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Peer pressure is a really common experience for young people. Peer pressure is when someone influences your decisions around what you should or should not do. Someone you know may try to get you to do something you don’t want to do, or they may try to stop you from doing something that you really want to do. The reason that you may decide to change your mind and do what they say is because you may want to ‘fit in’ and be part of a group. Feeling part of a group is really important for everyone, so it is understandable that most people do feel pressured to go along with what other people are doing. But if you’re doing/not doing something because you want to fit in and it’s not sitting well with you, then it’s not a positive thing.
Have you ever wondered why they call it “peer pressure” and not “teen pressure”? The reality is that peer pressure occurs at every age regardless of whether you are at school, work or uni, so learning how best to deal with it is really a learning skill you can use for the rest of your life.
While peer pressure is mostly viewed as negative, sometimes your friends influence can be a good thing – they might stop you from doing something that you may regret later such as smoking, drinking, or taking drugs.
Negative peer pressure is the type of pressure that you may find yourself wanting to ignore because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Take a second to think about that statement. Can you think of any occasions recently when you have felt uncomfortable around certain people or social settings because you felt pressured to do something to please someone else in order to fit in or not stand out?
As you think about this, can you remember back to what sort of thoughts and ‘self-talk’ you were having at the time? Were you thinking something like “I don’t want to do this…” or “what if someone finds out…”
Can you remember the feelings you were having at the time? Were you feeling uncomfortable, maybe feeling sick in the stomach, sweaty, hot or shaky? Our bodies are designed to tell us when something negative or dangerous is happening to us and sometimes it is the physical symptoms that we feel first before we notice the thinking or self-talk happening.
Thoughts and feelings that make our bodies react are signs that what you are feeling pressured to do is not healthy for you. In the long run the actions you are thinking about doing or not doing that you know are the wrong actions to take don’t make you feel good about yourself at all. In fact, you can end up feeling guilty and disappointed with yourself.
Some of the common pressures, teens and young adults talk to Kids Helpline about are:
On the other hand, there is positive peer pressure. For example, things like being encouraged by friends to do well in sport or school. Other forms of positive peer pressure may be:
The difference between negative and positive peer pressure is how it makes you feel and the intention behind your friends’ pressure or encouragement. From the above examples, it may feel uncomfortable if your friends are encouraging you to stop smoking but on some level, you may feel that you probably should stop because of all of the health risks. The common theme with positive peer pressure is that the pressure is designed to assist you to feel better, healthier or happier. Negative peer pressure on the other hand, can make you feel the opposite; unhappy, unwell or uncomfortable.
This is not an easy thing to do because as the name applies it can be your friends who are pressuring you. So how do you stand up to the pressure from friends?
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Last Reviewed May 2014