How to Deal with Peer Pressure

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning to deal with peer pressure is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself succeed emotionally. This lesson gives you some ideas that will help you cope with this complicated issue.

Peer Pressure

Almost all of us are bound, at some point in our lives, to come into contact with the tremendous problem of peer pressure, or the feeling that we have to do something because our friends or classmates think it is cool. Whether we are talking about first graders being pressured to play games they are not interested in, or college students being pressured to smoke or drink alcohol, peer pressure can be a serious matter. As you grow older, you will begin to take responsibility for peer pressure that you face and inadvertently exert on others. Though you can never make peer pressure go away, you can alleviate some of its detrimental impact.

This lesson offers some ideas for learning to cope with peer pressure. The strategies are actually quite similar regardless of the specifics of the situation, but of course you can modify them to meet whatever need feels most salient.

Name and Normalize

One of the first things you can do to help yourself cope with peer pressure is to name it. This might seem silly, but many of us experience peer pressure without knowing what we are dealing with. Simply articulating the phenomenon to ourselves explicitly can go a long way toward helping us identify it when it becomes a problem.

Naming peer pressure also helps you normalize it within your mind, recognizing that it is an experience many different people have to deal with. By normalizing peer pressure, you become better equipped to talk about it openly and resist some of its more negative impacts. Try asking everyone in a peer group who has ever experienced peer pressure to raise their hands. Friends might be hesitant at first, but ultimately you will feel supported and affirmed by seeing how many different hands go up.

Role Play, Role Play, Role Play

To equip yourself to cope with peer pressure, consider involving a group of trusted friends or classmates in role plays. Work with scenarios that you think are realistic and age-appropriate. Ask pairs or small groups of your friends to act out these scenarios. Then, have the whole group brainstorm appropriate and productive ways of responding to the situations at hand.

An alternate approach is to have your friends write the role-play scenarios themselves. If you do it this way, just make sure that the scenarios individuals enact are not so personal and specific that others in the group will feel targeted or exposed.

After every role play, take plenty of time to process and reflect on the experience and discuss what people have learned.

Build Self-Esteem

People who believe in themselves and know their own strengths are less likely to be negatively impacted by peer pressure. You can help yourself learn to stand your ground under pressure by doing activities that help you feel good about yourself. Some helpful activities include:

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