When we think of the term ‘peer pressure’ most of us will equate that with our teenage years when we might have been on the receiving end of a group of our so called ‘friends’ trying to coerce us into doing something we did not want to do or which we knew to be wrong.
Peer Pressure in Adulthood
The most common forms of peer pressure are still the same as they were 20 years ago. People will try to persuade others to try drugs cigarettes or alcohol, to engage in underage sex, to play truant from school or to commit some kind of crime all with the intention of getting the victim to agree to fit into some kind of group or ‘gang’ or a type of accepted behaviour which they don’t necessarily feel comfortable with.
However, what’s not often written or spoken about is peer pressure in adulthood. There are many highly documented cases of bullying in the workplace and, even on a less sinister scale, how many of you have ever been asked to work an extra shift because all of the “regular workers have got a night out planned” or were you ever made to feel guilty because you refused to go to the pub with the rest of the work ‘gang’ on a Friday afternoon?
Then, there’s also subliminal peer pressure. You only have to take a look at how many people have got themselves into financial difficulty because of their ‘need’ to keep up with everyone else around them and not to be seen as the ‘odd one out’. Even seemingly innocuous comments such as “I’ve just got my brand new BMW, isn’t it time you got rid of your old banger?” has an element of peer pressure about it and we’re now seeing record levels of debt and bankruptcy orders, many of which will have resulted in our overwhelming desperation to be seen as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.
Even more subtle still is the world of advertising. Take fashion for example and the constant urge of the fashion industry in trying to tell us that any woman over a size zero must be fat and that models who resemble ‘stick insects’ are the norm. All this is a form of peer pressure which.
So how do we combat peer pressure and retake control of our lives?
Taking Back Control
Combating peer pressure is all about establishing your own values about life and the things that are important to you and in sticking to your own principles. Whilst some people find it hard to say ‘No’, the hardest thing is doing it for the first time. But, once you have done it, you’ll feel an enormous sense of self-empowerment and, not only that, you’ll sometimes also find that others may also come around to your way of thinking.
If you look at peer pressure and think of it as letting yourself down it often becomes easier to combat and boosts your own self-esteem at the same time.
Remember when your parents used to berate you with that old chestnut “if he jumped into the flames, would you do the same?” Quite often, this is all it would often take to enable us as children to see that the actions of somebody were wrong. Your own values of what makes you uncomfortable will always help you to avoid peer pressure. The idea that ‘everybody’s doing it so it must be good” is simply not true. Take a typical night out on any High Street of a weekend. You only have to look at the hospital casualty wards after midnight to see evidence that it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Choosing True Friends
Choose like-minded friends in the first place. More often than not, we tend to gravitate towards friendships where people have a similar outlook to ourselves. This is especially truer as we get older, and as ‘true’ friends, they wouldn’t ask us to do something we felt was wrong or we weren’t comfortable with so choosing your friends wisely in the first place can often enable you to avoid peer pressure altogether.
Think of yourself as a leader not a follower. Even if that doesn’t come naturally to you, those who see themselves as having more of a leadership role and are comfortable with expressing their own opinions, feelings and values tend not to be chosen as ‘victims’ when it comes to peer pressure. This can be particularly useful in a work setting, where, unlike choosing our friends, we’re not always going to get on with everybody we work with and it’s important we can still stand up for ourselves.
Have a good sense of your own values in life. Values that your parents taught you many years ago will often form the backbone of your own values today. To that extent, certain things in life will always be a ‘no-no’ which should be cast in stone. In other words, there’ll be certain lines you have drawn up which you just won’t cross, regardless of external pressures to do so.
Be fair minded and point out things you feel are unjust. As you get older, things like office gossip and spiteful remarks can often make an adult feel under immense pressure to conform to the standards of others just like peer pressure can have the same effects in the playground. Never allow yourself to jump on the bandwagon and to take comfort in making others feel bad or sad and make a point of discouraging this behaviour in your peers. Simply saying something like, “Your actions are making me feel uncomfortable”, or “Do you ever stop to think how they feel?” are usually enough to make others who also feel the same way stand up and be counted too which is more than enough to make the bully boys (or girls) stand down.
The power you have at your disposal, however, is the knowledge that peer pressure can only win out if you let it. If you refuse to let it intimidate you, it loses its impact and simply makes those who try to use it as an intimidatory tactic appear very small indeed.