The Pressure of Peers

As we near the end of the school year, there are often parties and celebratory events that take place. Each event can offer its own temptations, but one of the most unsuspecting ones is a temptation from a peer. Sure, we can plan ahead if we know who will be there, what temptations will be present, etc., but what do you do when a friend offers you something you did not expect or encourages you to partake in more than you were originally comfortable with? The most common answer to this scenario would be to oblige our friend and deal with the consequences later or, in other words, adopt a, “screw it,” mentality. While this may seem fine and dandy at the time, we can encounter some serious repercussions in the aftermath and I’m not just referring to getting chewed out by parents or other authority figures. Sometimes, the worst verbal abuse we can encounter is from ourselves.

Assertive Communication

Our first line of defense for any disagreement, argument, difference of opinions, or statement of needs is assertive communication. You may be more familiar with assertive communication in the form of boundary setting. Setting boundaries is not only a way to state our needs to others, but it can protect us against the relentless peer pressurers of the world. These boundaries could be as simple as telling someone, “no” when they ask, or continue to ask, if you would like to engage in an activity you do not want to engage in. However, we can go further into it by adding the reasons behind this choice. Perhaps we do not want to get in trouble, maybe we have had a bad reaction in the past, or maybe we do not feel safe in the current environment. Whatever the reason, authenticity is always the best route when it comes to setting our boundaries.

Other Options

Now, I know what you might be thinking, “Krista, it is easier said than done to stand up to Jimmy from science class. He’s my project partner and I don’t want to fail because of him.” No worries, I’ve got you. If simply saying, “NO” to someone will ruffle too many feathers and increase your anxiety further, there are plenty of other options we can implement that will get you out of an unsafe situation while keeping your reputation intact. The first one is blame the authority figures in your life. Whether it is your mom, dad, sister, brother, caretaker, professor, or a police officer, I’m quite certain they would rather you use them as the bad guy than for you to engage in a scenario you are not comfortable with. You can also change the topic, crack a joke, make an excuse, bring a friend to support you, the options are endless! There are also nonverbal ways to avoid peer pressure, the easiest being simply walking, running, or bolting away (depending on the severity of the scenario). Peer pressure events are often around loud noises and you could use this to your advantage in that you did not hear them.

In other words, the quality of our support system is much more important than the quantity. Sure, we may have a better experience working with Jimmy on our science project if we engage in what he was pressuring, but why are Jimmy’s needs more important than our own? Your voice deserves to be heard loudly and clearly. If there are those that would judge you for sticking to your own personal boundaries and values, are they truly of value to your life? Lastly, I’ll add this disclaimer: if your safety is at risk, these options may not be as appropriate given the situation. Always make a safety plan or exit strategy for possible scenarios of increased risk.

If you would like to speak with a counselor about the pressures and anxieties of being a teen, give Tx Harmony Counseling a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.

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Krista Bassani, LPC

Krista Bassani, LPC

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