Let’s talk about peer pressure
By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna
What would you do if you were in any of the following situations?
- One of your friends brings an unwanted magazine to school and asks you to join him/her in the interval to read it during the interval. You know its age-inappropriate.
- A few among your friend circle has attempted smoking and they think it’s cool. Now they are forcing you to try it out and share the experience. You know smoking is injurious to health!
- Your friends plan to ditch the art lesson and go play in the ground pretending it’s the PE time. And you are invited.
- Your friend brings some unknown pill and tells you to try it as it makes you feel really good.
- Girls/boys in your group are only wearing a particularly expensive brand of shoes. They tell you that you need to have a pair if you want to hang out with them. You know it costs a lot of money and its difficult for your parents to buy it right now.
If you were in any of these situations, what would you do? Would you say yes and do as they please? Or would you run away from them and be angry at them? What do you think is the best thing to do in a situation like this?
Maybe now, and most probably as you grow older, you’ll be faced with some challenging decisions – maybe a decision that is much more serious than the once we have mentioned. Some of these challenges don’t have a clear right or wrong answer and might involve serious moral problems. Making decisions on our own is hard for us sometimes. Imagine how it will be when there are other people involved and try to pressure you into making a decision that they favour.
Who are peers?
People who are your age, like your classmates, are called peers.
When your peers try to influence how you act in order to get you to do something, it’s called “peer pressure”. It’s not surprising if you could relate to what we are talking about in this article. Most of us, including adults, face peer pressure. Unfortunately, some of us are very bad in recognising peer pressure and so we fall victim to it.
This doesn’t mean that peer pressure is always negative and always does bad to us. There can be positive peer pressure which encourages you to improve yourself or become better in something that you are doing. This is why understanding and recognising peer pressure from a young age is very important to us.
Anyway, whether good or bad, why are we influenced by this? Of course, if it’s positive peer pressure, we can try and understand it. But why do people fall victim to negative peer pressure, sometimes even when you know that it’s not the right thing to do?
We give in to peer pressure because we want to be liked, to fit in, or simply because we worry that other kids might make fun of us if we don’t go along with the group. Some of us go along because our curiosity is so high. Most of us don’t like to be isolated, especially when we are among a group of people that we like. So one might just do what their friend asks because he or she doesn’t want to lose the friendship. Also, the thought that “everyone else is doing it and what’s the harm if I also try it out” can encourage you to follow in your friend’s path.
You need to think about this, even if you haven’t faced anything like this yet because if you are unprepared for responding to peer pressure, you are more likely to react too quickly and give in. Think about your feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong. This can help you figure out the right thing to do. Sometimes learning to say NO can be tough. But the more confident you become in saying NO at the right time, the more trouble you can save yourself from.
Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in your abilities, qualities, and judgment.
If you didn’t know about this earlier and had fallen victim to negative peer pressure, don’t feel guilty about it. Now that you understand what this is, you can be stronger. If you continue to face peer pressure and you’re finding it difficult to handle, talk to someone you trust – may be your parents, an older sibling, your teacher, or even the counsellor in school. Prepare yourself to fight negative peer pressure while embracing yourself to go along the positive.