It is important to make an effort at our friendships. Trying to fit in with an entire group during this work can sometimes have things turn sour. When you want to feel like you are part of something, then the other members of that group can put pressure on you to act in a specific way. When you decide to do something that you normally wouldn’t do or not being yourself in some way to feel accepted, then you are experiencing peer pressure.
When you start to deal with peer pressure, it can change the way you look and dress. You might decide to begin to participate in activities that fall outside of your normal interests. It can influence who you choose to date, if you drink alcohol or take drugs, and even alter who your friends are.
There are three ways that peer pressure occurs.
- Direct peer pressure occurs when someone tells you what you should be doing.
- Indirect pressure happens when your group does a specific activity together that you would not usually do if you were outside of that group.
- Self-directed peer pressure is when you place stress on yourself to fit in with a specific group of people because of the comments or standards directed toward you.
Peer pressure is often see as being a negative interaction, but it can also be a trait that is sometimes used for good. These are the pros and cons to consider.
List of the Pros of Peer Pressure
1. It can be a way to help you learn some positive habits.
When you begin to follow a group of friends, then you have a chance to see all of their traits. If you only focus on the negative choices they make, that will be the pressure that you feel to conform. There are positive habits in each group that you can focus on as well. Observing good choices and wanting to include them as part of your daily routine is beneficial. Let’s say that your friends like to take a walk each morning to get some exercise, so they invite you to come along. They don’t stop extending the invitation until you join them. Their encouragement can be inspirational, and it can help you to get the physical activity that you need.
2. Peer pressure can help you to experience different cultures.
Every family teaches their children different values based on the desires of the parents, guardians, grandparents, and others in authority. There are times when your folks might want to keep you away from certain elements of society because it could be harmful. In the past, some families avoided soda, fast food, or even public school to shelter kids from potentially harmful elements. Today’s parents are taking the same actions on social media, online programming, and even computer use.
When you have a group of friends who come from a diverse set of family experiences, then you have an opportunity to see how the world operates with greater clarity. You can benefit from their observations of life, just as your friends can learn from yours. When you can see a wide range of behaviors and choices, then it becomes easier to make the right decision.
3. It can help you to abandon negative habits.
The best peer groups will work with you to start reducing the influence of your bad habits. If you are the person who is always late to events, then you would start to change this behavior when seeing your friends arriving on time – all of the time. Gaining acceptance into this group of friends can be enough to inspire the change you want to see in life. This benefit works for other bad habits too, ranging from the foods you eat to even the shows you decide to watch on television.
4. Peer pressure can encourage excellence.
When students work with intelligent classmates, then they tend to perform better academically. This result occurs because kits tend to imitate each other when they are unsure of how to behave in a social environment. Children also reward one another for acting in specific ways, such as smiles, laughter, or a high-five. These expectations that we have for each other continue into adulthood. When there are clear expectations in place and you surround yourself with people who want to do the right thing, then that will eventually become the person you become.
5. It can help you to become a more emotionally flexible person.
If you are eager to start fitting in with a specific group, then it is not unusual for your preferences and behavior to instantly change as needed to accommodate what everyone wants. Although liking hot dogs today and hating them tomorrow can seem like a flip-flop, it is actually evidence of your desire to compromise and accommodate others. All reciprocal relationships must have this trait if they are going to work.
6. Peer pressure can help you to develop empathy.
When you spend time worrying about what everyone else things about you, then a deeper awareness of your personal feelings begins to develop at the same time. This process will eventually help your social skills because interacting with other people is the easiest way to feel what it is like to be someone else. That is why we try to experience a situation from another person’s perspective if we get upset with them. There are times when empathy can feel like a disadvantage if it feels like you’re always helping the other person, but it is also a process that will help you to mature. It can even help you to develop a high emotional IQ.
7. It can help you to keep from being overweight.
Your friends will influence how much you decide to eat. When there are friends with whom you can interact every day at school or work, then you are less likely to find comfort in negative habits like comfort snacking. Spending time with your friends makes you less likely to eat something because you’re either playing, engaged in an activity, or doing something active. Friendships work to minimize boredom and reduce the severity of stress that you feel, which is why having a positive group is so advantageous to the average person.
List of the Cons of Peer Pressure
1. It can cause you to lose your identity.
When you are making choices to gain acceptance into a group of friends, then you are changing who you are at a core level to please someone else. Instead of focusing on your identity, you shift it to become something that others want to see. Although it can feel good to experience acceptance, this emotion can be short-lived because the friends who demand compliance through peer pressure are usually the first to walk away from you in life. If other people are asking you to change, then they aren’t really your friends. True friendships embrace your strengths and weaknesses as they are.
2. Peer pressure can increase the risk of a mental health issue.
Most people fear social rejection on some level. Those who do not are typically independent souls who grew up in an isolated family environment and have their own unique struggles with peer pressure. It is this feeling that causes some individuals to blindly follow what other people suggest that they do without giving the situation a second thought. People who give you the cold shoulder after you try to express an opinion or refuse an action that goes against your belief system are not really your friends.
If you decide to succumb to this peer pressure because you decide that the feelings of fear outweigh the issues of changing who you are, then you might end up making some poor choices that could influence the path that your life takes. Both feelings will also increase your risks of experiencing depression.
3. It can change your focus on progress.
It is not just students who face peer pressure when they go to school. Adults encounter the same issues at work when they are working toward a specific goal. A person’s peers are often the primary culprits behind a low academic or professional performance issue. When you run with a group of people who encourage you to behave in ways that are contrary to your goals, then you might find yourself smoking, drinking alcohol, or even taking drugs to fit in instead of studying for an exam.
You might take extra breaks at work to “slack off” because that’s what your co-workers do. There are times when it can be challenging to distinguish between what is right and wrong, so it is essential to avoid negative peer groups and the pressure they bring whenever possible.
4. Peer pressure teaches power and control in unhealthy ways.
People tend to gravitate toward the individuals who have the most social power and control. By associating with the individuals who are at the top, it feels like you receive a boost in your personal standing. We all want to win because that is what our brain values. Being the best makes you feel important partially because the components of the brain associated with rewards activates when there are feelings of social acceptance. Friendships are magical experiences, even if there are challenging moments at times. That is why it is essential that you find friends who pressure you toward positive choices instead of forcing you to prove your loyalty through negative behaviors.
5. It can create harmful circumstances that impact your life in adverse ways.
When you take a look at the overall impact of peer pressure in your life, there are times when you might feel pressure to do something good even though it is a poor choice for you at the time. Let’s say that you attend a church that is going through a building program. One of the elders stands behinds the pulpit to declare that his family is going to donate one-third of their salary for the next 2 years to help with the project’s progress. Now your best friend goes up front, and she says the same thing. If you are encouraged to donate money but are barely scraping by, helping the community by hurting your finances is still a negative form of peer pressure.
6. Peer pressure can change your goals in life.
There are times when you might want to identify with a group because it reinforces your social identity in positive ways. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this choice, it can become a disadvantage if your association begins to change the goals you have in life. High school seniors might decide to put off going to college because their friends are staying home to work. Some adults decide to work in a job they hate because of the peer pressure they experience to stay on that team. When you find that your goals in life are changing because of what your friends want, then it might be time to reevaluate your circumstances.
7. It can rob you of your self-confidence.
Peer pressure can build you up, but it can also tear you down. If you are usually self-confident, it can cause you to second-guess who you are. If you experience a drop in self-esteem, then your confidence can begin to seep away. You might suddenly begin to question who you are as person. If this process continues, then it can even create an adverse impact on your health and wellness.
8. Peer pressure can make you feel ashamed about who you are.
People come a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of these family environments are vastly disparate. When everyone else has a lot of money and you don’t (or the opposite), then this issue can become a peer pressure problem. You should not feel ashamed about who you are, where you’re from, or how much money your parents make. Some people can spend extravagantly while others must work hard each month just to make their rent payment. This difference does not make you a lesser person, but peer pressure can make it seem that way. In extreme situations, this feeling can even distance people from their family and other friends who mean well.
9. It can even become a life-threatening situation.
The impact of peer pressure can be so severe on people, including adults, that it begins to feel unnatural being in your own skin. When there is distance from family and long-time friends, then emotions like anxiety, fear, and desperation can begin to form. When this disadvantage is severe enough, it can lead to problems with self-harm, suicidal ideation, or even the engagement of a suicide attempt. We cannot avoid peer pressure 100% of the time, but we can know who we are and how to respond to situations that make us feel uncomfortable.
These peer pressure pros and cons are ultimately about the choices you make. It is up to you to find a group of friends who accept you as you are. Friendships should work on building you up instead of tearing you down. If you are struggling right now with your friends or you have convinced yourself that fitting in is what you must do, then it is essential to remember that you are just as important as anyone else on this planet.
You can always call 1-800-RUNAWAY to speak with a counselor about the peer pressure, stress, and other problems you’re facing with this issue too. This line is open 24/7.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.