Peer pressure is a real or imagined force compelling you to behave in a way contrary to your desires, morals, or ethics. Peer pressure can come from anywhere; family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. Regardless of the source, the impact is the same; capitulation to peer pressure jeopardizes your journey by diverting you from your path. Saying no to peer pressure seems difficult because of the fear of rejection or alienation.
Of course it's a good feeling to be part of a group, accepted, and included in various activities. But how much are you willing to sacrifice in quest of acceptance? This is something you should come to terms with before being in the midst of peer pressure. You need to set standards that govern your actions regardless of any pressure.
Those who are highly susceptible to peer pressure are prone to yielding to the demands of others regardless of the negative consequences which may result. Our sensitivity to peer pressure starts at a young age when we see how concerned grown-ups are about the opinions of others. “What will other people think?” is the comment heard all too often.
Consequently, we develop our own sensitivity to how others react to our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Avoiding ridicule, rejection, or criticism becomes engrained as a powerful motivator. As a result, our lives are structured around conformity. Rather than pursuing our individual paths, our decisions are filtered through the lens of real or perceived peer pressure.
The results are particularly insidious when you align yourself with people who are on destructive paths. Young children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to involvement with the "wrong" group. These kids think it's cool or rebellious to hang out with deviant types of people. Unfortunately, the results of this type of association are negative. They include drug use, excessive drinking, crime, or other harmful behavior.
Although peer pressure experienced when you get older may not be as destructive, it still drives you from your individual path. Your happiness suffers whenever your behavior is adjusted to conform to the perceived desires of others.
You are solely responsible for the direction of your life. It doesn’t matter what other people say, think or do. True happiness is based on following your own genuine path, not on the acceptance of anyone else.
You can inoculate yourself from peer pressure with a thorough understanding of yourself, your likes, your dislikes, values, and goals. The more you know about yourself, the easier it is to remain on track.
The next time you feel any type of peer pressure, assess how it relates to your self understanding. Is there any conflict with what you want to do, like to do, feel is wrong, or believe unethical? If the answer is yes, giving in to peer pressure will have a deleterious impact on you.
Initially, saying no to peer pressure feels awkward. As you make it a habit, you will experience greater freedom. Anyone whose friendship is dependent on your acquiescing to their demands is not a true friend nor is associating with them of any benefit to you. Ironically, in spite of all your efforts to win their acceptance, they actually don’t have much respect for you.
When you free yourself from the grip of peer pressure, you’ll attract others who have the same outlook. The new friends you make will be based on a common, mutual bond. Your fear of rejection will diminish and eventually disappear. A refreshing new perspective will unfold as you pursue your own path.
NOW AVAILABLE: "Dare to Live Without Limits," the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at
or write him c/o this paper. 2013 Bryan Golden