We have all heard the words peer pressure at one point or another. Over the course of childhood and throughout one’s academic career, there were a variety of figureheads who spoke of the need to resist peer pressure and the value of asserting yourself when friends tried to talk you into something you didn’t feel comfortable doing. When most people think of peer pressure, they think of adolescents and teens. However, the vulnerability to peer pressure and its effects does not stop once someone reaches their twenties. Peer pressure can have positive and negative impacts that reach throughout the entire lifespan.
What Is Peer Pressure?
A Peer is someone who is a part of the same social group. Therefore, the term “peer pressure” means the influence that the peers (the other members of your social circle) can have on each other. The term peer pressure is often used when people are talking about behaviors that are not considered socially acceptable such as the use of alcohol or drugs. It is not common to hear peer pressure used in reference to socially desirable behaviors such as reading a book or mowing the lawn. Although peer pressure is not always negative, it is generally thought of as unfavorable as opposed to positive.
Positive peer pressure
Contrary to popular belief, peer pressure can both supportive and destructive depending on the application. In some social groups, a positive form of peer pressure exists—for example, the pressure not to use drugs or consume alcohol. There is also a positive type of peer pressure that is sometimes associated with like-minded scholars who are competing for grades or recognition. In these situations, peer pressure is encouraged, as it often results in a positive outcome.
Positive peer pressure could also influence someone to become involved in sports or other positive extracurricular activities and hobbies. Activities such as these could lead to involvement in a healthy lifestyle and the potential of becoming a role model for others who may be in a potentially challenging situation where the wrong type of peer pressure could have detrimental consequences.
Negative peer pressure
Negative peer pressure is the form of peer pressure we are all most familiar with. Peer pressure in a negative form is the peer pressure that could lead someone to develop addictions, experiment with substances, and neglect vital aspects of their lives, such as schoolwork or employment. Negative peer pressure is also what commonly leads to trouble with the legal system, drug abuse or alcohol abuse, or even medical consequences and death.
Peer pressure (negative) can cause people to do things they would not otherwise do or consider doing in the hopes of fitting in or being noticed. This can include all sorts of potentially dangerous situations, including experimenting with substances. Beyond the use of substances, peer pressure can often inspire the need to impress others. This need to impress peers can override common knowledge or the fear of taking risks and result in a variety of problems. A few examples could include driving under the influence, overdose, alcohol or drug poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, accidents, addiction, or death.
Peer Pressure at Any Age
It is of value to note that peer groups exist across all age groups, and therefore peer pressure can occur at any point in one’s life. What may change is how the pressure is applied and what the pressure centers around. During the adolescent and teen years, people may experience pressure to try or do things against their better judgment to fit in or to be part of a specific social circle. As people get, older pressure can shift. People may feel they need to drink beer or smoke to become part of a weekend bowling league. A woman (or man) may feel as though they need to drink wine to fit in with the ladies’ club that goes out every Friday night. Peer pressure doesn’t necessarily stop nor become less dangerous as people get older. The difference being, there is an expectation that “adults should know better.” While this may be accurate, the pressure to fit in or feel welcomed can often override what we know to be the right decision or a wrong decision.
It is indeed true that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure due to where they are in their development. Many teens and young adults have yet to establish their own values, understanding of consequence, or human relationships. Many of the cues teens and adolescents take are from their parents or another parental figure. They are often seeking social acceptance and a feeling of belonging. As a result, teens and adolescents are more likely and more willing to engage in behaviors that are against their better judgment to achieve that much needed and sought-after acceptance. This experimentation can lead to long term problems such as alcohol or drug abuse and addiction.
But, as previously noted, adults can be equally as vulnerable to peer pressure. Many adults drink too much or too often because it is their only social outlet. When they are out, they see others drinking or gambling, and it encourages them to do the same. Adults see co-workers or superiors getting a raise or promotion, and they feel pressure to put work before family to achieve the same end. In short, it doesn’t matter if you are eighteen or fifty-eight; peer pressure can still have an impact on your life. Peer pressure in adults can also lead to experimentation with substances, which can inevitably lead to a long-term fight with alcohol or drug abuse and addiction.
How to Avoid Peer Pressure (and still be happy)
Learning how to quickly and easily put an end to peer pressure is a great tool. It not only reduces the risks you may encounter from succumbing to peer pressure and doing things you usually would not do, but it also helps to alleviate the number of conversations around your choices. This is also highly beneficial if you are already in recovery or have completed treatment for drug abuse or alcohol abuse. Below are a few ways you can put an end to peer pressure (at least being exerted on you) while in your social circles.
Putting an end to peer pressure is all about the level of confidence you have in your choices. This means stating your intentions and convictions in such a way that those around you believe you the first time. Finding this strength may be even more challenging if you are new to recovery, and your days of drug abuse or alcohol abuse are still quite fresh in your mind. If you find yourself in a social situation where someone is insisting you accept a drink, it is ok to say, “No, thank you.” If you display doubt or waiver in your decisions regarding using drugs or consuming alcohol, those attempting to pressure you will see your weakness and continue to assert pressure. Choosing to be or remain sober after struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse challenges may not always feel natural or enjoyable early on. But, with each assertive, “No, thank you,” you will begin to feel more power behind your words.
Don’t Engage or Participate
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you have become involved in a verbal altercation with someone who is trying to talk you into using, the best response is to walk away. It is always a good idea to try politely declining first, but if they simply will not take no for an answer, it is time to change the subject or completely remove yourself from the situation. Sadly, there will be people who will not respect your decision to stop using, no matter how assertive or confident you are.
Keep a Close Circle of Support
It becomes much easier to ignore peer pressure from people who don’t or can’t understand your previous struggles with drug abuse or alcohol abuse when you have someone who knows and supports your decisions close by. Not everyone you come in contact with at celebrations or other gatherings will understand your circumstances, history, or sobriety related decisions. Having a friend or family member close by to stand in your corner when you are offered a drink can make it much easier to say no despite any persistence or insistence from the offering party. These supportive members of your circle are those who most intimately understand your personal battle with drug abuse or alcohol abuse and can remind you of all the reasons why you are where you are today when you have a weak moment or a bad day.
Eliminate the Negative
If you find the pressure to drink or use drugs is not coming from those who would have no reason to understand, but from those closest to you, it may be time to sever those relationships. Many people who are actively addicted will forge friendships with others who are also struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse. It is significantly easier to socialize with those who share the chaotic existence of addiction. Once you have decided to seek treatment and have entered recovery, it may not be possible to maintain those relationships as you may be in different emotional places. While it may be challenging to end these friendships, it may be necessary for the preservation of your sobriety and your mental health until the time comes that they as well choose to seek treatment.
Peer pressure can have a significant impact on your life in different ways. The influences of peers can be positive or negative, but it is undoubtedly strong and difficult to ignore. This is especially true if you are currently struggling with drug abuse or alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, it is often easier to find peers to use with than to find peers to attend treatment with. However, if you have decided it is time to seek sobriety from alcohol or substances, look to the staff at The Hills for support in achieving your goals. Each of our treatment plans is designed around your individual needs and with your health and safety in mind. Making the first step towards seeking treatment for your addiction is not easy. Let us help you take that step and many more.