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Suffering under peer pressure? || IIT Bombay (2022)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

9 min
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Questioner (Q): Man is typically a social animal who seeks to coexist with the society around him. I am a vegan but many people around me are not, and that creates a difficulty for me. I want to speak out my thoughts on animal cruelty and get into animal activism, but as I am already perceived as an outcast by friends and family, there is fear that if I honestly express myself, I may move even farther away from being accepted by them. This fear stops me from doing what I really want to do. How can I be free of this fear?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Let me understand what you are saying. You are saying you love animal activism but you cannot openly speak of it because of peer pressure. Is that what you are saying?

Q: If I express my thoughts and get into animal rights activism, I am afraid that I will be judged even more because I am not doing the kind of activities that my peers are into. That fear stops me from moving forward.

AP: See, this is the typical nature of the ego mind: it wants to change things with the things remaining within its old unchanged structure or paradigm.

Let me explain. So, you have a structure, and what is that structure? You are there and you are surrounded by your peers, your friends, your family, your social media network. That is what surrounds you, right? Now, you want to bring about a change. What is the change you want to bring about? In the middle of this structure, there is you—you who is not an animal activist currently, right? You want to change the center. You say, “I am not an animal activist, but I think it is the right thing to do. So, I will be an animal activist. I will change. I will change the center.”

Even as you want to change the center, you want to keep the entire structure intact and unchanged. You want to say, “My friends will continue to be the same. My peers will remain the same. The ones I speak to and share thoughts with will remain the same. All that will remain the same. With all that remaining the same, I will change.” Now, how is that going to happen? Do you really want to change, or are you conspiring against change?

Q: No, I want to change.

AP: If you want to change, then why do you want to keep the structure intact? How many people do you know of? Maybe twenty, maybe two hundred, maybe two thousand—that is the upper limit, right? Why must you speak of cruelty towards animals and other things that are valuable to only these twenty or two thousand people? The world has eight hundred crore people, but you want to retain this little group, this little gathering, this coterie of twenty or two hundred. Why do you want to retain them? Because you are identified with them.

But the thing is, if your surroundings and your meta-structure remains the same, then you too will remain the same. That structure will not allow you to change. It is these very people who are so aversive to listening to anything worthwhile that they have struck fear in your mind. Your cause is worthy, you are standing for something worth it, but see how afraid you are. You are saying, “I cannot open up in front of them.” Think of the quality of these people that you cannot open up on worthy topics in front of them.

Q: They will mock me and…

AP: Yeah, of course they will mock you. They will jeer and sneer at you. But if that is the quality, my question to you is, why do you want to retain them? Why exactly do you want to talk of these important things to only this small group of people? The world is a playground. I am not saying that you break up with them or you just kick them away, nothing so dramatic. But the right things must be done at the right places. Are you a student?

Q: Yes sir, I am pursuing my MBA in IIT Bombay, first year.

AP: So, you are pursuing an MBA. Do you start talking of Normal and Poisson distribution with your family, with your aunts and uncles? Do you talk of these things to them?

Q: No.

AP: So, everything has a right place. If you don’t do it or take it up at its right place, then you don’t want to do justice to that thing, right? Would you sit with your mother and discuss Kotler? You won’t do that, right? And then come complaining that “My mother doesn’t appreciate Kotler!” That is not the place where these things ought to be taken up.

So, don’t be so particular about moving only within your pre-existing circle. If your cause is worth it, show some courage and move out. If you have a tender and precious sapling in your palm, would you plant it in a desert? No, you will search for the right place to plant it. So, search for the right place, where people are receptive to your thoughts, ideas and actions. Start there.

Q: I want to know whether the diet we follow, be it vegetarian, non-vegetarian or vegan, has any connection with our mind. I have become a vegan after coming in contact with you, but I want to know how our diet impacts our mind.

AP: The connection is the other way around. Your mind decides your diet. So, when you look at your diet, you come to know of your mind.

A lot of people talk of the impact of the diet on the mind. I don’t think that is a very useful way of looking at it. When you look at your diet, it is not your diet you are looking at; it is your mind you are looking at. A diet is a choice, right? The chooser is the mind. Just like all your choices, what you eat reflects who you are. So, use your diet to know yourself.

Q: How do I overcome my insecurity issues with my dear ones?

AP: You don’t need to overcome the insecurity. You need to overcome that which causes the insecurity. Indeed, the relationship is not very solid. Surely there is something in the relationship that you have to worry about because you are talking of your dear ones and you are insecure with respect to them. Why must that be the case?

So, there is a near, dear, and intimate person, and you are saying that you are insecure. But why? What is the foundation of the relationship? Why do you think that your so-called near ones can drift away or that the relationship can be strained? Surely the relationship is founded on some conditions. Why must those conditions be there? Why must there be demands and expectations?

Insecurity is there only when you want to clutch something, hold it very tightly. Insecurity is there only when there is a desire in the relationship; and desire, as you know, is self-centered. So, are you relating with the other for your personal gain, pleasure, or happiness? Then does the relationship have much substance at all? And if it does not have much substance, what is it that you are trying to secure?

Your mental model is: “I have an important and worthy relationship; therefore, I feel insecure and threatened.” It is a tempting model. “I have something that is valuable. As it is valuable, I feel afraid that it might be lost or taken away or broken. After all, it is valuable, so it deserves some security.” But if you look closely at your model, then there are problems.

If the thing is really valuable, then it has strength. What else is anyway valuable in a relationship? On the one hand, you are saying the relationship is valuable; on the other hand, you are saying it is fragile and vulnerable. These two don’t go together. If it is valuable, then it cannot be vulnerable. And if it is vulnerable, prone to influences, to conditions, to the changing weather, to mood swings, then what value is there in it anyway?

Bring real values to the relationship. See whether you can relate to the other not for personal benefits, not because you are used to some other person, not because there is a relationship of blood and name and body. See whether it is possible to relate to the other in a very free, open, and healthy way. The more freedom and health there would be in the relationship, the less would be the insecurity in it. Conversely, the presence of insecurity in a relationship does not tell about its value or worth; instead, it tells only of lack of health.

If there is fear, possessiveness, greed, expectation, attachment, or jealousy in a relationship, all this does not mean that the other means a lot to you, and therefore you are possessive or worried or envious. It merely means that you are probably just using the other to satiate your personal instinct or desires, whether consciously or subconsciously. It merely means that you are using the other as an object to consume, and it merely means that you will not be willing to give freedom to the other. You depend on the other for your material welfare—how can you let the other go? And since your material welfare is at stake, you are insecure.

Try questioning the very basis of the relationship. Probably you will find that your insecurity is reducing.

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