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Peer Pressure and How to Deal with It

"Just Say No!" Have you ever heard this saying? It sounds so easy. In some cases, it is easy; in other cases, it can be very difficult to do. The "Just Say No!" slogan was part of an anti-drug campaign that was started back in the 1980's, when pop music was experiencing the first wave of Madonna version 1.0 and fashion included parachute pants and big hair! The slogan can be applied to situations in which you are experiencing peer pressure, which can be very strong at times. However, by understanding a bit more about peer pressure, what it is, and how to deal with it, you will be able to handle yourself in a way that will make you proud of your achievement. For some, the idea of standing up and going against peer pressure can be scary.

Terri's Story

"When I was in Grade 10 I really wanted to be accepted in the "popular" crowd so I was thrilled when the girls asked me to join their "gang". But my excitement soon turned to tears when all of a sudden I was forced to do things that didn't make me feel comfortable. I felt that if I didn't go along with them and pretend that everything was cool they'd kick me out of their group for sure! So I started sneaking out of the house late at night to go hang out with them. I started having a bad attitude, was getting pretty sassy with my Mom and we were fighting all the time. I began to let my school work slide and my grades dropped. What surprised me was that I began feeling even worse about myself than I did before I started hanging out with the popular girls. But I had wanted to be friends with them for so long that I was afraid that if I didn't impress them, then they wouldn't want to be friends with me anymore."

So, just what is 'peer pressure'? A peer is someone that is in your circle of friends, or someone you look up to. Usually it is someone who is your age and who has similar abilities. Pressure can be defined as the sense or feeling that we must go along with what the peers, or members, of the group are doing, whether or not it is something we agree with or are comfortable with. Sometimes peer pressure can be about things such as wearing the right clothes, or about using an FM system. Sometimes peer pressure can be about other issues like smoking, drinking, or sex. Peer pressure may result in us acting or behaving in a manner that is unlike our usual self. Peer pressure can take us to the point of doing things that we normally might not do in order to fit in. This can be a dangerous thing.

Is Peer Pressure Good or Bad?

Did you know that adults must deal with peer pressure too? They feel it from their family members, from their friends, and even from their co-workers. Peer pressure can be a good thing. Positive peer pressure can affect you in a way that makes you want to give or do your very best. In sports or drama, whether as an individual, or a member of the team or a part of the cast, you want to do your best so that the outcome is a winning game or a terrific play. We can learn from our peers and they can learn from us. Positive peer pressure can push you to do your very best. Negative peer pressure can get us into trouble! When faced with a tempting situation, in order to feel like we fit in, we are in a position to make a choice. While it may not be easy, making the right choice can be very hard. One way to help in this situation is to practice!

How to say "No"

Blame it on your parents! Experts suggest you blame it on your parents when your peers try to get you involved in an activity that is going to get you into trouble. For example: If a peer suggests you smoke or drink alcohol, simply say "No thanks. My parents would ground me for weeks if I was caught smoking (or drinking)."

Practice saying no in different ways so that you can handle yourself in different situations.

Have a code word! If you are in a situation that you want to get out of, having a pre-arranged 'code word' or 'code phrase' will help you get help. For example:

"Is Aunt Barbara there?" can be a secret code when talking on the phone with your parent that really means "Come pick me up now". It allows you to get the message across to your parent so they know that you are in a situation you would like to get out of.

If we can think about (and practice) how to handle ourselves in difficult situations where peer pressure is likely to happen, we will be able to handle the situation effectively.

A Chance to be a Leader

We all cope with peer pressure in different ways. How you deal with it is entirely up to you. You may feel comfortable talking with a trusted friend or adult about what you are experiencing and get some advice from them about what to do. Or, you might have the courage to challenge the pressure from your peers. It is important that you not keep everything all bottled up inside. This will only make you feel alone and miserable. Just by reading this article and thinking about how you will handle yourself in future situations is a positive step in the right direction.

Keep in mind that just because you don't agree with your peers on all matters, it does not mean they will respect you any less. If they see you stand up for yourself, they may respect you more for sticking to your conviction.

The way we choose to react and deal with peer pressure defines who we are as individuals. What is important to know is that peer pressure can influence the choice we make. It can contribute to poor decisions, or it can reinforce good decisions. Peers can help influence us all both in positive or negative ways.

Go to the Tune in forum because we would like to hear your thoughts or views on this topic. Share how you have handled peer pressure; it just might help someone else.