What is Peer Pressure?
It is not uncommon to want to be part of a group and feel like we belong in our community. Peer pressure can happen when we are influenced to do something we usually would not do, or stopped us from doing something we would like to do. This may be because we want to be accepted by our peers. A peer can be anyone you look up to or someone who you would think is an equal in age or ability. A peer could be a friend, someone in the community or even someone on TV. You may experience peer pressure as you live up to either the individual’s or group’s expectations, or follow a particular fashion or trend.
How Does Peer Pressure Effect Us?
Peer pressure may be a positive influence and help to challenge or motivate us to do our best. Peer pressure may also result in you doing stuff that may not fit with your sense of what is right and wrong.
Peer pressure may influence us in a number of ways, including our:
- Fashion choice
- Alcohol and other drug use
- Decision to have a boyfriend/girlfriend
- Choice of who our friends are
- Academic performance
Where Does Peer Pressure Come From?
Peer pressure may be present in the workplace, at school or within the general community. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. It may affect people in different ways. Some of the ways it may affect you include:
Directly – You may experience peer pressure as someone telling you what you should be doing. It may be a good idea to talk to someone you trust if you feel threatened, are being hurt or being pressured into something you do not want to do. This may be a family member, teacher, youth worker or counsellor. Check out the Finding Help Section for more information about how they can help.
Indirectly – Peer pressure may not always be obvious to you. It is not uncommon for a group of friends to have particular habits or activities that they do together. It may be that when you are with a different group of friends you are unlikely to do those things. For example, you may only smoke when you are with certain friends or you may be more likely to study when you are with other friends.
Individual – Sometimes the pressure comes from you. Feeling different from the group may be hard. To avoid this, sometimes we do things to make sure we feel like the rest of the group. Moving to a new area or starting high school may be scary. Often it means having to make new friends and fit into a new environment. When we are feeling unsure about ourselves we may be more likely to feel the effects of peer pressure.
What Can we do About it?
Part of being an individual involves making decisions based on what is best for us. It can mean we take ownership and responsibility for what we do and how we think. Being an individual can still mean that you are a valued part of a group. It may be hard to resist peer pressure and stay an individual. Here are some suggestions that may help you manage peer pressure better:
Valuing Common Interests – Hanging out with people who like doing similar stuff may help to avoid a situation where you feel pressured into stuff you don’t want to do. Being seen hanging out in the “cool crowd” may not be as much fun as it looks.
Saying “No” – Having the strength to say “no” may be hard. However, it may also feel good to stick with what you believe in. Explaining to people in a calm way why you don’t want to be part of something may earn you respect from others.
Try not to Judge Others – If possible, try not to place judgments on other people’s choices. Respecting someone else’s choice may help them to respect yours. Try to remember that you don’t have to agree with their actions. Focusing on the reasons why you don’t feel happy with the choice may help you not to judge them.
Take Action – Sometimes you are able to tackle peer pressure because you are older or feel more comfortable in your environment. Standing up for someone may help. Both of these are ways in which you may be able to create a positive vibe out of peer pressure.