What is peer pressure, and how can you handle it?
If you’ve ever felt pressured into doing something by people in your life, you’ve experienced peer pressure. It can happen to anyone at any time, and can be really uncomfortable to confront – especially when you’re feeling pressured by your friends. In my experience, peer pressure can be a difficult situation to handle. However, it can help you discover your personal likes and dislikes, as well as which people in your life are worthy of your time. Take the choices you make and learn from them!
Peer pressure can happen in countless situations: many people face peer pressure over alcohol, sex, breaking the law, their bodies, drugs, bullying, or other things. Because of this, it’s important to know your own personal boundaries and limits. If the thought of doing something doesn’t make you feel good, it’s probably something you shouldn’t make yourself do. Don’t let others make you feel bad about it.
Sticking up for yourself in the face of of peer pressure is a very courageous and strong thing to do. Turning down drugs does not make you uncool. Choosing not to shave your legs does not make you gross. Saying no to sex does not make you a prude. These are your decisions and only you will know what is best for you.
It can be hard to be confident enough not to give in to peer pressure. If a friend continues to pressure you into something you don’t want to do, it might be worth considering whether they are a positive person to have in your life.
Your friends should bring out the best in you, not push you into acting like someone you’re not. It may be a worry that turning people down can cause them to dislike you. That’s ok. Stay true to yourself: if they don’t like you, there are so many other people who will respect your personal decisions and cherish you. It’s also worth keeping in mind that someone may not realise that they’re putting pressure on you, so don’t be afraid to let them know.
When it comes down to dealing with peer pressure it can be scary, awkward and difficult to stand up for yourself. If you find yourself contemplating doing something you aren’t comfortable with, ask yourself: why am I doing this if I don’t want to? Are the consequences of this decision worth their acceptance? Questioning how you feel may put some perspective on the situation.
I can only remember one experience of peer pressure that I gave into. It happened in primary school. I remember crying in the car to my mum when she came to pick me up. I told her how ashamed of myself I felt for the way I had treated a girl in my class that day. A group of friends I was in had a strong dislike towards the girl and, as a group, didn’t treat her well.
On reflection I think they only did this because they were jealous of how kind and talented she was. I had always liked the girl, and was a friend of hers, yet the pressure I felt to fit in with the group led me to treat her as they did.
That particular day, a teacher picked up on the bullying and had a word with us. I knew we deserved the telling off, and felt disgusted at myself for being a part of the group. Now I badly wish I had stuck up for the girl as well as myself. The funny thing is that since leaving school I have remained great friends with her, but completely lost contact with the other girls. I guess I learnt that sharing my time with people who treat me well, and who I actually like, is a much happier way of living. Crazy, right?
If reading this makes you think of particular people in your life who put pressure on you, consider confronting that problem. It doesn’t matter if they’re a family member, a friend, a partner. Letting them hear how you feel, or taking a step away, is a very positive move. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, and good luck!