Making good mates is important, but sometimes trying to fit in with a group can turn sour. Giving in to pressure from your friends to do something you normally wouldn't do can leave you feeling guilty, regretful, ashamed, embarrassed or even frightened. Find out what peer pressure is and how to handle it, including what to do if things get serious.
Wanting to feel part of something can put pressure on you to act in certain ways. If you’re doing something you wouldn’t normally do, or are not doing something you’d like to do, simply so that you’ll be accepted by the people you hang out with, you’re suffering from peer pressure.
Peer pressure can influence:
The pressure to act in a certain way can be:
Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it can be good, such as when your friends stop you from doing something dumb that you’ll later regret. But often peer pressure can be linked to negative stuff. Check out the following examples of peer pressure and consider some tips for dealing with them.
Pressure to bully
Seeing friends bullying others in person or online (cyberbullying) can make you feel pressured to get involved. It might seem okay at the time, but later you feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed.
Pressure to diet or body-build
If your friends have strict diet or workout regimens, you might feel like you also need to achieve the ‘perfect’ body. But worrying about your body image can leave you feeling burned out and stressed about how you look. Are you bored with calculating the nutritional value of everything you eat? Are your workouts feeling lacklustre, because you’d rather be doing something else? If you recognise yourself in these scenarios, maybe you’re dieting or working out just to fit in with your mates.
Pressure to take drugs/alcohol
If you've felt pressured into drinking or taking drugs, you might feel guilt and regret afterwards for ‘giving in’.
Pressure to have sex
You might feel pressured to have sex if you’re afraid of what your partner or friends will think if you don’t and if you want to fit in. But sex is intimate and very personal, and you may feel vulnerable afterwards.
Pursue your own interests
Hang out with people who like doing the same stuff you do.
If you can calmly explain why something‘s not for you, you’ll gain respect.
Respecting someone else’s choice may help them respect yours.
Friends don’t have to agree on everything
Understanding that everyone has their own opinion means you can chill out and feel less defensive.
If you’re in a situation where you feel threatened, are being hurt, or feel pressured into doing something that you’re really uncomfortable with, you need to get help. Tell a family member, a friend from outside the situation, a teacher or a counsellor.