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Back-to-School Guide to Peer Pressure

Updated: Jan 1, 2021



By R. Ahmad

Have you ever had the feeling like you had to participate in something to fit in? Or that your friends were asking you to do something you did not want to? Or that your friends would lose respect for you or dislike you if you refused to engage in a certain behavior? If you answered yes to any, or all, of the previous questions, then you have experienced peer pressure. However, regardless of whether or not you answered yes of no, it is important to know what peer pressure is and how to avoid it, because sometimes it is inevitable, especially in school and among your friends.

Who are your peers?

Your peers are those who you have something in common with. For example, people who are the same age as you, or in the same grade in school, or in the same sports team, or the same club, or even your group of friends.

What is peer pressure?

There are many ways to define peer pressure, as it may manifest differently from one person to another, and from one group of peers to another. Simply put, however, peer pressure is to be influenced by a member, or more, of your peers. It can be the feeling that you must participate in a certain behavior or activity that your peers are engaging in, in order to be included, liked, or respected by them. This is what is called ‘unspoken peer pressure’, because you are feeling pressured to do something simply due to the fact that your peers are doing them without them explicitly telling or asking you to participate.

On the other hand, then, there is ‘spoken peer pressure’. This is when your peers explicitly ask you to participate in or to do something you do not want to do or feel comfortable doing. You may then feel that you must engage in the behavior or activity to please them, or so as not to be an outcast.

Types of peer pressure:

Positive

Peer pressure can be positive when you feel pressured by your peers to participate in thing that will reflect positively on you. This includes peers that influence each other to do their homework, or volunteer at a charity event, or join a sports team. Peers can also encourage each other to be kind and supportive when they display these qualities themselves.

Negative

This type of peer pressure basically entails peers that encourage you, explicitly or non-explicitly, to engage in harmful, sometimes dangerous, behaviors or activities. These include, but are not limited to, peers that pressure you into smoking, trying drugs, drinking alcohol, engaging is sexual activities, driving too fast, stealing, violent behavior, bullying others, cutting class, or skipping school.

14 ways to avoid negative peer pressure:

Be assertive and say NO

If you feel that you are being pressured into something you do not want to participate in, then do not hesitate to say NO. It is important to be aware of what it is that you want, and do not waiver from that. It does not make you “uncool” to not want to do something. Your real friends will understand. If you do not know how to say NO, then try roleplaying with your sibling, parent, or trusted friend. It is effective in helping you find your voice. If all else fails, and you do not feel comfortable or safe to say NO, then blame your parents by saying something along the lines of, “my parents said no.” or, “my Mom texted and said I have to go home now.”

If needed, repeat yourself

If your peers are still insisting after you declined, continue to decline. Do not feel afraid to share your discomfort towards the situation, or you opinion on the matter. If they do not respect your wishes, then they are not the friends for you.

Leave the place/room

You could always just leave the place when you begin to feel pressured, or where a certain activity or behavior is taking place. Such as, your peers started to take drugs at a party.

Avoid places where pressure is easy

If you feel you are not comfortable enough to be assertive by refusing to participate, then do not go to places that you can easily be pressured, like parties, for example.

Lean on friends who share your same values

If you have friends who share your same values when it comes to certain activities and behaviors, then talk to them about your discomfort. Support each other by talking about your experiences and your feeling pressured to participate. You can encourage each other to avoid peer pressure.

Consider the consequences of participating

Before participating in a certain activity or engaging in a certain behavior, take a step back and think about the consequences of that action. Is it likely to get you in trouble? Or hurt? Will it affect your performance at school? Or harm another person?

Remember that NOT everyone is doing it

One common excuse to participate is that “everyone is doing it.” Realistically, not everyone is doing it. It is most likely that less people are doing it than you think. Just because your immediate circle of peers are doing it, does not mean that everyone else is as well. Even so, if it is harmful to you or others then you do not need to participate.

Find support

Talk to someone when you are feeling uncomfortable or pressured, such as other friends, your siblings, your parents, the school counselor, or anyone you trust and are comfortable opening up to. It’s okay to speak with an adult.

Believe in yourself

Remember your values, your personal goals, and your personal strengths. Remember all the things that make you special. It does not make you “uncool”, boring, or an outsider to not participate. On the contrary, it makes you a confident person who knows what they want and stands up for what they believe in.

Watch out for manipulative language

This can sound something like, “you’re no fun”, “don’t leave me alone in this”, “everyone is doing it”, “you only live once”, “I’ll just find someone else”, “we can’t be friends if you don’t want to take risks”, or “you’re not being a good friend”. These are all common phrases that friends say to each other to consciously or unconsciously pressure their friend into doing something with them. Be mindful of this type of language, and tell your friends when they are pressuring you.

Pay attention to your moods

Our moods fluctuate and are constantly changing. Certain moods can sometimes make us more susceptible to giving in to peer pressure than others. Pay attention to your different moods and how they affect your behavior.

Examine your friendships

In most cases, your most influential peers are your friends. Therefore, peer pressure among close friends is much more effective. You must always remember that your friends should never disrespect your values by pressuring you to, or even letting you, do something you do not want to do. True friends wont expect you, or ask you, to change in order to fit in with them.

Seek out new friends

If you find that your friends are not a good fit for you, then find new ones. That may be easier said than done, but it is better to be friendless for a while than to be friends with people who are constantly putting you in situations you are not comfortable to be in. Remember: quality over quantity when it comes to friends.

Always do what YOU want

Make sure that what you are doing is completely your choice, and not someone else’s. Do not allow anyone to take your choice away from you by essentially forcing you into something you do not want.

In conclusion, it is very important to understand what peer pressure is to learn how to avoid it. It is even more important to understand who your friends are, their interests, values, and tendencies, as well as how they relate to yours. Be aware of your own values and opinions. Knowing what it is that you like and dislike, what makes you comfortable, and what are the things you want to do, is key to avoiding being put in situations that you ultimately did not want to be in to begin with. Explore these aspects of yourself, especially after being in a situation where you felt the peer pressure.

And, of course, never ever pressure your peers into doing what you want, positive or negative. Be mindful at all times, so when you catch yourself beginning to pressure your friends and/or peers into doing something they do not want to do, you can immediately stop yourself.

Remember: if you need to change to be accepted, respected, or to fit in, then those demanding this of you are not the friends for you. Friends should lift you up, not bring you down; and they should definitely take, and support, you just the way you are. Always strive to be the best version of yourself in order to become someone you can be proud of. Think about who you want to be before becoming someone else’s version of you. This is essential.

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