How to overcome peer pressure?
You know how when you are in a car and rain is pouring down, you can hear the raindrops hitting the car roof, hard and loud. But then you go under a flyover, and it all stops. All you hear is silence, some horns, but those horns do not sound as scary as the raindrops. It almost feels calming. But as your car drives past from under the flyover, the noise hits your eardrums a little harder and louder than before.
That is exactly what happens when you feel burdened by the opinions of the people around you. When words or ignorance from other people feels like those loud and hard raindrops, their absence gives you calm. A chance for you to be in your element – A chance for you to be yourself.
I remember lying to my mom in 11th grade to watch a horror movie with my friends. It was a lie to be “daring” and “cool”.
My friend lied to her mom in 11th grade after I forced her to accompany me to the horror movie. It was a lie to feel “included”.
We all have done things that we would not have, or should not have, to toe the line with social trends. In today’s day and age, every day feels like a struggle. Each day feels like an ongoing game of Chess between what is real and what you see on the screen. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Peer pressure essentially stems from the people whose actions and thoughts greatly influence yours, be it positive or negative. As teenagers, we heavily rely on our friends to understand which social influences trouble us. However, often those friends are the source of those troubles. Our idea of well-being gets dependent on what others think of us. We seek validation from our friends and the people around us. If we are unable to get that validation, we change ourselves. We change our wants to match the widely accepted trends.
In a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a racing video game was set up for teens to play, either alone or with friends watching. The researchers discovered that the teens took more risks playing as their friends watched vis-a-vis when they played alone. This research supports the idea that teens become impulsive or indulge in risky behaviours when friends are around or in emotionally charged situations.
But speaking from personal experience, it is also essential to understand that while social pressures compel you to do certain things that you may not like, those social pressures can also bring out the best in you.
I remember being very lousy at Social Sciences. But my friend always did well in the subject. She would motivate me to study to get a clearer understanding so I could score better. As annoying as the convincing got, I did score better in my exams. And that peer pressure worked well for me in the end – My parents were happy, as was she, as was I!
As long as we can differentiate between the people who mean well and who don’t, who impact us positively and whose influences we can do without, we can contribute to grooming ourselves in the best ways possible!
I can think of countless instances where I did things that were out of character for me. If someone would ask me today to do those things the first time around, I would say NO because caving into those pressures made me feel so small. And I deserved better than to feel that way. And you, too, deserve better than to feel that way.
I know it gets difficult to get out of situations that make you feel pressured. But the crucial thing to realise is that it is you, and only you, who can do something to get you out of it. While one inevitably faces peer pressure at some point in life due to social influences, owning up to what you believe in serves as the best way to get out of an uncomfortable situation.
Ever since you start looking at the world consciously, your mindset and the people around you influence your beliefs. These beliefs serve as the pillars of how you approach the world. But does that mean you blindly follow what you believe in? No. While the existing conditions around you contribute to your beliefs, who is to say that the world will not offer you new scenarios that have nothing to do with your current ones?
As such, it is important to become aware of your beliefs and to keep revisiting and restructuring them from time to time. As you become aware of your beliefs, understand how different situations contributed to those beliefs. Analyse if you think those beliefs are something that you want to stick with in the future or change. Ensure that those beliefs don’t hold you back from exploring new opportunities as change is important for you to grow.
We tend to build our belief systems at extremes – We either go all in or fold completely. When I was in 9th grade, I remember believing that I could never excel at Maths, and I stopped putting in the effort. Of course, that led to lower confidence and bad marks. Once I was given this pep talk about changing my beliefs, I actively tried to make myself believe that I could do well in the subject if I put in the right effort and surprisingly at the time, I got an A1 grade in my 10th-grade exams.
So structure your beliefs realistically around how you envision yourself. Build beliefs that help you get closer to who you want to be but don’t test yourself at extremes. Once you’ll have that in order, it would be easier for you to make conscious decisions in uncomfortable situations. There is no “right” decision, only how “right” you feel it is for you based on your beliefs.
As you build a strong belief system, trusting your gut never feels like a bad idea! At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you want and what you believe in. When your beliefs tell you that something does not feel right, it probably is not right. Knowing that you are your own person gives you enough confidence to say ‘no’ to someone who pressurises you into doing something you are not fully comfortable with. So always follow what your heart and mind tell you after full deliberation – If it is a ‘no’ you want to say, it is a ‘NO’ you should be saying.
Another thing that really helped me was always talking to my mom – The person I trust the most! When you have someone you can trust completely, there comes a time when you feel comfortable enough to share what you truly feel. It becomes easy to talk and even easier to listen to what they have to say. However, I would often resist my mom. But looking back, I do realise that had I followed what she told me sooner than I did, I would not be writing this long blog after feeling troubled for so long. So when you trust someone completely, listen to what they have to say and measure them against your beliefs.
Another key takeaway from my life has always been to circle myself around a diverse set of people but to also always make a distinction of who means well for me. Interacting with a diverse set of people always adds to your personality in some or the other way. But getting influenced by just about everyone around you only takes aways your identity. As you measure everyone’s influence around you against your beliefs, you make a better call as to what you wish to change in your personality and your beliefs. My best friends came from families similar to mine. But our perspectives towards life were always different from one another. Hence, spending time with them never felt like a burden but we could always take away values and lessons from each other’s lives to build our beliefs after deciding what was right for us.
After all, we all want to do marvellous things in our lives. The only way to accomplish this is to stay unfazed with opinions that bring you down. As George R.R Martin once stated, ‘A Lion does not concern itself with the opinion of sheep.’
So if you do wish to roar, pressurise yourself while finding inspiration and becoming aware – Not from peers that do things that you believe to be wrong, but from peers who drive you to your best self and who help you contribute to the person you envision yourself to become. Be moved by the purpose and goals of such peers. No matter how many clothes or other materialistic things one might have, they cannot have as many rags of wisdom as positively influencing peers.
Make sure to check out the video below where our team discusses a strategy to overcome peer pressure and we hope that you find it useful.
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