When people talk about peer pressure they usually mean the feeling that you have to do something you don’t really want to do because your mates or other people your own age are doing it.
This can sometimes be something that is bad for you or that you know is wrong. For example: skipping school, underage drinking and smoking, taking drugs, having sex before you are ready, or shoplifting.
Peer pressure might not be about such serious issues as these. It could be the feeling that you have to dress or speak a certain way to fit in, or pretend to like a certain band or TV programme that your mates are into, when really you’re not that keen.
Positive peer pressure
Peer pressure can influence people to do more positive things, like taking up a sport or musical instrument because your friends are into it.
Negative peer pressure
Often though, peer pressure is a term used to describe negative things we feel pressured into doing because class mates, work mates or other people in our lives encourage us.
Sometimes the peer pressure can come from yourself. Perhaps no one is actually asking you to do something, but you feel as if you should start behaving in a certain way to ‘fit in’ and make more friends. This might seem like a good idea, but if it’s something that risks your health (e.g. smoking, drinking) or something illegal (e.g. shoplifting) then it’s really not worth it.
Be happy in your own skin
If you alter your behaviour just to fit in and impress people then you’ll find it difficult to keep the act up. If you make friends who like and accept you for who you are, you’ll find it much easier in the long run and they’re much more likely to last the distance.
How do I deal with peer pressure?
It’s a good idea to have more than one group of friends, because this means you will get more than one perspective on things and be less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure. You could try joining an after school club, youth group or society, for example, where you will be mixing with a different group of people.
Although it’s hard standing out from the crowd and saying no to something everyone else is doing, it’s not impossible. You shouldn’t have to do anything you feel bad about just because your mates are doing it and, if they are true friends, they should respect and understand that. Making someone do something they don’t want to do is not friendship, it’s bullying.
If you can find the strength to speak out and stand up for what you believe, your mates might actually respect you more for it and you might find that others feel the same as you. If you see someone who is having a hard time resisting peer pressure and you feel strong enough to, speaking up for them could make all the difference. And if you see someone saying no to something that you don’t want to do either, agreeing with them and leaving the situation together is better than leaving them feeling like they are alone.
Talk to someone you trust if you are finding it difficult to deal with peer pressure. You could try talking to a parent or carer, a teacher or a friend who isn’t part of the group you’re having problems with. If you don’t want to talk to anyone you know, there are organisations you can contact who will listen and who won’t judge you. See the ‘Who Can Help?’ section at the bottom of this article for useful contacts.
Who can help?
Childline are there to listen if you are struggling with peer pressure or any other problems. You can call them in confidence on 08001111 and the number won’t show up on the phone bill, or you can visit their website at www.childline.org.uk where there is a specific peer pressure page.
TheSite.org* offers useful advice and information about what to do if you are experiencing peer pressure to take drugs. Find out more about dealing with peer pressure and drugs.