Peer Pressure

“C’mon. Everyone’s doing it.” So why shouldn’t you?

It’s almost expected that you will experience peer pressure frequently throughout your teen years.

Say you’re invited to a party where you know there will be alcohol or drugs. A friend decides to cut class. Someone offers you a cigarette. Or friends talk about having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends. How do you respond? Are you tempted to follow their examples? Or can you stand strong in your own belief system?

At some point, everyone has the desire to fit into a group. If you’re interested in sports, you might hang out with the “jocks.” If you’re interested in music, you spend time with others who enjoy music. You belong to that group and feel secure when you are part of it. The group identifies who you are and what you’re about.

But what if people in “your group” start doing things that are wrong, hurtful, or even illegal? And what if these same people are your friends?

This is what we refer to as peer pressure — the pressure to conform to the behaviors, attitudes, and personal habits of “the group.” In many cases, there are serious risks involved, your decision about how to handle the peer pressure can have great consequences.

Unfortunately, most teenagers are not applauded for their logical thought processes. Most feel invulnerable, like “nothing bad can ever happen to me.” But you need to assess the risks — well in advance. Consider these questions before you’re tempted to follow the crowd:

  • Could this harm me physically?
  • Could this harm someone else?
  • Is this against the law?
  • Could I go to jail?
  • What are the long-term effects of my actions to my health? My education? My family relationships?

Now, let’s lighten up. You can also use peer pressure to your advantage. Think of it as “competitive” peer pressure.

For example, if you’re active in sports, your teammates probably pressure you to be the best you can be. If you’re on the track team, you pace yourself with the fastest runner, because you know it will make you better. If you’re striving for good grades, you compare your scores to those at the top of the list. If you’re in the band, and there are musicians better than you, you are pressured into striving to be the best musician you can be.

The Choice Is Yours

At some point, every person must stand alone, even when tempted by friends and other peers. You know what is right. You know what is wrong. And only you can decide which path to take.

Ask almost anyone who has “been there, done that” about peer pressure. Most people have gone with the crowd at some point in their teenage lives, and they’ve had to live with the consequences. You’ll likely hear that bowing to peer pressure wasn’t worth it.

Now is your chance to believe in yourself and to stand alone at times, if you need to. When faced with group demands, assess the risks ahead of time. If you are uncomfortable doing something, don’t be afraid to decline the invitation with a “no, thanks.”

Learning to stand up for yourself and your beliefs and to look ahead to consequences of your actions are important steps in becoming a responsible adult.

Source: WebMD, Teens and Peer Pressure