This article aims to highlight how people face peer pressure and succumb to it. What are some of the negative impacts of peer pressure and how it affects one’s self-confidence? We will also take a look at how we can cope with peer pressure and express our thoughts and beliefs.
On my first day of college, I remember being nervous about what my classmates would be like. Would there be groupism? Would I be able to make friends? These questions appeared in my mind because I had seen a lot of groupism in my class back in high school.
I couldn’t make many friends in school because to fit in, one had to do what the other popular classmates wanted you to. I wasn’t comfortable with that, and so I decided not to do it. It resulted in me becoming a loner, but I figured that I'd much rather be alone than sit with the wrong company.
It wasn’t easy to get through school like that, being in an environment where most people don’t want to talk to you and go so far as to avoid you because you don’t fit into their mould of what you’re supposed to be. I remember sobbing and complaining about it to my sister. Thankfully, she was there for me; otherwise, I too would have succumbed to my peers just so I wouldn’t be isolated.
Peer pressure is something that we all face in our lives at some point in time. It is the influence wielded by people within the same social group. It can entail direct or indirect influences which create pressure on us to do things in accordance with the group in order to be liked or respected by them, even if it’s not what we’d usually agree with.
It can be tough to handle such pressure, especially when you are young, because we’re biologically wired to give in to what our peers want, fair or not. Humans are after all social creatures, we need friends and we need company to keep us going. Teens and young adults are some of the demographics which are most likely to succumb to such peer pressure. Adolescence is a very sensitive phase, and the desire to fit in and be a part of a group is stronger than ever.
Consistent with self-reports of lower resistance to peer influence among adolescents than adults (Steinberg & Monahan, 2007), the observational data points to the role of peer influences as a primary contextual factor contributing to adolescents' heightened tendency to make risky decisions.
For instance, crime statistics indicate that adolescents typically commit delinquent acts in peer groups, whereas adults more frequently offend alone (Zimring, 1998).
Peer pressure can be positive or negative. During negative peer pressure, a person is influenced to do something that has risky or negative consequences. Some examples of negative peer pressure are coercing a friend to drink alcohol, encouraging substance abuse, endangering lives, etc.
Positive peer pressure is when a person gets influenced by their social circle and learns good traits which may have positive outcomes and help in getting future success. Examples of positive peer pressure include persuading your friend to study hard to score better, discouraging illegal and risky behaviour, setting goals and aims in life, etc.
Negative Impacts of Peer Pressure
- Loss of Self-confidence - Peer pressure takes a toll on one’s self-confidence, a person who might have been very confident and sure about themself can suddenly have low-self esteem.
- Poor academic performance - negative peer pressure can affect an individual’s academic performance as well. As indulging in risky, illegal activities can be very stressful, and when a person is trying to fit in, they often compromise on their studies.
- Substance abuse addiction - when a person abuses substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, they know that the consequences of these substances on their bodies are extremely bad. However, they still smoke, drink, and do drugs because they want to fit in, but they often don’t think about the long-term effects, like how easy it is to become addicted to these substances and how difficult it is to get out of it.
- Distancing from family and friends - teens and college students often feel that nobody understands them, and they distance themselves from their family and friends. It is easy to get into bad company at such times and go down the rabbit hole of more negative influences.
- Self-harm - at times, the peer pressure gets so bad that students attempt to self-harm and even start to have suicidal tendencies.
How to cope With Peer Pressure
- Learn to say "no" - it is important to learn to say "no" when a person is uncomfortable or not willing to do something. One has to be stern with the "no," if you are sure you don’t want to do something, you have to say "no" to it in a way and show that it isn’t up for negotiation.
- Avoid stressful situations - if you know that being in a certain conversation or with some people will lead to stressful situations and they are highly likely to pressurize you, then avoid such situations by not going to them.
- Finding new friends - if a group often pressures you into doing something and you are unwilling, then you can find other people and be friends with them. Try to talk to like-minded people.
- Speak up - when you feel that someone is going overboard and you don’t agree with them then speak up. Speak against peer pressure, you are not obliged to follow other people’s requests.
- Seek support - talk to an adult you trust. If you feel that the pressure is just not bearable and you aren’t able to cope with the pressure then share your troubles with a trusted family member or friend. Don’t hesitate to go for psychological counselling if needed.
To conclude, with peer pressure people are not able to express their own thoughts and beliefs. They are pressured to do things which they don’t want to do because they want to fit in. If we stop succumbing to peer pressure, we will be able to develop our own individuality, our own thoughts, beliefs, values, and sense of self. Suppressing your individuality will lead you to unhappiness and make you miss out on your authentic self.
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" ~ Dr. Seuss
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