On my last post, I spoke about a teen’s programme in my church of which I was invited to speak on depression and peer pressure. That post focused on depression (Of which you could check it out here) and now I’ll be writing on peer pressure, I hope you enjoy it 😉 .
So I was going through true life peer pressure stories online and I came across a website http://doyoudealwithpeerpressure.weebly.com It mainly deals with teen peer pressure and one could even share their story there, you could check it out. I got this particular story from there.
Story by Sarah D. (age 14)
I’ve just moved to a new city. I’m at a completely different and new school. It the first day of school and I am very willing to make new friends. After 2nd period I already made a new group of friends. They all seem very nice and caring. I sit next to all 6 of them at lunch and we talk the whole time. I barely ate any of my lunch! Then, toward the end of lunch, they started talking about meeting in the back of the school after school. I said sure why not. I didn’t really know what we were going to do but I want to keep them as my friends. After school I walk to meet them behind the school. Then I smell something really weird and disgusting. I turn the corner and see all my friends. I smile at them but it turns almost immediately to a frown when I realize they are smoking pot.
They ask me if I want a smoke. I then think about my sporting career. I want to be a professional softball player and this might ruin my ultimate dream. I can’t let this one decisions ruin my future dream and my future health. I say “No. Sorry, I can’t.” One of them says, “Well, if you don’t, we won’t be your friends!” I pause but then I say “fine.” THEN I WALK AWAY. I was really, really proud of myself that I walked away. But I got kind of sad because I no longer had friends. The next day, at lunch, I was looking for a seat when some girls invited me over to sit with them. This is fantastic and I can’t believe I made new friends. Now (3 months later) we all are really great friends and are even talking about all of us going to college together. My coach even said that I could get a college scholarship for softball. They are a much better influence on me and I am very happy I simply said no!
The above story is a clear case of peer pressure. What is peer pressure? This is the direct influence on people by peers OR an individual who gets encouraged to follow their peers. By changing their attitudes, values or behaviours to conform to those of the influencing group or individual. Peer pressure could be positive or negative and Sarah’s story is an example of negative peer pressure of which she didn’t give in to.
An example of positive pressure would be a situation where your friends encourage you to volunteer for a good cause or cause you to improve on your studies, learn new things and so on by way of their influence on you and so on.
Peer pressure isn’t limited to just youths or teenagers. It happens to everyone. It is therefore necessary to learn how to deal with it, especially the negative peer pressure (Mostly what the peer pressure the most talks about) which is in fact not easy to overcome due to the fear of losing your friends or not being liked by them. Teenagers (not limited to teens only, because adults do also) usually feel the effects of peer pressure mostly from their close friends due to the fact that they care about them and value their opinions.
“Only surround yourself with people who will lift you higher”
I came across an article online and it stated that according to the article “Adolescents and Peer Pressure” published on the University of Michigan’s website, the pressure exerted from a best friend can feel more personal and forceful than those from a larger group.
Sometimes, giving in to negative peer pressure could be as a result of undefined identity. You don’t know who you are or what you carry. You don’t have goals, focus or a vision of the future and so you go with the wind. If you do think about the future, you’d think it out and finally say no, just like Sarah did. Sometimes, people usually don’t know when they are giving in. This might be because of the temporary happiness to be accepted or loved by your friends but if you know you won’t be happy with yourself or you can’t do it, then don’t. You’d find other friends that would always accept you just like Sarah.
“Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one”
How Do We Overcome Peer Pressure?
So I’ve got a few tips of which might be helpful. Here we go
- Select Your Close Friends
One should go for friends that improve them, friends that bring out the best in them, friends that have similar values and interests as them. This doesn’t mean you should hate others who might not fall into the above categories. Others can be your friends but not close friends. The bible encourages us to love one another, it also tells us to be kind.
“Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character”
1 Corintians 15:33
- Learn to Say No
This is very important. As humans, sometimes we find it difficult to say no to our friends or people we love but saying no is necessary. If you don’t know how to say no, then people will take advantage of you, also, you’d be easily carried away with the wind because you don’t have a stand. You could try by practicing how to say no to yourself on the mirror. When saying no, be polite. Don’t aggressively say no, you can convey your message calmly. The bible says in Proverbs 15:1 that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. When you say no, you could divert the topic, e.g. “No, I think I’d stay back and help my brother with his homework, besides he needs me”.
“We should cultivate the ability to say no to activities for which we have no time, no interest or real concern. If we learn to say no to many things, then we will be able to say yes to the things that matters most”
- Walk Away if Your No isn’t Accepted
If after you have said no, it isn’t accepted, just leave that place. You could just leave or come up with something and be out of there but remember, don’t be aggressive, except you really need to be. You don’t really want to stay where you will be tempted or persuaded to give in
“Abstain from all appearances of evil”
1 Thessalonians 5:22
- Try As Much As Possible to Avoid Such Situations
Sometimes situations where we are influenced or told or asked to do something can be avoided, other times, not really. Those we can avoid, let’s avoid them.
- Do Things that Build Your Self-esteem
Low self-esteem can make one give in to peer pressure. This is because such a person wants acceptance and seeks validation from others. They think once people who they think are better than they are accept or hang out with them, it makes them cool and other people might actually want to associate with them.
The truth is, most people in one way or the other seek validation from other people, so you are human too if you do. But, you need to know yourself and believe you have worth. You could develop yourself to build your self-esteem. If you have a talent, let’s say, playing musical instruments, you could learn more about it and become better. Also, take care of your body because it deserves to be healthy. Exercise, eat right, take a walk (they usually release happy chemicals like dopamine and knowing the fact that you worked out or accomplished something just makes you feel good you know) and so on. Help people, you could volunteer somewhere. Engage in activities that make you happy too. Build yourself up and know who you are and what you carry!
- Always Have Someone You could Talk To
You could talk to someone about your peer pressure experiences or situations. This person could be anyone but let the person be someone who is wise or mature enough to help you out and give you good advice. I know there are situations where you need to take decisions immediately but in situations where there is time to at least think about it, you could seek the counsel of someone older and wise.
“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as a perfume and incense”
- Family Support
I guess this part I want to talk about now is for families and loved ones. For teenagers, parents or loved ones should make effort to be involved in their teenager’s lives. While doing it, they shouldn’t come off as judgmental, they should try to understand them as much as possible. This way, just maybe, your child might draw near to you. This doesn’t mean you should not discipline them when necessary because you want to come off as cool mom or dad who wants to be their friends. Remember you are their parents too.
Also, get to know their close friends. Some parents don’t know who their sons or daughters hang out with most times. It’s very necessary to know your child’s or loved one’s close friends.
Finally, say good things to your children. Don’t tell them how they are stupid or foolish, or how they can never get anything right, or how they are good for nothing and so on. This most times affects them and they begin to feel worthless and have esteem issues. Since they can’t feel loved at home or with family, of course they go outside to where they feel they will be loved or be part of some kind of family.
Have you noticed that most times in a group of friends, there is always someone that seems like the leader among them whose decisions and opinions matter most (Just like in those high school movies where there are 3 mean girls with one as the leader)? That person is the pack leader. In a group where such a person has so much control, the person decides where to go, how to dress, what to do and so on. They are usually not challenged. So where am I going to with this? Well if such a person seems to be taking bad decisions and expects you and the others to follow, you don’t have to. You can always stand your ground. Might not be easy, the rest of the group might not be your friends because of that but do it because of you. You don’t want to be a part of such? then don’t! Even God gave us the gift of choice, why would someone take that away from you? Tell yourself no one has such power and you would never give someone that power too.
“It takes nothing to fall in line, it takes everything to stand alone”
I hope you enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to contribute, I’d love to read it
Till I come your way,