Peer Pressure

Young women's version of this guide

Teenage Boy Feeling Intimidated As He Walks Home

“Take one sip. Just try one hit. What’s the problem? What are you afraid of?” Sometimes your friends may ask you to do things that you aren’t comfortable with. Sometimes you may do certain things just to fit in. Sometimes it seems like everyone else is doing something so you might do it to feel “normal.” You’re not alone. Peer pressure is something everyone faces and it happens at all ages.

Who are my peers?

A peer is someone who is around your age, such as a friend, a classmate, coworker, cousin, or neighbor.

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is when a peer (or peers) try to influence, or “pressure” you into doing something that you may not want to do. They may try to convince you to use drugs, drink alcohol, have sex, or change your looks.

Is all peer pressure bad?

Not all peer pressure is bad. It can be positive. Your peers may push you to do well in school, eat healthier, or participate in school activities such as sports or clubs. They may pressure you not to smoke or do drugs. They may encourage you to do something that is good for you.

How does peer pressure work?

Your friends may challenge you to do something – good or bad. They may use guilt, threats, or insults to make you do what they want. They might not ask you to do anything, but you may feel you have to do something because your friends are doing it.

Here are examples of two situations that involve peer pressure:

  • You’re at a friend’s party. A group of your friends are hanging out and drinking beer. You feel that in order to fit in with your friends you also have to drink a beer even though you really don’t want to.
  • A friend in your class says “Let’s cut class.” You say that you don’t want to. Your friend replies “Don’t be so scared, no one’s going to catch us”.

Why does peer pressure work?

Peer pressure works because we want to be liked by others and we want to be included. We sometimes give in to pressure because of the fear that we may be made fun of or rejected. Sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with the situation, so we do what others tell us to do.

Can I experience peer pressure online?

There are lots of ways that technology plays a role in peer pressure. You might see your friends on social media posting about drinking, smoking, doing drugs, having sex, restricting what they eat, fighting, or bullying others, and feel pressured to do those things too. You may also be pressured to “sext” (send sexually explicit photos or messages) via text or other messaging apps. Companies who advertise on social media can pressure you into buying certain things, or behaving in certain ways. Even other media, like TV, movies, music, and videos can glorify certain behavior, making it seem like it’s normal or expected of you. While media may make it seem like everyone is doing these things, that is not really the case, and you can use the tips below to help you navigate your online life.

What should I do when I am being peer pressured into doing something I don’t feel comfortable doing?

Always remember if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to do it. Dealing with peer pressure can be difficult, but you can do it.

Here are some ways to deal with peer pressure:

  • Think about your choices – What would happen if you do it? What if you don’t?
  • Build your self-confidence by participating in activities you are good at
  • Follow your instincts (If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you.)
  • Be assertive: Say what you think, talk about what you feel, say “No”, and/or suggest a healthier alternative. If you are still being pressured, walk away.
  • Stay away from peers who pressure you or make you feel bad about yourself
  • Hang out with people whose choices make you feel more comfortable

Who can I talk to about peer pressure?

Go to someone who you trust. It could be a parent or guardian, an older sibling, counselor, or a friend. Talk to them and tell them how you feel, and they can help you come up with some ways to deal with peer pressure.