Peer pressure probably has been around since the beginning of time. Humans are basically social people and need to be around other people, at least part of the time. That creates an environment for peer pressure to occur.
Peer pressure is not isolated to teens. Peer pressure happens in adults also. Social media is no respecter of persons when it comes to peer pressure. From moms seeing other moms raising their kids and feeling pressure to keep up, to guys seeing what other guys are driving, lifting, etc., to teens struggling with body image. The reality of social media is that people only post their best. Nobody sees 90% of life that is unfiltered, the boring, bad hair, bad skin, not fit to be out in public days. People are left feeling pressured to look, act, be like what is being posted.
Teens especially feel the pressure of fitting in. The really awkward years between 12 and 18 when you are starting to develop your own identity, wanting to feel comfortable in your own skin (by the way, we’re not sure that ever REALLY happens), not wanting to be left out. Teens start struggling with wanting to do what’s right and wanting to do what looks like so much fun.
Not all peer pressure is bad. Peers can pressure in a good way. The peers you hang out with can in fact pressure you to do better in school, volunteer helping other people, in some ways they can help you be a better person. So in that, embrace that peer pressure. Sometimes our peers can see us better than we see ourselves. So if your friend is trying out for a sports team and wants you to come too because they think you’d be good at it, try it, you may find that you are really good at something that you didn’t even know about.
The dark side of peer pressure, the one we hear most about, is that pressure to make you do something that you know is wrong, or not comfortable with. Side note, usually if you’re not comfortable with it, it’s wrong.
So how do you deal with peer pressure?
First, identify is this good peer pressure or bad peer pressure. If it’s going to get you in trouble it’s ALWAYS bad.
HAVE A PLAN: Be prepared how you are going to deal with a situation. Have an exit strategy. If your peers start engaging in activities that you don’t agree with or feel comfortable about, how are you going to get out of it? If possible, have your parent(s) text you about 30 minutes after you get somewhere. If you want to leave tell your friends your parents texted and you have to go home. This will appear to shift the control of the situation from you to an authority figure. If you’re prepared, you will look and feel more confident with your refusal. Over time, if you keep leaving they’ll either ask you why and then you can tell them you’re just not in to that, or they’ll figure it out.
Avoid situations: If you KNOW your friends are going to start partying and you don’t want to do that, don’t go. It’s easier to refuse something when you’re not in the middle of it. If you’re dating someone and you are incredibly attracted to them, and saying no to sex would really be difficult, don’t be alone with them. Again saying no when not in the moment is a 100 times easier.
Be stubborn: Have you ever seen a 2-year-old that DOESN’T want to do something? It is very difficult to get them to do it. Now we don’t mean lie down on the floor and kick and scream, unless you think it will help, but stand your ground. If you don’t want to do something be stubborn about it. Listen, if these people are really friends they’ll accept that. If they don’t…..well…… Lots of times, we want to include other people in what we’re doing because it makes it more fun. That’s great for the positive things, but in the negative things, it’s usually so they feel better about what they are doing.
Most importantly in dealing with peer pressure remember you are an individual. You don’t have to act, think, do like anybody else. What makes you unique is that you have your own ideas and thoughts. Embrace that, run with it!! People who really want to be around you will appreciate that you are your own person. If they don’t then cut them loose!