Peer Pressure? Whatever!

How far would you go to have others think you’re cool? Would you steal from a store? Pull a cruel prank on a teacher? If you’d take risks and behave in ways you normally wouldn’t just to follow the pack, that’s caving in to peer pressure.

What’s the Big Deal?
You’ve heard the term “peer pressure” since third grade. Before you even understood exactly what it meant, you knew it was some force that had a profound impact on your well-being. Peer pressure is the influence your “friends” exert on you, and recent reports blame it for everything from body piercings to school shootings.

Not all peer pressure is negative. The people you hang out with shape your personality. Girls who have a supportive network of friends are less likely to suffer from depression. If your friends play sports, eat right, do well in school and are involved in community service, chances are, so will you. If they don’t smoke or do drugs, chances are, neither will you.

Combating Mean Girls
In-your-face peer pressure can cause even the strongest teens to consider risky behavior. More than 70 percent of girls in a recent survey said they’ve seen clique members act mean toward outsiders. Whether you’re tempted (“Come on, it’ll be fun ... we’ll never get caught.”), taunted (“What's the matter, your mommy says you can’t go?”) or threatened (“If you were really our friend, you’d come with us.”), there are ways to handle the pressure:

  • Ask lots of questions The answers will help you determine the level of risk involved and will also put the other person on the defensive, which places you in a position of power.
  • Consider the consequences Getting grounded? School detention? Your conscience? Contrary to what they're telling you, everyone is not “doing it” (no matter what it is).
  • Practice saying no When you have to say it, don’t trip up. The more certain you are of your no, the less people will bother you.
  • Get away from the pressure zone If you know what's about to happen -- maybe a conversation bad-mouthing a friend of yours or an invitation to a place you're not comfortable going to -- make a quick exit.
  • Be your own best friend There is no feeling greater than standing up for yourself and learning to be your own person. True friends like you for who you are, not for who they want you to be.