Everybody, no matter what their age is faced with pressure to “fit in”. In our teenage years this pressure can be even stronger because no one wants to feel like they don’t fit in. This topic is about peer pressure, what it is, how it can be a precious thing, how it can sneak in and take over your life choices and what you can do to deal with it.
WHAT IT IS
Peer groups are people who you hang out with that are about your age. They can be people you think are really “funky dudes” (you would really like to be like them), or people about the same as you in age and ability. They can be people you know or people you see on TV, in movies, in bands or around the place.
Peer pressure is when you feel you “have to” do something that you might not usually choose to do. It is when you choose to do this to fit in, or “be cool”, amongst your peers. This might be:
- people try to persuade you to do something – “come on don”t be weak”, “you are just chicken” “you straight” “you are frigid”
- being expected to look or be a certain way to “fit in” – you might try to wear the “right things” to fit in with the “popular group” or do things so you don’t get teased.
Peer pressure can be pretty sneaky. Sometimes we don’t even know it is happening or that we are choosing to do things because of it. Sometimes people might use the fact they know you want to fit in to make you do things you don’t want to.
To many people’s amazement, peer pressure is not all doom and gloom. It can actually be a really positive influence in your life. It can be a way to:
- get to know your limits and what you are willing to accept
- improve your ability to make your own choices
- understand who you are as a unique and special individual – you are like no other!
- introduce you to positive things like interests, music, friends
Your friends and peer group can offer you lots of things like:
- feeling like you belong and are valued for who you are
- increased confidence and a sense of security because you know your friends understand what is going on for you
- a safe place to take positive risks, to test out ideas
- a way to get to know other people and what they think about things
- learning to negotiate, accept and get along with others.
Everyone has pressures to “fit in” no matter what their age. Some people might feel it more than others. You might feel it more in some situations than others.
Peer pressure can be a stronger force when you are in your teens because the last thing you want is to be left out of things. This can mean making choices that you don”t really want to or that are unsafe. Here are some examples.
- Wearing “the right” clothes – this might contribute to fights with your parents, not having money to do things you like to do, or even doing things like stealing to get the gear you need to “look right”.
- Trying smokes, alcohol, dope or other stuff – these are not so good for your health and can lead to accidents, fights, trouble with the police.
- Missing school – this can lead to trouble at school, the police, with your parents and maybe with other friends too.
- Teasing or hurting other people – you can end up feeling bad about this, not to mention the person who is the target!
- Dieting or body building – trying to be “thin” or “muscular” to get people to like you doesn’t work and can actually harm your body.
These are just some examples of the pressures and life choices that you and your friends might face everyday.
DEALING WITH IT
How you deal with peer pressures can be different for everyone. There are a few things you might do.
- Most importantly be true to yourself. Make your own choices. Get to know who you are and what is good for you and your life. Our Self-esteem topic can help with some tips, and see the other related topics section below.
- Think about what someone gets out of pressuring you to do something. Is this really for your benefit? Or for theirs? What do they get out of forcing you to do something you don”t want to?
- Think about what you are getting out of the choices you are making. What would you like for yourself in the future? How are the choices you are making now going to help or hinder your ability to achieve these goals? What might you do to get there in the most successful way you can?
- Learning skills like assertiveness can help. (See other related topics below) This can mean using “I messages” like “I think ” “I feel ” “I will ” “I want ”
- If someone is pressuring you to do something you don’t want to, talk to someone you know will listen and help you. Keeping it inside and carrying your worries around can make things even harder to deal with.
- Find things you are interested in. Hang out with a range of different people and listen to what is important to them. There is no one way of doing or viewing things. Think about what is most important to you and who you are as an individual!
- You might find that a different group of people is more like you, give it a go and find out! Giving it a go can mean you learn more about what is good for you, whether you decide you think they are people that you wouldn’t want for your friends or “groovy hipsters” (you’ve found a group that just suits you)!
- Learn from your mistakes and learn from your peers – their successes and their mistakes. This can help you make positive choices about your own, swinging, fun-loving life!