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Peer Pressure

Have you ever heard the term “peer pressure”? I’m sure you have, but in case you need a refresher, peer pressure is “influence from members of one’s peer group.” Notice it doesn’t say anything about an age. People often try to attribute difficulty with peer pressure on teenagers and young people, but the truth is that anyone with a group of peers can face its challenges. That means it can be a lifelong issue. A “peer” is someone who is about your same age, but may not necessarily be a friend. It could be a classmate you know, a coworker, or someone else you have a relationship with, even if you’re not that close.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably experienced a situation where someone you know tried to get you to say or do something you really didn’t want to say or do. This isn’t always a negative thing. If a friend puts pressure on you to finish your homework so you don’t fail a class, that’s good peer pressure! It means they don’t want you to fail your class. If a friend is putting pressure on you to fight someone you don’t even know or have a problem with, take a drug, or commit a crime like theft or vandalism, that’s not good peer pressure.

Oftentimes, peer pressure works best when the person trying to influence us is a person we want to be like or want to like us – in other words, someone we may look up to in one way or another. The reason it works so well is that most human beings have a natural desire to belong to something or to fit in. If a person can offer the chance to belong in exchange for doing a thing (positive thing or negative thing), most people will do the thing and accept the invitation to belong. Sometimes we do the thing so people will leave us alone or not bully us anymore. Whatever our motivation, we often wind up doing things we probably would not have done otherwise.

The internet and social media have taken peer pressure and multiplied it by 20. These days, there are literally people called “influencers” who get paid to tell us what lipstick to buy or what food to eat or what band to like. Just scrolling past them on Instagram can feel overwhelming. How can we deal with it all? Just remember that if you don’t want to do a thing, you do not have to do it. Below are some tips from a great website called https://youngwomenshealth.org/:

  • Think about your choices – What would happen if you do it? What if you don’t?
  • Build your self-confidence by participating in activities you are good at
  • Follow your instincts (if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you.)
  • Be assertive: Say what you think, talk about what you feel, say “No”, suggest a healthier alternative

If you are still being pressured, walk away.

  • Stay away from peers who pressure you or make you feel bad about yourself
  • Hang out with people whose choices make you feel more comfortable

It takes courage to stand up for yourself and be different. It is something that a lot of adults struggle with as well. The more you can do now, the better you’ll be at identifying peer pressure and making good choices as you get older. If the peer pressure is too much, find a trusted adult like a parent, friend, or Legacy health provider to help you navigate your feelings.

It’s important to talk to your provider when you face the following:

  • Difficulty sleeping and being tired or being so up and active that you don’t want to sleep
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Seeing or hearing things that others may not
  • A desire to “numb” your feelings with drugs, alcohol or other activities
  • A sense that past experiences are keeping you from being present and coping with daily tasks
  • Any sudden changes in your mood or how you make decisions or function

We know it’s not easy to ask for help, just remember that you are the best judge of you and your ability to be open and honest with your provider can have a big influence on your care and your ability to be the best you can be. We offer confidential, non-judgmental services for mental health and are here to help you come out against the stigma!

If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or taking your life, seek emergent care with your provider, or go to the nearest emergency room, and call 911.

What questions do I ask?

  • I feel irritated most days and get angry easily. Am I depressed?
  • I don’t like talking to people. How would behavior health therapy help me?
  • I have been thinking about hurting myself, how can I get help?

How can I learn more?