So, your friends ask you to go out this weekend, and you know there will be drinking. Immediately, you feel a mix of emotions: Worried you’ll have some serious FOMO, especially with all the snaps you know they will post, and all the times to come when they’ll reminisce about those wildly fun nights that you couldn’t be a part of. Sigh. Yet, another part of you is already feeling guilty because of the five words your parents always said to you growing up, “God is always watching you.”
You tell yourself you won’t drink or do anything wrong, so it can’t hurt, right?
It’s one thing if you have someone in the same boat with you tagging along. You can soberly hang out together, no pressure. Or, if you are invited to something that isn’t so alcohol-centered like a game night, or adult bowling. But, being the only person at a party not drinking while all of your friends or coworkers are either dancing with their boyfriends, or with other guys, is not only not fun, but pointless. Some people might even say you’d be committing social suicide. And unfortunately in today’s reality, they’re kind of right.
It never ends up being just one time.
You’ll most likely feel super awkward, out of place, and like you’re being a downer on your friends for not doing anything “fun.” This will only make you feel pressured to do all the things you promised yourself you wouldn’t do just to avoid looking lame or ruining the fun. Peer pressure, it’s real.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s a lot easier to resist temptation when you don’t know what it is that you’re missing out on. So, if you try something and end up liking it, it will just be harder to avoid doing again. In other words, it never ends up being just one time.
That’s why simply being in this type of environment is a lose-lose situation. If you are trying to lay low and blend in, not participating at all is just going to make you stand out that much more.
I say this from experience. Going out almost every weekend was what all of my college friends did. And it wasn’t long before I ran out of excuses to tell them for why I couldn’t go out. I felt like I was growing distant from them because I was never part of their shenanigans.
I was so embarrassed, and just couldn’t wait to leave.
So, I would just say to myself, ‘What’s one time?’ Which resulted in a second, third and fourth time, and each experience always ended the same way: with stomach-turning guilt and overwhelming shame that I betrayed my parents, God, and myself.
I remember the first time I ever went out with my friends. It was to a party at one of their friend’s houses. The basement was where all the dancing was. Everyone was super drunk, all over each other, and it wreaked of sweat and alcohol.
I stood there awkwardly dancing, sometimes with my friends, and sometimes on my own if they were dancing with some of their guy friends.
Each time a guy would come up to me, or try to get behind me, I would say “Sorry, I have a boyfriend” as an easy way out. But one guy would just not let it go. He spent the rest of the night harassing me and pointing me out to everyone as the lame girl “who has a boyfriend” and won’t dance with anyone just because he was annoyed at being rejected. So much for laying low. I was so embarrassed, and just couldn’t wait to leave.
never trade your personal values or comfort for acceptance or freedom from judgment
And that’s to be expected when you are in this type of scene. Guys are super handsy, and they assume that every girl there is just asking for it, especially if they don’t already have someone’s waist to attach to.
In those moments, I would always ask myself, “If I’m not going to dance or drink, then why am I even here? Is my presence making that much of a difference? Am I enjoying myself at all?” And my paranoia made it seem like everyone around me was wondering the same things.
I’m lucky to have great friends who never pressured me to do anything I didn’t want to do, and were always supportive, respectful, and understanding of my lifestyle choices whenever I went out with them. That definitely made it easier. But not everyone is like that, and even if your friends don’t pressure you, someone else might. So, ask yourself beforehand, Would I be strong enough to say, No?
If you’re thinking of going out with your friends simply out of fear of missing out or upsetting them, but it just isn’t sitting well with you or your conscience, then you should do what feels right for you.
This also goes for work events, too. Whether it’s an office party or when coworkers are getting together for drinks, never trade your personal values and comfort for acceptance or out of fear of being judged by others.
I was only adding to the negative impressions people already had of Islam.
Stick to what you believe in, and don’t change yourself for the sake of fitting in to society’s standard of what is acceptable and what is not. Trust me, the people who matter, and that includes yourself, will respect you more for it.
We seem to forget this, but Muslims aren’t the only people who don’t drink. I have come across many non-Muslims who have made sobriety a choice, and they confidently stick to it. The difference is, that as Muslims we’re constantly feeling the need to blend in because of all the negative ways we already standout in society, and our identities end up getting lost in the crowd.
But don’t be just another Muslim who chooses to take the path of least resistance.
Stay true to yourself, and that begins with being honest with others. If you’re constantly beating around the bush and giving excuses for why you can’t go out to a bar or a party with your friends, eventually you’re going to run out of excuses, and look like a liar. Your friends will probably be more offended and less understanding than if you were just honest and straightforward with them from the beginning.
The real problem is that we make too many assumptions. We assume that our friends won’t understand or that it will seem lame instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt. After all, if we can’t open up and be ourselves with our friends, than with who? And we shouldn’t just expect others to understand a culture and religiously influenced lifestyle that’s so different from their own, no questions asked.
Surrounding yourself with likeminded, positive influences will help build your confidence and personal growth as you become more secure with who you are.
We tend to isolate ourselves in order to avoid these questions, situations, and pressures altogether, but making conscious decisions doesn’t have to equal complete social isolation. So, even if your friends or colleagues usually have a night out at the bar or a club as first preference for a Friday night, that doesn’t mean you can’t suggest other fun options that aren’t so alcohol-centric, like bowling or a paint night as I mentioned before. They might really like the idea, and even if they don’t, at least you tried. Sometimes, you have to take the initiative, and make the first step in building and sustaining healthy relationships with the people you care for, no matter what the differences are in your beliefs, cultures, and lifestyles.
And another thing, you should never use your culture, religion, or your parents as scapegoats to make it seem like you’re resentful of not being able to join in of the fun, and that you really wish you could do all of the things you say you can’t (I mean, only if that’s not actually the case). I was guilty of doing that one too many times, but I now realize that I was only adding to the negative impressions people already had of Islam. Good friends will appreciate your honesty, support your decision and make the going a whole lot easier. They might even find it admirable. And to any friend that doesn’t, well then, thank you, next.
“…being who you are IS the cool thing to do…”
It’s helpful if you try to meet people with similar interests and lifestyles so that you don’t feel as alone or isolated, especially if your attempts to socialize with your friends or colleagues just aren’t working. Surrounding yourself with likeminded, positive influences will help build your confidence and personal growth as you become more secure with who you are.
After all, the saying “you are who your friends are,” is truer than we often realize. If your friend is someone who is working on improving her deen, career, or body’s health and fitness, then chances are, it will inspire you to do the same. On the other hand, if your friend is someone who gossips a lot, is lazy, lacks ambition, and instead spends most of her time either drinking, doing drugs, or is constantly attached to a hookah, then chances are you will follow the same bad habits, too.
Anything that brings you closer to the person you are or who you aspire to be is always the way to go.
If you are to take anything away from this, it’s that being who you are is the cool thing to do, so don’t let anyone or anything make you believe otherwise.
Have you ever been in this situation before? How have you dealt with peer pressure? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!