Peer Pressure 101

Peer+Pressure+101

Everyone undergoes peer pressure at some point in their life, whether that be something as simple as to download a popular game, or as extreme as to participate in bad behaviors. Although it happens to everyone everywhere, including workplaces, and more well known: schools. Peer pressure is a well-recognized force, fortunately leading to more outreach and resources for students managing pressure. To get a better understanding of how peer pressure really works, I took my own experiences and combined them with research focused on teaching students about the concepts of peer pressure. 

 

WHAT IS PEER PRESSURE? 

Understanding peer pressure can help people handle it and act quickly – and sometimes, it’s just vital to review the basics. 

 

A GENERAL OVERVIEW

  • Peer pressure can be viewed as a form of adaptation – occurring when a person feels that they need to act a certain way or do something to feel a part of a group or community. 
  • Individuals will sometimes do or say things that they aren’t entirely comfortable with, to feel that they are a part of the group surrounding them. This can happen in many ways, so it’s important to recognize when you feel uneasy. 
  • Ex: Trying a cigarette because all of your friends are doing it. 

 

WHY IS PEER PRESSURE SO EFFECTIVE? 

  • People want to fit in with their friends, colleagues, and general society. All people aspire to be a certain way, or take after a specific role model. The fear of not fitting in because of a personal aspiration or behavior can often cause us to change our lifestyles to suit that of what society wants us to be. Our fears often control the way we act, and peer pressure is one of those cases. 

 

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

  • As a high school student, I’ve gone through multiple sessions explaining the threats and dangers of peer pressure, and how to manage it. But even as I walk through the halls of my school and hold discussions with classmates, I found that there were a lot of opinions and ideas about peer pressure that wasn’t necessarily true. I wanted to highlight the three points which were constantly brought up that we had conflicting viewpoints: 

 

ALL PEER PRESSURE IS NEGATIVE

  • Not all peer pressure is negative! Some pressure can be positive, such as if it pushes you towards new bounds and helps you explore more opportunities. Ex: A friend encouraging you to attend the new art club with them. 

 

THE ONLY SOURCE OF PEER PRESSURE ARE YOUR FRIENDS 

  • Teachers, parents, and even media in your life can also be considered forms of peer pressure! Anything that heavily influences you into committing a certain action or holding a specific thought process can be inclusive of peer pressure.  Ex: A post on social media telling students to sign up for the new art club.

 

PEER PRESSURE ONLY HAPPENS IN HIGH SCHOOL 

  • Peer pressure can take place at any point in one’s life – it can happen in middle school, the workplace, and even online. Peer pressure is most recognized in high schools since teens are subjective, and still have a growth mindset that is constantly changing. Ex: A co-worker depending on you to help mentor the new art club at the local high school. 

 

HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M DEALING WITH PEER PRESSURE? 

  • Victims may not always realize that they’re being peer pressured – so it’s extremely important to know the signs, in order to manage it as efficiently as you can. There are two types of peer pressure to take note of, and questions you can ask yourself to identify what type it is: 

 

POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE 

  • Positive peer pressure is a form of peer pressure that can push one to do things that may ultimately benefit them, and explore new ideas. 
  • Ex: A friend pressuring you to start coming to school on time.  

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • WILL THIS RESULT IN A HEALTHY FUTURE? You need to make sure that what you are practicing will be healthy and useful in the future. Often, activities that are performed by pressure can become a habit. It’s important to make sure that what you are doing is good for YOU. 
  • DOES THIS POSITIVELY AFFECT OTHERS? It’s vital to think about how this might affect the people around you. Will it help them? Will it encourage them? Peer pressure is all about influence, which involves the choices you make.
  • DOES THIS MAKE ME FEEL GOOD? You should feel good about your choices, and the push you are getting from the one who’s pressuring you. It is your life in the end, and your choices affect your mental and physical health. 

 

NEGATIVE PEER PRESSURE

  • Negative peer pressure is a form of influence that pushes one to do things that harm themselves, make them feel uncomfortable, or hurt others around them. 
  • Ex: A friend pressuring you to try smoking. 

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • ARE YOU HESITATING? If you feel indecisive or if something feels wrong, then you shouldn’t go forward with it. It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you and really think about your choices. 
  • IS THIS SOMETHING I WOULD HIDE? If the activity or behavior you’re being pressured into is something you wouldn’t tell your parents or friends about, or feel embarrassed about, then it’s most likely something that you shouldn’t go through with. 
  • HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF? Any pressure you’re receiving should make you feel good about yourself – if it’s doing more harm to your mental health than it is good, it’s not something you should be involved with or practicing. 

It isn’t always easy to overcome or resist peer pressure, but being informed about it is a big step you can take to assure the safety of others, and yourself. Oftentimes, it only takes the courage and bravery in one sentence or word to change a situation. Take leadership, and own all your choices (no matter how small or big) as important staples for your future. You have the power to change anything you want to, this is your world.