Come on! ALL of us are bunking maths class today. The professor is giving a test and who wants to go take that? We’re all going to catch the latest movie and get lunch instead. Let’s go!” said Rohan the coolest kid in class who was also the group’s leader. If you were in that class and in Rohan’s group what would you have done? See the movie or take the test??

Our friends are an important part of our growing up years. And especially in the teen years, they influence our life the most, even if we don’t realize it, just by spending time with us. We learn from them, and they learn from us. It’s natural for adolescents to think that only same age people understand them better than anybody else as they all face the same and yet unique challenges of transition from a child to an adult.

What is peer pressure?

Ranjeet wants to take a course in computers. But his parents are not o sure as they think that he does not have the technical skills needed for a computer course. They are insisting that he take an aptitude test which will help him plot his strengths and weaknesses and help plot a future plan for him. Ranjeet is resisting this as he is scared of what his friends will think if he takes up an aptitude test to decide his future. He feels they will laugh and say that he should be man enough to take his own decision and not allow parents or some counselor to decide for him. He turns to his friends for advice. 3 of his friends have decided that taking a foreign language course is the best thing to do in this age of globalization. Ryan the leader of their group starts putting pressure on Ranjeet to opt for the same. Ranjeet hates learning languages. However his 3 friends are unrelenting. They even threaten Ranjeet that they will never talk to him if he takes up computers instead of a foreign language course. Under duress, Ranjeet ultimately takes up the foreign language course.  His parents are nonplussed and wonder how much time it would be before Ranjeet leaves this course halfway. But there is not much that they can do, as they know the influence that Ryan and the other two have on Ranjeet. They just resign to the whole thing as another adolescent folly………..

This is a classic case of peer pressure!

A major bone of contention with parents of teens is decision making. Teens want to take their own decisions as they feel they are up to it as they have grown up and no longer need their parent’s guidance on each and every decision of their lives. However deep down teens do find it hard to take a decision completely by themselves. At times they do feel at a loss to know the right from the wrong.  This is the time they turn to their peers for help. However when the friendly advice and suggestions start becoming more of a pressure to conform to what the peer feels is right, it is termed as peer pressure.

Whether it is pressure to conform to a group norm (like wearing certain types of clothes or taking part in specific activities and clubs) or pressure to act (like trying drugs or alcohol, taking up particular courses in college or isolating another teen), peer pressure is something every teen has to deal with at some time or the other in their teenage.

How successfully you handle peer pressure depends a great deal on how you feel about yourself and your place in the world. There are certain “risk factors” for peer pressure, some personality traits that make you more prone to give in to peer pressure.

Risk Factors:

  • Lack of confidence: If your belief in yourself is low it is easy for you to want to follow in others’ footsteps in your teen years. Also it is easier for others to dominate you as they can see that you are unsure of yourself.
  • Feeling of isolation from family:  If for any reason, you feel your family is not supportive, understanding, encouraging or is uncommunicative there are high chances that you will turn to your peers in search of the same. This dependency may soon trigger a cycle of dominance on their part.
  • Lack of direction in life: If you are unsure of your own future plans, high chances that you may look up to someone else who is more surer and want to latch on to their dreams and wishes. 
  • Other factors playing a role could be uncertainty about ones place and position within a given peer group, no personal hobbies or interests exclusive of one’s peer group, fear of one’s peers and lack of strong ties to friends, feeling that friends could turn on you easily or with little reason.  

How do you prepare yourself to face peer pressure and win? The answer is simple.

  • Be prepared: Start preparing yourself beforehand for any uncomfortable situations that you think you may be in for. Mentally rehearse the reaction that you WANT to give in a particular situation (the reaction that goes AGAINST peer pressure) and rehearse this script, with the appropriate dialogues, body language, and expressions, out in your head over and over again. issue
  • Know yourself more: Become aware of your own stand on key concerns like friendships, academic goals, and also on more serious issues like sex, drugs, alcohol and bullying. Once you are sure of what your priorities are on these important matters, you will be in a better position to not allow anybody else to make you stray from your stand.
  • Know your friends well: Be aware of your friend’s personality, his likes and dislikes, his strengths and weaknesses. Then you will be in a better position to steer the friendship.
  • Learn to say ‘NO’: This is an important skill that all self respecting teenagers should learn. Flatly refuse to take part in anything designed to cause harm or distress to another person and speak up when/if such a situation arises. You do not have to be angry, a comment like “lets not bother with this” or “why do we need to do this” is usually enough to inspire others who are uncomfortable to stand up and be counted.
  • Act like a leader: Think of yourself as a leader and act accordingly. The more you see yourself in this role the more comfortable you will feel asserting your own opinions and feelings.
  • Refuse to let yourself down: Often when we give in to peer pressure it hurts our already fragile self esteem creating a vicious circle. If you think of giving in to peer pressure as letting yourself down it becomes easier to combat and your confidence will earn you respect.
  • Its okay to be different from friends: You may love your friends, yet may want different things from life. This is alright. True friendship does not get affected by differences in taste, profession, or interests.
  • Take efforts to forge an open communication with parents: Many a times open communication with parents can help combat peer pressure. When you know that you have your parents on your side you will be more confident to take on the pressures of the world. However for this, one needs to first develop the right perspective that even if parents nag at times it is not because they are our enemies but out of sheer concern and love for us.

Remember that when you give in to peer pressure, you are actually letting yourself down and this will later turn into long term guilt and regret. When peer pressure rears its ugly head try to focus on these life long negative effects rather than the short term negative effects of standing up for what you think is right. Peers may seem unpleasant when you speak up against the group but that initial reaction will blow over and you will likely find that you were not so alone in your feelings and that others will admire you for doing what you felt was right. Peer pressure only works if you let it; if you refuse to let it intimidate you it loses its power.

Remember, peer pressure can only bite you if you let it. So become strong and don’t let the peer pressure, pressure you.

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