Meeting the Standard: How Students Struggle with Social Acceptance


Social Standards              

School is a place where students come to learn and increase their knowledge, but it also comes with the social aspect between others. The goal of that is to be socially acceptable, as the stereotype goes. In other words, students (theoretically) have a set of requirements to meet in order to be accepted by a certain person or group. Generally, the basic conditions of this requires a type of clothing or different way of attitude. It depends on the other person’s interests and their culture whether it be sports or theatre. In reality, students certainly don’t have to meet these standards in every group, but in today’s world students may feel obligated to meet these social standards for full acceptance. 

Pleasing Others

The main point of this topic is that students involve themselves in the culture of others. Whether by wearing the same clothes, acting the same way, talking about the same thing, students often try to sometimes to earn trust from the people around by showing that they are similar to the people they are trying to join. They have the “urge to impress someone because it gives the person a sense of validation,” reflects an anonymous freshman. The point of this validation is to receive “external influence” amongst others rather than from self as it can affect the image of a person.

To further this sense of external portrayal, “most of their actions around certain people and changing who they are is rooted in the idea of self-image.” In other words, the new self image has become the self image for others in making them pleased by your choice to appease them. To put this into a stronger meaning “the feeling of impressing someone is equivalent to being addicted to a drug” as sophomore Laettner Goron says. “If that individual has some value to them then they would want to impress them so that they can also be recognized by those people.”

But does this mean this is a bad thing? No necessarily. There is a time and place for being involved in people’s culture, such as how senior Kayleigh Boardman expresses her group activity: “If I’m hanging out with friends from band, I’m gonna be more interested in music, whereas with friends from swim I’m more interested in swimming.” It can be very vital to change self image but sometimes it can be done to an unhealthy point when only doing it for someone excessively. 

Subconscious Adaptation

But why do we devote ourselves purposefully so much to something that might not amount to anything that benefits us? “Most of my behaviors are subconscious because I don’t realize it completely until I hang out with a particular friend,” Boardman shared about her experience. Sometimes the actions we do can be subconscious, done without much thought or intentionality. “lose track of themselves,” says an anonymous source, to the point where “they can forget or ignore certain responsibilities.” This idea in a broader sense is known as “code switching,” which is the automatic change in language and behavior depending on what group you’re with. This ranges from changing what language you’re speaking to adopting a different tone when you’re talking to a teacher compared to when you’re talking to your friend. Code switching allows us to effectively communicate in a way that matches the context of the situation, but, when taken to the extreme, the subconscious decisions we make as that steers us farther away from ourselves if we are constantly shifting our personality in order to be liked. By constantly placing what they believe someone else wants to hear from them ahead of their own needs and interests, students can fall into an unhealthy mindset.      

Learning to be yourself

The balance between these two goals–one, to behave in a way that is situationally appropriate and to make people like you and, the other, to maintain your own personality and interests, can be tricky to find. Of course “there are some social standards all students should abide by,” said Goron regarding his take. It is respectable and, for many students, helpful to dress up and prepare someone’s self to be presentable at school and other places. It’s a respect for other people, but of course there is a lot of room to be yourself, creating an opportunity for you to feel self-confident and productive. For social standards, eventually we learn to be ourselves rather than growing ourselves through other people’s wants and needs “we all have our quirks and hobbies,” as Boardman puts it. Through growth, people find that there is more than just appeasement of others, but they can show a difference to them, “I’ve become more confident with being different and bringing that difference to the table.” When it comes to senior year for a student that experience of the social setting can make an impact, “not everyone has to love me,” which reflects the subconscious trap that some students may find themselves in. By the end of it, some social standards make us grow. Even through pain and self isolation, we can improve ourselves. 


Social standards are just another way that defines us. It gives us motives to dress  the part and earn respectability from others, but of course it can go too far for some. Even within “dressing up,” this standard may encourage some students to be more self-confident, while others may only feel uncomfortable. This shows that it is essential for students to consider social standards through their own experiences. By conforming to expectations, are they able to grow, to feel better about themselves, and to be a better version of themselves? Or are they forcing themselves into an uncomfortable position which is only going to make them feel worse? The answer to that question can be difficult to find and is different for everyone. At its best, though that exposure to other people, can give distance from themselves, creating an opportunity for them to decide who they want to be. Eventually a person can learn to grow themselves when reflecting on their own and others needs. However, through our lives as we grow older “there will always be expectations,” that we have to deal with such as boss, parent, and authority’s expectations. Those are just simple things that we all must do, but it depends on how the mentality of the person and how they’ll motivate themselves. Senior Kayleigh Boardman reflects on social standards “As you grow older, you begin to form a healthy balance between caring for the individual and the group.” 

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