Peer pressure: How to handle it
We are all influenced by our peers, however, it’s important to be aware of the negative impacts of peer pressure and how to manage it.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago

Humans are wired for social connection, and it's important for our wellbeing to have a community of peers around us. However, the pressure to fit in with other people and to be accepted or celebrated by our peers can lead to us making decisions that are harmful to us in the long run.

Peer pressure is something both kids, teenagers, and adults all experience so it's important to understand what it is, how it can affect you, and what you can do to handle it.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is the influence, positive or negative, that a peer group you're in has on you. Peer groups can be of similar age (i.e. school or uni friends), but might also be work colleagues, neighbours or fellow hobby enthusiasts.

From an evolutionary perspective, peer pressure is a clever means of ensuring that we form cohesive tribes or groups, with behaviours that mirror one another. In fact, our brains have mirror neurons that map others’ intentions and motivate us to imitate others’ behaviour. Take a look at these well-known psychological experiments which show the power of social conformity, where individuals will go along with a group despite their better judgment.

We all experience pressure to conform with peers, and it’s not something that disappears as we age. However, we tend to be less vulnerable to peer pressure as we grow older. To avoid the negative effects of peer pressure, building your self-confidence and noticing the signs of peer pressure is crucial to prevent potential problems arising from negative peer pressure.

How can peer pressure affect me?

The people we surround ourselves with can have a major influence on how we think, feel, and behave. We can be influenced in:

  • Dress sense and style

  • Recreational activities

  • Decisions about using drugs and alcohol

  • Likes and hobbies, such as music and sports

  • Eating and drinking habits.

Peer pressure can come in two forms:

  • Direct: When someone directly comments on your behaviour or suggests that you act a certain way. For example: "Come get a drink with us."

  • Indirect: When someone subtly changes their behaviour to better fit in with the people around them. For example, dressing a certain way because it's "trendy", doing certain activities because all your friends are doing it but you're unlikely to do it outside of that group, and drinking because everyone else is doing it.

We hear more about direct forms of peer pressure as it's generally easier to spot and recognise when it's problematic.

Having said that, not all peer pressure is negative. Sometimes it can actually be a good thing. While the term "peer pressure" generally comes with a negative connotation, it can also manifest in the form of support, encouragement, and community. Some examples can include:

  • Your friends stopping you from doing something dumb

  • Encouragement to join an extracurricular activity or new hobby

  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol

  • Helping others

What can I do to avoid feeling negatively pressured by my peers?

Assert yourself

Someone else’s version of a good idea isn’t necessarily yours. Don't be afraid to say "no" when you're in a situation where you're not comfortable and consider having responses prepared ahead of time if you get asked why you're standing your ground.

Know yourself

Negative peer pressure can cloud your judgement, so it's important to know where you stand by asking yourself questions like:

  • What feels right to me?

  • What activities make me feel good about myself?

  • Does this option help improve my wellbeing?

  • Is this what I really want to do?

Taking time out to ground yourself and figuring out your inner compass can help you decide what feels right for you and not what others think is right for you.

Find your tribe

Rather than surround yourself with people who pressure you into doing things you don't enjoy or want to do, hang out with those who enjoy doing the same activities as you. Not only will you be around people who are a more positive influence but you'll be in an environment that's comfortable for you to be yourself.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Kate McLisky, HealthLine, Integris Health, Reach Out, UNODC, UWHealth, and Verywell Health

Image credit: The Breakfast Club

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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