Peer Pressure

“Come on! Just try it. It’s only one joint. What do you have to lose? Hey, I’m giving it to you free here. Why won’t you just take it?” There are many people who have been in a situation where they have either been the one saying something similar to this, have been the one someone was saying it to or could have heard someone else saying it to someone. As you can see, this particular situation is talking about smoking marijuana (weed, pot, etc.)
If I asked you right now, “Would you smoke pot?” I guarantee that there would be a few of you who say “No, absolutely not.” When I was in the eighth grade, not one person in my entire graduating class smoked or did drugs – or even *wanted* to for that matter. We had a class discussion one time where the teacher asked everyone, honestly, if they would ever consider smoking or doing any drug. It was a pretty lengthy discussion and we all basically came to the mutual decision that we would not engage in such activities.

Well, grade nine rolled around and I think it’s safe to say that approximately 80% of that same graduating class smokes cigarettes and *at least* half have done drugs. How can they change their mind so drastically? Don’t get me wrong, there could be many possible reasons as to why they changed their minds so drastically. However, if you can honestly sit there and say that peer pressure had nothing to do with a lot of these cases, you’re lying to yourself.

Who wouldn’t want to be cool – especially in the ninth grade? You’re in a new environment where you’re no longer the big fish in the small pond but rather the small fish in the big pond. Many students in grade nine feel the need to want to be cool, popular and make friends. Sometimes, that includes doing things that *you know is wrong, but you do them anyway because you’re friends are doing it or because you felt pressured or forced.* This, here, is called peer pressure.

What Is Peer Pressure?

Believe it or not, we’ve all experienced peer pressure at one point or another. Peer pressure is present in all life stages – even in adulthood. Your peers can either have a positive influence on you or a negative one. That’s quite obvious, right? You could be a member of a debate club and you could have a friend who is willing to help you improve your debating skills. Or, you could have a friend who is really intelligent in math (the subject where you don’t do too well) and he could offer to tutor you in order to improve your grades. You see, these are all positive influences that we can receive from our peers. Learning from people – especially our peers – is a big part of growing up and very rewarding.

However, there are also negative influences that can come from our peers. If you have a friend who smokes, she could try to persuade you into taking up the habit as well. Or, you could have a friend who shoplifts and he could encourage you to engage in the same activity. Those aren’t really good influences, are they? These types of peer influences are negative influences and can affect you either immediately or even later on in life. This is why it is so important to choose your friend’s wisely. Statistics show that individuals who have good friends are more likely to grow up with a positive influence as opposed to an individual who doesn’t have the best of friends. In simple terms, if you hang out with the guy that does drugs on the side of the convenience store, you’re more likely to engage in such behaviours as opposed to someone who doesn’t hang out with him. Common sense, right?

Where Do These Pressures Come From?

-Your peers
-Your classmates
-Your parents (Yes, your parents!)
-Your siblings
-Your friends
-Your boyfriend/girlfriend
-A teacher
-Your neighbour
-Your co-workers

*Peer pressure may be present in the workplace, at school or within the general community.*

How Can Peer Pressure Affect You?

Directly – You may experience the type of peer pressure where someone is telling you to do something. Inside your head, you *know* it’s wrong but unfortunately, you are a victim of peer pressure. If you’re ever in this type of situation, it’s best to walk away or even talk to someone about it. Remember that you have your own mind and therefore, you’re capable of making decisions for yourself. An example of this type of peer pressure would be if a friend of yours was trying to convince you to smoke a cigarette with her. You *know* it’s wrong, but how can you say no to the most popular girl in school, right?

Indirectly – Sometimes, peer pressure isn’t completely obvious – especially to a victim of peer pressure. Why? One who is a victim of peer pressure might believe that their behaviour is completely normal and that there’s nothing wrong. When these individuals are with another group of their peers not engaging in that same behaviour, it begins to show. I’ll use my sister as an example. My sister is not a stupid girl. However, she acts stupid when she’s with her usual group of friends and tends to talk like an *air head.* This behaviour is very obvious at home and I continue to talk to her about it. You see, she doesn’t even realize she’s talking that way!

Individual – Sometimes the pressures don’t have to come from an external source. Sometimes, the pressure comes from you. If you recognize the fact that you’re different from other people, that may cause you to change who you are in order to fit more nicely into societal standards and whatnot. An example of this would be that if you saw all of your friends with TNA pants, that may strongly encourage you to go out and purchase a pair – even though you can’t really afford the pants. However, being cool is priceless, is it not? This is individual peer pressure – it comes from you!

Why Do People Give In To Peer Pressure?

If it’s common sense, why do so many people give in to the negative influences provided by our peers? This is a really simple question but has a very complex answer. You and I both know that it’s not easy to go against the crowd. If you are with a group of friends in the hallway and you see someone trip and fall, it’s hard to avoid laughing at them when everyone else in the group is laughing. It’s not easy to buy a no-name brand jeans when everyone else is wearing Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister or another big name brand. It’s not easy. Teenagers have a lot on their plate to begin with and don’t really need this added stress.

Decisions are really difficult to make as it is. Now, with the inclusion of these other influences in our lives, it makes decision-making even harder. Believe it or not, as a teenager, your friends are usually a big part of your life. Take a look at any teenager. You will see that their friends and social lives are a huge priority for them. You hear those parents! They’re always complaining that their teenager is never home and that they spend too much time on the phone or too much time at the mall or whatever the case may be. With all of that said, it’s really obvious to see why people (especially teenagers) give in to peer pressure. Who doesn’t want to fit it?

Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids may make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing.

How To Walk Away From Peer Pressure

Now, everyone knows that it’s not easy to say *no* to your friends. That’s a given. Everyone wants to be liked and everyone wants to fit in. Paying attention to your own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help you know the right thing to do. Inner strength and self-confidence can help you stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when you know better. If you have enough confidence in yourself to remind yourself that *this is wrong*, then you should be able to refuse the urges of peer pressure.

Having a close friend who shares your morals and beliefs can also help a lot. How? Let’s say that you’re with a group of friends and they’re drinking alcohol. One of your friend’s asks you if you would like a drink. If you were the only one who was still sober, it would be pretty difficult to say no, correct? However, if there was a friend with you who was also sober, it might be a little bit easier because you guys could sort of *watch out for each other*, in a way. Or, you guys could even leave the situation together. Having someone there could really make the world of a difference in that type of situation.

You’ve probably had a parent or teacher advise you to *choose your friends wisely.* Peer pressure is a big reason why they say this. Like I said earlier, if you choose friends who don’t use drugs, cut class, smoke cigarettes, or lie to their parents, then you probably won’t do these things either, even if other kids do. Try to help a friend who’s having trouble resisting peer pressure. It can be powerful for one kid to join another by simply saying, *I’m with you – let’s go.*

Even if you are alone in a situation where peer pressure is present, you can still get through it. You can always say *no.* I know that’s not the easiest thing to do but you really need to try. Find that confidence and inner strength and stand up for what you believe in. Don’t give into peer pressure. Believe me, in the end, it’s not worth it. Don’t be afraid to make an excuse such as *Oh, my mom wants me home by 4:00* or *Oh no! I forgot something in my locker.* These excuses may come in handy!