One of my superpowers is that I have no clue what peer pressure is. I mean, I understand the definition of it. But I’ve never actually felt it. And that’s because I simply have never been willing to sacrifice myself to please others.
The first time I was offered a joint was my freshman year of high school. Just like you’d imagine it… a circle of kids, after school, passing around the joint. When it got to me, I thought “Oh god, this is THAT moment.” And as cool and casually as I could be, I said “No thanks.” And some one said, “ok.” And that was it. There was no cajoling or threatening of my friendship. They simply didn’t care. After that all I could think was that clearly “peer pressure” is BS. It doesn’t exist.
Welcome to present day, when I eat gluten-free and vegetarian. 100% – there is no wiggle room on those two requirements. I’ll eat my shoe before I eat meat or wheat. It comes up a lot when we travel and meet new friends. People kindly invite me or us out, and here we are, back to the high school joint moment. My husband recently mentioned that I do a great job of not budging on those boundaries and still being fun to be around. To the best of my knowledge I can think of exactly one person I never heard from again after one such invitation. In 10 years, I think that’s pretty good… So when I travel or meet friends out, how do I manage to eat my rabbit food and still be liked?
Step 1: Address the worst judgement they might have
Friend will propose a BBQ joint for lunch or invite me over for dinner. So the first thing I say is “I hate to do this, but I’m a real pain in the ass to feed.” BAM. I’ve let them off the hook for thinking I’m a pain in the ass. It’s an easy, light way to say “I know my needs are inconvenient and I hope you’re willing to work it out with me.” Sometimes it also gives people permission to speak their needs. I often hear “oh no problem, I have XYZ dietary things too.” Or “my kid is vegan / gluten fee / etc and so I’m happy to pick something else.” OR (and this one just happened) “I just thought that everyone wants BBQ when they come to Texas, but instead we can go to my favorite vegetarian restaurant.” HAHA!!
Step 2: Be clear where your boundaries start and end
By clearly communicating where your boundaries are, people are happy with the flexibility they find. After Step 1, I’ll say “I can’t eat meat or wheat, but I can eat anywhere that has vegetables.” So, if they really have their heart set on a steakhouse, that’s cool because those places have awesome sides. Mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, corn on the cob… sign me up. Or I can bring something. Or I can bring the whole freaking meal. And because I’ve set the bar real low… to be a real pain the in ass, all this vegetable flexibility makes me seem super easy to please.
This works with any and all boundaries.
It does require that you get clear on what you need and what’s important to you. Because if you’re not clear in your communication, people have to guess and assume and hope they get it right. And that is really a pain in the ass.
If you’re not naturally unconcerned about what other’s think, just try to care more about what you think of yourself. I think it might be the kind of thing that gets easier the more you do it. Give it go. Tell me what happens!!