors constantly. As young children, friendships were uncomplicated, and friends were chosen based on their likeability. But as children grow into teens, they find themselves becoming more selective about their associations, striving, at times, to please the wrong people for them, and ignoring friends who are good influences. Oprah has called this behavior ‘a disease to please’. Dark Joseph Ravine, who was on the Stories told by Friends Podcast, discussed his personal experiences with the challenges he faced as a teenager and how he was impacted by them. Ravine is founder of Kindness for Success, an online business and movement which seeks to bring kindness back into the world. Ravine discusses why being in the teenage stage is such a struggle and what teens and the people who love them can do to help them.
During the teenage years, we often feel that if we gain social acceptance from wealthy or popular people, we will boost our own social status, which will push us higher up the social totem pole. This is a natural teenage behavior. In most cases, however, it causes more harm than good when other people are hurt along the way. Ravine explains, “Most people who are seeking to climb the social ladder may not realize that others are being hurt by them. They may target others who are weaker than they are and bully them. They may resort to gossiping about others as a means of boosting their popularity. They may do things that go against their values to make other people like them. But would these higher status friends ever be there for the person in a pinch? Most likely not. As a teenager, I remember peer pressure very well and a friend of mine always used to ask, ‘What will these people do after they peer pressure you negatively? Probably nothing. They will pretend they never knew you. Teens do not realize that giving into peer pressure for social acceptance is not smart because those friends will inevitably leave if something goes wrong.” Social acceptance is not anything one should chase after, Ravine says.
Teens especially have a hard time making decisions, often prioritizing immediate gratification over longer term rewards. Teens want to be seen as someone special and with intrinsic value. However, they often chase after people they believe can give them this feeling. Ravine explains, “Teens are usually preoccupied with gaining the acceptance of the popular kids and often neglecting relationships with friends who really care about them. They fall for peer pressure and believe doing bad things will help them gain the higher social standing they seek. When teens are pressured into doing things which go against what they stand for, it is a major problem. We do not have to change ourselves to get people to like us.”
Ravine closes the discussion with words of advice for teens. He says, “Do not give into peer pressure because those people you want to impress will never care about you in hard times, they would only care about what they can get out of you. Stick to the friends and people who love you because those are the friendships which could last a lifetime. Remember, real friends would always have your back if you needed help. Do not try to be the cool kid if it does not come naturally to you. Embrace your social status, regardless of where you stand on the social totem pole. It is better to be respected for staying true to your intrinsic values than trying to look cool and doing bad things.” Ravine is a strong believer in being himself and not changing to find social acceptance. This is what he calls living a truthful and purposeful life.
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