Peer Pressure: Just say, “No!”

Peer Pressure: Just say,

At the beginning of the winter term, the students in Ms. Fogarty’s seventh-grade health class were learning about peer pressure and how to avoid it. Peer pressure has long been a part of students’ and adult’s lives, and often, we don’t realize it until it’s too late. Peer pressure is always there whether you are aware of it or not. People can be influenced by spending time with their friends and family members. Actually, peer pressure is not always negative. Positive peer pressure can help you make more friends and feel more welcomed in the community around you, and even motivate you to do more positive activities and accomplish more.

On the other hand, negative peer pressure can result in bad choices, with bad consequences. To avoid negative peer pressure, you need to recognize it. First, it is important to understand who your peers are. When you are a little kid, your parents choose friends for you, but as you get older, you begin to make your own friends. Everyone who spends time with you is your peer. Secondly, negative peer pressure is generally when your friends coax you into doing something that makes you uncomfortable. They might say, “Oh, come on!” or “ It’s just a …, and everyone else is doing it.” You give in because you want them to like you. Sometimes, you are made to feel that you owe others a debt. For example, if they helped you ace a test, then in return, they might ask you to help them buy alcohol. In other situations, peer pressure becomes harder to define. For instance, to be with a group of girls, they may say you have to dress in a certain way or adopt their attitudes toward the school to be part of their clique.

Peer pressure is hard to avoid; it is fairly difficult to be the only one saying no. Still, there are a couple of ways to avoid negative pressure. The best solution is to choose your friends wisely. If all of your peers are straight A students and don’t take drugs, tobacco, or alcohol, you are less likely to be negatively influenced. If you are not comfortable with something that they want you to do, always go with your gut feeling, and don’t let them persuade you to do otherwise.

If an event becomes very intricate, it is always wise to talk to someone outside of your group of friends. In Chinese, there is a saying, “ You cannot see the true feature of the mountain only because you are in the mountain.” Talking to someone outside of the group, such as a trusted teacher or your parents, may provide you with a different opinion or another perspective. If you are afraid to lose face in front of your friends, you can develop a  “bail-out” code phrase with your parents. You could send a text message to your parents saying, “Can you drive me home because I have a very bad stomach,” from a party where you are being uncomfortably encouraged by friends to drink or use tobacco. If you are a person who has a hard time saying no to people, it is not always harmful to tell a white lie by blaming your parents. You could say, “If my mother finds out, she will be really angry, and I’m not going to take that risk.” Lastly, you can pretend your parents are watching you. If you are troubled by peer pressure for a long time, don’t feel guilty about the mistakes you made because if you don’t take action, such as sharing your miserable situation with a trusted adult, your situation can become even worse, and more importantly, your health and/or your reputation could be at stake.

Peer pressure is double-sided; while negative peer pressure does happen, positive peer pressure can influence you to develop more efficient study methods, thus becoming a better student. Among your peers, you may find friendship and acceptance. Your peers can set positive examples for you, so you can adapt these positive traits simply by spending time with those friends. For example, your classmates could have a really useful test-taking strategy. Since you are friends with them, it’s very likely they will share this efficient strategy with you.  

Some people give in to peer pressure because they are afraid of losing friends, and they enjoy the feeling of being liked by friends, while others just want to try something new or daring. For whatever reasons, do not give in to peer pressure, and always listen to your gut feelings. Feel confident about yourself and be persistent with your principles.