Feeling pressured by friends to do something you normally wouldn't feel comfortable doing, can leave you with a mix of negative emotions like guilt, regret, shame, embarrassment and fear. The good news is, recognising these feelings and understanding why you felt pressured are important steps in becoming more resistant to peer pressure.
Feeling pressured to bully
Seeing your friends bully others, whether it’s face-to-face or through technology (cyberbullying) can make you feel pressured to get involved. While following your friends might feel like the right choice at the time, feeling embarrassment, guilt or shame about bullying someone often follows. Bullying can have loads of negative effects on both the bully and victim, even if no real harm was meant.
If you've been pressured into bullying someone, remember that you shouldn’t label yourself a ‘bully’ – we all make mistakes but they don’t permanently define us. Reflect on why your friends had such a strong influence on your actions. Was this a way for you to gain self-confidence? Did you feel like if you didn't join in your friends would start bullying you? It might even be the case where you need to reflect on whether your friends are having an overall negative impact on you. Aim to develop a stronger sense of your values and in the future, you can help put a stop to bullying.
Feeling pressured to diet/body-build
If your friends have strict diet/workout regimens or always turn down chips/cupcakes/sweets when they’re offered to them, there's a chance you might start to see it as a reminder to do the same and achieve the “perfect” body. Excessive dieting and working out can leave you burnt out and even more stressed about how you look. You might also be exhausted from weighing up the nutritional value of everything you eat or blaming yourself for lacklustre workouts.
If you've felt pressured to excessively diet or workout, remember that no one should pressure you to change the way your body looks; your confidence in it is what matters! Focus on nourishing your body by engaging in tasks that empower you; it could be singing your favourite song or volunteering at a local op shop. Spend time around supportive friends and family and see a health professional who can show you ways to overcome negative impacts on your body image.
Feeling pressured into taking drugs/alcohol
Being told to steer clear of drugs, alcohol and smoking is a common message from adults. But it's not always effective and many young people feel the need to experiment with drugs and alcohol, especially when their friends are trying it out.
If you've felt pressured into drinking or taking drugs, it’s not uncommon to feel guilt and regret afterwards. Regrets from drinking or drugs can come from knowing that it's not something you actually want to do, but feeling like you "gave in" to the pressure. It can also come from the potential negatives of drinking and drug taking, e.g. getting drunk, lying to your parents, and breaking the law.
If you feel bad about being pressured into taking drugs or alcohol, talk to a family member or friend you can trust, a counsellor or health professional about managing the pressures you’re experiencing. At first, this might be a scary idea but remember that many other people your age have experimented with drugs and alcohol, regretted their actions and sought help to get them on the right track again.
Feeling pressured to have sex
Being in a relationship is an exciting part of growing up. It's natural to feel a wide range of emotions like excitement, nervousness, and you might even find it hard concentrating because all you can think about is your new relationship! With these feelings, pressure to have sex, especially if your friends are sexually active, is a very common thing young people often deal with.
You may feel like if you don't have sex, your friends or your partner might see you as "scared", a "frigit", or "immature". And this can often lead to you having sex to fit it.
Being sexual with someone is a very intimate way of communicating and can be a vulnerable experience, so it’s understandable if you felt uncomfortable or have regrets about being pressured into sex to fit in. You might not have been emotionally prepared or completely trusted your partner and these are things to figure out and reflect on. It's also important not label yourself, or carry your mistakes on your shoulders. Regretting sex is a common thing, and learning from it will help you make more informed decisions in the future.
It is important to remember that if you've been pressured into having sex by a forceful partner, without expressing consent, that this is never okay. Sex should be a mutual decision made by both partners. If you have been pressured or forced into sex, there are help services available.