15 Feb. 2021

Peer Pressure

Has someone ever told you “try a cigarette, nothing will happen!”, or “you have to drink with me today else you are a loser”, or something along those lines? That is often known as peer pressure. Peer pressure is a term that we often associate with the period of adolescence as that is often seen as the age of experimentation. Peer pressure refers to the act of a peer/ paper group putting pressure on another peer/peer group to indulge in certain activities or do certain actions.

Peer pressure can be categorised into different types. For instance, think of a situation wherein your friend tells you, “you must bunk this class with me!”. This is an example of active peer pressure where the peer is directly convincing the other peer to engage in a certain activity. On the other hand, imagine a situation wherein you see your friends bunking class and you also decide to go with them. This is an example of passive peer pressure wherein behaviour is modeled and there is no direct convincing. A peer sees how his/her peers act and does the same.

Peer pressure can also be positive and negative. We usually think of it as being negative wherein someone pressurizes us to do something we don't want and something that makes us uncomfortable or bad such as drinking too much to prove you are strong, driving fast on the main road, using abusive language, etc. However, peer pressure can also be positive wherein peers make you follow certain good behaviours such as not texting while driving, not drinking beyond a certain number of drinks, volunteering for an NGO, etc.

Certain examples of peer pressure include driving fast, drinking alcohol, dating before one is ready, substance use, bunking classes (mass bunk), etc. The reason teens often give into peer pressure is because their need to be liked and accepted is very high at this age and saying yes to the pressure ensures they will have a peer group which then makes them feel secure.

Given this understanding of what peer pressure is and why teens fall under it, we can now focus on how one should deal with it.

• Learning to say “no”: Understanding that it is absolutely okay to say “no” and take a stand for yourself is important. However saying “no” requires practice. You can try standing in front of your mirror and practice saying “no” a few times every day. You can also practice with the help of a friend in a role play type setting wherein s/he pressures you to do something and you say “no”.

• It is okay to be by yourself: Often we feel that when we say “no”, we will not have anyone to talk to and we will be alone. Saying no can result in two situations. The first situation being, yes, people may not hang out with you, but you will be much more at ease and won't feel the constant pressure. Here it is important to understand that it is completely okay to be by yourself. Enjoy your own company, do whatever you want, you are independent! The second situation that can result as a way of saying “no” is that others who also do not like the pressure but are too afraid to take a stand might feel inspired by you to start saying “no”. You can be an inspiration!

• Talking to someone: Sometimes we feel scared and stressed because of peer pressure. It is a good idea to talk to someone older about it. It can be your sibling, your parent, a teacher, or the school counsellor. They will know how to handle the situation and can guide you through it. You are not alone.

In conclusion we understand that peer pressure is a tricky situation but one which befalls many. It can be daunting but can also be dealt with in the right way. Understanding the phenomenon and learning how to handle it is an important part of adolescence.