We all want to be part of a group and belong. It is one of the hallmarks of being human. When we think of peer pressure, we associate it with adolescents and risk-taking. Peer pressure effects adults as well. It is the social influence a group exerts on its members and each member tries to conform to the expectations of the group. It may not be as direct or intentional as the kind of peer pressure teenagers experience, but peer pressure in adulthood can be every bit as harmful. If you have adopted beliefs, goals and interests based on what others do or believe, peer pressure will be present whether it is positive or negative. It could be about expectations that are placed on us, either overtly or covertly. Suppose your siblings have a new car. To prove yourself worthy and successful, there is pressure to get a new car. Suppose when your peer group gets together, they drink too much. Even though you are not a “big drinker”, you find yourself being frequently overserved.
Peer pressure can also be positive. Perhaps people in your tribe have gone back to school to get advanced degrees, it gives encouragement and motivation to investigate continuing your education. Peer pressure could also be considered accountability in its positive form. An example is a running buddy or going on a food journey together.
Research indicates that social acceptance triggers strong positive emotions and it is an incredible motivator for behavior. Generally, adolescents are more influenced by peer pressure than adults because of their lack of social skills, self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
Mental health requires the ability to make decisions through thinking independently often with influence and support from family, friends and even role models. When we make decisions based on what other people think or say, we lose our autonomy and power. This could affect self-worth and stifle growth and maturity. To reach our full potential and develop a strong character we must be aware of our core beliefs and standards of conduct. This is imperative for resisting social norms that have been created in our culture such as speeding, accumulating debt, or cheating on taxes.
The best way to think autonomously and resist peer or social pressure is to outline core values and stick to them. Be assertive, and use “I” messages to convey your values and beliefs to your tribe. This will allow you to speak for yourself and not shame others if they are engaged in a behavior that does not align with your values. Increase your circle of friends. Be mindful and intentional to what you know is right, true, healthy and unhealthy. Become an advocate for yourself not giving power to those who might criticize or judge you. Seek out others who share and affirm your values and choices. If you have outgrown certain relationships, let them go and surround yourself with independent people who stay away from group think. Become a thought leader rather than a thought follower. It is good for your health! firstname.lastname@example.org
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