Peer pressure is as old as time itself, it existed when I was in school (all them yonks ago – 7 years since I left to be exact) and I know that it still exists to this day. Yet since my high-school days a lot has changed, technology has advanced in ways that I could never have imagined and as a result peer pressure has been forced to adapt too. These days peer pressure is far harder to ignore, it has found new ways to seep in to our everyday lives, saturating previously ring-fenced area’s of life.
So what is peer pressure? How do I know if I have been affected by it? And if so how am I going do I cope with it?
Well today that’s exactly what we are going to be discussing, so join the conversation. Leave your comments, thoughts, advice and experiences below!
Peer pressure – the definition.
So defining peer pressure seems like the logical place to start because if you aren’t really sure what it is, then how are you ever supposed to stop it?
Peer pressure is quite literally pressure that is put on you by people within your peer group and this pressure can come in a number of different varieties. Generally this pressure is applied over things that you might not usually want to do, things that are perhaps against the law or something that is traditionally for people older than yourself. We are going to discuss this in more detail in the next part.
While “peer” does usually imply people of the same age group as you, it does have other meanings too and can also mean people from your social circle, extracurricular activities and so on. I feel the need to stress that while I do associate peer pressure as being something that predominantly affects people of a younger age bracket, it defiantly does affect adults too and people of all ages are guilty of doing this. Yet I dunno, I might be completely wrong here but I think adults tend to be more apt at dealing with it because experience and confidence are the perfect tools to fight it.
In the end some people give in to peer pressure because doing what your peers want or expect is often seen as a bonding method or a way of fitting in. Humans generally crave acceptance and it can sometimes feel as if this is a quick way of achieving it. Another reason why people might give in to peer pressure is because it is often persistent and in the end it wears even the most resilient person down.
The sad thing with peer pressure is that it often comes from people that you would otherwise regard as close friends, so watch out for this coming from within your own friendship circle.
Types of peer pressure
When I was in school peer pressure still affected a wide range of area’s but these days it has gone even further. This list is by no means conclusive and there are probably many examples that I have missed off but these are a few examples of the type of peer pressure that people might face. The one’s mentioned are drawn from personal experiences and from stories I have heard, read or seen.
Relationship and sex // Yup this is one of the biggies and was one that even I encountered during my school-hood. There was always pressure to have a boy/girl friend and even more pressure to have gone past “first base”. A clue to spotting this one is to watch out for the word “frigid”, a word that is always thrown at people unwilling to bow to the pressure placed on them.
Technological // These days technology is both a method and a means, it is used to torment and pressurise people. I can only imagine the kind of messages that people must be receiving, the kind of things that they are being urged to do and I am almost certain that it has revolutionised the way that peer pressure operates. In a way I think this links to the one above because young girls are regularly encouraged to “sext” and to send explicit pictures, something my generation would never have even dreamt of.
To look a certain way // Yup another oldie and another one that is as present as ever. Sure the idealised look has changed but the pressure hasn’t and it still exists.
Substance // Another biggie but when I was in school there was a lot pf peer pressure over drugs and alcohol. I can clearly remember one occasion when someone tried to physically place a cigarette in my mouth. I never give in to this, still to this day I have never tried a cigarette or drugs but the pressure was great back then. I can imagine that with the rise of “legal highs” that this is an ever present pressure.
Criminal // I have heard several stories of young people being encouraged to steal from shops and doing so to avoid being ostracised by “friends”. It’s honestly not worth it.
How to spot peer pressure?
I sometimes think that the person instigating “peer pressure” is even unaware that they are doing so because it is entirely possible to get caught up in the moment, lost in a sense of “egging on” or “banter”. The last word seems to have so many blurred lines and contradicting meanings.
So it’s really important that we talk about peer pressure generally, otherwise knowing the meaning is pretty useless.
Groups // At a guess I would say that 90% of the time peer pressure is committed by groups of people because a kind of “mob mentality” prevails. If a group of people are pressuring you to do something you don’t want to, it’s probably peer pressure.
Uncomfortable // If you are being pressurised in to do something that makes you uncomfortable and you are repeatedly being told to do it, the chances are it’s peer pressure.
Constant // Normally peer pressure is consistent, it pushes and pushes until you feel the need to crack. The perpetrator is probably making the pressure a part of your every day life- texting, messaging, notes in the classroom- that kind of thing.
“Initiation” // This is a big bug bear of mine but sometimes peer pressure is disguised as an “initiation ritual”, with university sports clubs and societies the biggest culprits of this. Again in this situation mob mentality prevails, it’s disguised as a method of bonding but it’s actually a method of control. These acts range from terrible to soul distressingly shameful and universities should do all in their power to stop it.
How to handle peer pressure?
So you have established that you are facing peer pressure but what do you do to handle it?
Just say no // Don’t just say no but say it forcibly, confident and make it clear that you are not going to be influenced. Chances are that if the person can see you have made your decision they won’t even bother trying.
Reason with people // Explain that you are really uncomfortable and that not matter what they say or do, you are not going to do it.
Have they done it themselves // Often when people put this kind of pressure on someone it’s because they are too scared to do the act themselves, so ask yourself do you know if they have actually done it? If they haven’t then why haven’t they? And so why the heck should you?
It won’t matter in the end // Tempted to give in? Just remind yourself that in 10 years time when you are in a kickass career, that won’t have mattered in the slightest and the pain was never really worth it anyway.
What advice would you offer?
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