It can be okay to cave to peer pressure. Not to encourage any bad habits or to tell you to jump off a bridge if everyone else does, but if you did things just because your friends did, that’s okay. It’s a human thing, wanting to fit in, and you aren’t a weak person, or a bad person, for that. Just as important as resisting peer pressure is examining your own desires and reasoning.
However, if you’re here, it’s very likely that you’re being pressured into something that you really, honestly do not want to do- and you shouldn’t cave.
Here’s something grown-ups won’t tell you: Peer pressure does not take the form they say it does. It’s unlikely someone will outright tell you “all the cool kids are doing it” or that you can’t join if you don’t drink or smoke. It’s actually much more likely that they’ll be more than alright with your refusal - at least in my experience. The bad news is that you yourself can be your worst enemy. Peer pressure can be internalized, and even if no one is obviously pushing you, you might push yourself to fit in.
Like every teenager, I’ve experienced peer pressure often. It can be difficult, and often you’re tempted to give in so you fit in with the group you want to fit in with. But it’s important to stay true to yourself. Not the teenagers who tell you to do something, or the adults who tell you not to do something. Yourself. Coming back to what I said before, you can be your own worst enemy. At parties I would feel left out because I didn’t do what everyone else was doing. I felt lonely, an outcast. Of course, the thought began sneaking up on me: You’ll fit in better if you drink. In the end, I didn’t, and I’m glad for it. So here’s my advice on how to fight peer pressure.
The first thing to do is identify the source of pressure. This can be a person, a social group or a place. If it’s a single person, try to hang out with them only in a group setting to minimize the effects. If it’s a social group, you can choose to either cut off contact or not join them at times you know you’ll be pressured. You can also trust a few select members you’re close to with your thoughts. By telling them, they can help accommodate you in the group setting, or be a ‘buddy’ to make sure you feel good in the group at times that are difficult for you. If it’s a place or setting, avoid that certain setting. Either simply stay away or make alternative plans. If it’s a place that’s difficult to avoid, like school or home, talk to an adult about it.
The second thing to do is to identify the source of refusal. This might be societal standards, the law, your family or yourself. Here you have to trust yourself: once you’ve identified it, figure out for yourself if that’s a good reason for refusal. Pro-tip: Yes, “it’s illegal” is a fantastic reason not to do something.
Now that you’ve eradicated or minimized the source of pressure and critically investigated your own reasons, you should be peer-pressure proof. If it’s still too much, don’t be afraid to reach out to knowledgeable adults like teachers or parents or the school psychologist. There’s also nothing wrong with going to therapy: there is no reason ‘too small’ to go to a therapist. Therapists and school psychologists are also bound to secrecy, so you don’t have to be afraid of getting your friends into trouble.
Don’t be afraid to say no. And remember, most teenagers won’t actually outright ignore your refusal. If they do, they’re pretty horrible people and I can guarantee you will find someone else near you who’s willing to stand up for you and won’t pressure you. More difficult is internal pressure, which you really should talk about. Even talking to your peers will make you realize that they, in fact, appreciate you the way you are and don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to. You’re most likely surrounded by loving people who don’t care what you do or don’t as long as you stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out, and also don’t be afraid to distance you from people who won’t accept your refusal or discomfort!
If you have problems with peer pressure that can’t be solved by any way suggested in this article, feel free to reach out to the TWE team! We’re always here to chat and will help you if we can!
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.