It’s normal to want to be part of a group, to feel like we belong. Peer pressure can happen when we’re influenced to do something we usually wouldn’t do.
This happens because we want to be accepted by our peers (anyone you look upto or think is equal in age or ability), whether that’s friends, people in our community or even people on TV. We feel peer pressure when we try to live up to the expectations of our friends or classmates, or follow a particular fashion or trend.
How does peer pressure affect us?
Peer pressure can be a positive influence, helping us to challenge ourselves or motivating us to do our best. But, it can also lead to us doing stuff that doesn’t suit us, or doesn’t fit in with our sense of right and wrong.
Peer pressure may influence us in a number of ways, including our:
- fashion choices
- alcohol and other drug use
- decision to have a boyfriend/girlfriend
- choice of who our friends are
- academic performance.
Where does it come from?
Peer pressure can happen in the workplace, at school or in the general community. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds and in different ways.
Some of the ways it may affect you include:
Directly – when someone tells you what you should be doing. Talk to someone you trust – a family member, teacher, youth worker or counsellor – if you feel threatened, are being hurt or pressured into something you don’t want to do. See face-to-face help for more.
Indirectly – it’s not always so obvious. It’s not unusual for a group of friends to have particular activities they do together. For example, you might smoke more with certain friends and study more with others, meaning you’ve been indirectly affected by your peer group’s choices.
Individual – sometimes pressure comes from within. Feeling different from the group can be hard and to avoid this, we sometimes just want to feel the same. Moving to a new area or starting a new school means having to make new friends. When we feel unsure about ourselves we’re more likely to feel the effects of peer pressure.
What can we do?
Being an individual means making decisions based on what’s best for us. Growing up we need to learn to take responsibility for what we do and how we think. We can still be a valued part of a group, even while keeping our individuality.
Tips to help you manage peer pressure:
Value common interests – hanging out with people who like doing similar things is one way of avoiding feeling pressured into stuff. Hanging out in the “cool crowd” may not be as much fun as it looks.
Say no – having the strength to say no can be hard. However, it can also feel good to stick with what you believe in. Calmly explaining why you don’t want to be part of something can earn you respect from others.
Try not to judge others – try not to place judgments on other people’s choices. Respecting someone else’s choices can help them respect yours. Remember, you don’t have to agree with their actions. Focusing on the reasons why you don’t feel happy with the choice can help you not to judge them.
Take action – sometimes you’re able to tackle peer pressure because you’re older or feel more comfortable in your environment. Standing up for someone younger or more vulnerable is a way of getting a positive vibe out of peer pressure.
Building your self-esteem will help you gain the strength to resist negative peer pressure.