Peer pressure - whether it's around drinking, smoking or anything else - can can leave you feeling anxious and alone. Rose, 20, shares her tips for coping.
Stay confident in who you are – the only person you should strive to impress is you.
If you are a young person who has experienced peer pressure, you are certainly not alone. These days, it often feels like we cannot escape it. From my own experience, I have seen how peer pressure affects people at school, college, university and beyond into adult life.
When I was at school, I struggled to shake the overwhelming feeling that I was somehow lagging behind everyone else. I could not understand it. I liked my friends and I enjoyed socialising, but I often felt like I was still missing out. I was convinced that my peers had bigger friendship circles, went out more, partied harder, stayed up later, dressed cooler, drank more, had more partners - you get the picture. I remember being so wrapped up in the idea that I was somehow falling short because I was not exactly like them.
Even now, I can still recall times when I was so desperate to be more like my peers. I was putting myself in uncomfortable situations just so that I could feel accepted by them. Back then, I did not realise how peer pressure was affecting me, but it was affecting me in a number of ways - low mood, tearfulness, changes in behaviour, just to name a few.
When I was at school, I struggled to shake the overwhelming feeling that I was somehow lagging behind everyone else.
Now aged 20, I am still learning how to manage pressure from my peers. I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learnt along the way, hoping that you might use these tips if you ever feel this way yourself.
Stay true to your values
Remember what is important to you. For example, if you don’t smoke, own that. Sometimes when we experience pressure to be liked, we can lose sight of what truly matters. Stay confident about your choices, what you will put up with and make sure you prioritise your own needs. Your priority should always be liking yourself first.
Find your group
It is natural for people to change and for peer groups to change too. If you are honest with yourself, the person you were in primary school is probably not the same person you were in secondary school. Do not feel obliged to stay friends with the same people if they no longer make you feel comfortable. There will be people out there who get you - even if you have not found them yet.
The "escape plan"
Often, I feel more confident going out somewhere when I know I have an escape plan. I know that sounds dramatic but hear me out. Having an escape plan was a total game-changer for me. When I was younger, my friend and I came up with a secret code to use when we were going out. For example, if I ever felt uncomfortable at a party, I would send my friend a text with our special emoji in. That emoji would signal that I wanted to leave, and we could head off. This was my discrete way to get out of an awkward situation without making a scene - our subtle escape plan. Having a pre-planned excuse (even if it is completely made up) can help you sneak away from uncomfortable situations.
Find positive coping mechanisms
Discover some ways to lower your anxiety or nerves surrounding peer pressure. Write those worries down in a notebook, practise simple relaxation and mindfulness, or speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling - you would be surprised by how many people probably feel a similar way to you.
There will be people out there who get you - even if you have not found them yet.
It can be easy to get lost in a world where we are trying to keep up with everyone around us – take it from someone who knows. To be honest, peer pressure is not something we can simply escape from. In reality, it is something we learn to manage rather than avoid. If you can learn just a few small but effective ways to handle peer pressure then you will be in a much better place to deal with those tricky situations that life might throw at you.
Stay confident in who you are – the only person you should strive to impress is you. You got this.
If you can learn just a few small but effective ways to handle peer pressure then you will be in a much better place to deal with those tricky situations that life might throw at you.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
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