Peer pressure is a dynamic social force that encourages the alignment to certain behaviors, values, and beliefs, dictated by the individual or group. Adolescents experience peer pressure as particularly powerful, considering it is thought to be the most impressionable age of influence. When you feel like you’re being pressured to do something that you’d rather not, the temptation to lash out is great. Rather than reacting combatively to social pressure, there are positive ways to resist the effects of peer pressure.
1. Expand Your Social Circle
You can’t be pressured by your problematical friends if you expand your friend group! If your social group is making you uncomfortable, finding others that are unaffiliated with your current social circle is a good way to start with a clean slate. Although some groups might be cliquish and insular, excluding newcomers, many other groups will welcome you.
Special interest clubs and sports teams are great avenues for expanding your group of friends. Nearly any hobby you have likely has an established group dedicated to the shared enjoyment of that interest. Sometimes, the best way to resist peer pressure is to find a new set of peers.
2. Get Involved
Helping others is a great way to help yourself. Engaging in volunteer efforts is a great resume builder and can expand your social circle and skill set as well. A multitude of volunteer opportunities exists in any community. Finding a cause that resonates with you is the best way to get personally invested in the work.
Getting involved in volunteer work can take many forms. Local homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity locations, and walking dogs at a local animal shelter are some good starting points for getting involved in your community.
3. Find a Mentor
As well as becoming involved with extracurriculars, finding someone to confide in and learn from is a good idea for anyone struggling with peer issues.
Anyone you perceive to be a person of good character can be a mentor, be it a teacher, coach, or family member. Most of the authority figures in your life would be happy to help a young person grow, you just have to reach out to them.
4. Lead by Example
Everyone could do with more positivity these days, especially younger people. Be the change you want to see by being more willing to dispense compliments, positive observations, and encouragement to your peers.
By leading by example, others will perceive you as more confident and less susceptible to the various ways peers may try to pressure you. Being confident in who you are as a person radiates like an air of tacit social power, discouraging others from trying to use their influence over you.
5. Pursue Gainful Employment
Beyond making money, having a job rewards you with a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. The feeling of completing work based on your own merits is a great way to build up self-esteem in the long-term. Along with the self-actualization rewards, a workplace can provide a new social circle and opportunities for long-term connections.
6. Reconnect with Your Roots
On a basic level, your immediate family is just another social group, with all of the ups and downs that may entail. Your parents are your original mentors, with lots of knowledge and experience to impart, while siblings are more like peers.
Spending a healthy amount of time with family strengthens the bonds between members and increases the social skills of everyone involved that can be used in school or the workplace.
7. Find Inner Peace
If you find yourself dwelling on what someone said, or a past event when you felt pressured, it’s constructive to practice mindfulness. Analyzing and understanding your own thought processes and the way your emotions are subsequently affected is key in maintaining a stable frame of mind. Practicing mindfulness can take many forms. One doesn’t have to be religious to take time to sit with their thoughts.
In fact, meditation can be practiced nearly anywhere, under any circumstances that are comfortable for you. A peaceful reflection at the end of a long day can help you understand the ways people may have attempted to pressure you to behave or think.
8. Excuse Yourself
When removing yourself from a situation, few can resist the tried-and-true excuse that your mom is expecting you to be home by a certain time. We don’t advocate lying in general, but sometimes, the truth needs to be stretched to fit your needs.
It may not be seen as “cool” to make an excuse to leave a questionable social situation, but doing what’s necessary for your mental and physical health is more important. Making an excuse that is firm and believable is often the best bet for avoiding resistance from peers.
9. Trust Your Gut
If you find yourself in a situation that seems to be deteriorating, trust yourself! The first and last line of defense against being manipulated is your own intuition. If something or someone is raising your internal alarm, listening to it is always the safer option.
Vive la Résistance
Everyone experiences peer pressure at some point, but it is up to the individual how they choose to deal with it. It’s easy to just go along with social pressure, especially from friends, but it’s better for everyone if you stand up for yourself. Peer pressure can range from mildly harmless, like jaywalking, to something extremely dangerous, like underage drinking.
Regardless of the topic of pressure, resistance is important, as being passive can be taken as unspoken acceptance. If you are in an uncomfortable situation, taking a firm stance is more important than keeping up appearances and following the crowd.