Understanding peer pressure and tips for resisting itNegative peer pressure can cause our lives to spiral out of control and lead us down a difficult path.
One late evening, when I was walking home, I saw a group of young boys sitting under a tree and smoking. When I first saw them, I didn’t think much of it, but as I got nearer, one of the boys looked a lot like my friend’s younger brother. Since it was dark, I couldn’t see his face clearly. When I got home, I recounted the incident with my family members, and they told me that the boy was indeed my friend’s younger brother. He had apparently befriended some young boys from the neighbourhood who smoked and drank alcohol.
A few months after the incident, news started going around in our neighbourhood that the boy was now in a rehabilitation centre because of his drug abuse.
Many of us are familiar with such stories. In most such cases, peer pressure is to be blamed. Whether we admit/know it or not, a lot of what we do in life is influenced by our peers.
When we talk about our open experience with peer pressure, we usually say, “My friends and relatives offer me cigarettes and alcohol, but I have always been able to turn them down politely. Hence, I don’t think I have ever succumbed to peer pressure.”
Developing the habit of smoking, drinking, and abusing drugs because of friends are extreme forms of peer pressure. But peer pressure comes in many forms. Despite having finished all your daily tasks for the day within your office hours, you may have stayed late at work simply because all your colleagues were still there. Despite not wanting to attend that party, you may have attended it simply because all your friends were going there.
Not all forms of peer pressure can be bad. Getting pressured by friends into joining a gym, starting a new healthy diet, and studying harder are all positive peer pressures. But more often than not, the peer pressure most of us succumb to tends to be negative. This is because bad habits are usually easier to copy than good ones.
Such negative peer pressure can cause our lives to spiral out of control and lead us down a difficult path.
So, what can we do about this? How can we mitigate the effects of peer pressure in our daily lives? Here are some quick tips on how to do just that.
It’s true that saying no is one of the simplest ways to resist peer pressure, but it is often the hardest. Most of us succumb to peer pressure because we think it is normal. But you must realise that it is normal and not everyone succumbs to peer pressure, and you can also opt not to do so.
You can start by saying no in situations where it’s easy to do so. Doing this will better prepare you to resist the pressure in the moments when you really need to.
If a simple no is not enough, give a reason for why you are saying no. If you don’t have a reason at hand, make an excuse that is believable/convincing. A little white lie never hurt anybody.
Finding someone who understands you
Find someone within your social circle who is also going through the same difficulty of resisting the pressure as you are and help each other back out from such situations. It is often helpful to know that someone else is going through the same as you and have a support system when needed.
Preparing to say no
If you know that you are going to be in a situation where you will have to deal with peer pressure, find ways to avoid the situation altogether. But if you can’t avoid the situation, think of an excuse beforehand and practise your delivery so that you sound confident and convincing when you are actually in the situation.
Thinking about the consequences
Before succumbing to negative peer pressure, think about how this momentary weakness can cause difficulties down the road. It is important to realise that you and you alone will have to live with the consequences of the decisions you make today.
Choosing a different circle of friends
This can be especially tough to do. But if you find yourself constantly being pressured by your peers into doing things you don’t want to do, it is time to change your peers. As the saying goes, ‘You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick.’ Sometimes walking away and making new friends is the only way.