The Therapist - Peer Pressure

Ahmad: I feel like I'm always people-pleasing. I give in too quickly to what I think my friends want to see and do, even if deep down I do not agree with it or want it. What can I do?

Therapist: Negative Peer pressure is very common, and you shouldn't shy away from understanding what the situation is. Negative peer pressure begins from a young age, and happens mostly when we're trying to navigate through our likes and dislikes, what our principles are, what we accept and do not accept. It is often very difficult, especially when we're young, to do things outside of the socially accepted behaviours. When do you feel that you are being pressured the most?

Ahmad: It happens when I'm around friends, and they are doing things that I do not really feel I have an interest in, or that I do not feel are the right things to do. In that moment I feel a bit stuck. I know deep down that I do not really want to do them, but when everyone is doing it, and sometimes they might urge or maybe even just request me to get involved, and for fear of rejection I would do it. Sometimes at the beginning it does not even look like something that I won't really enjoy or like, but it's because everyone is doing it I would feel like I need to do it. Why am I not strong enough to say no?

Therapist: It's not exactly that you are not strong. It may be that you yourself are still trying to figure out what your likes and dislikes are. Like you said yourself, sometimes it does not look like something you won't enjoy, but then after getting involved in it, you realise that it's not for you. At this point it is understandable that it would be difficult to say to your friends/peers that you do not want to get involved, as you do not really want to lose out on your friendships.

Ahmad: Hmm Okay I think I understand that. So where I find that I do not want to be peer pressured into things that I do not have an interest in, what should I do?

Therapist: You can always be honest, and there should never be any shame in it. Aside from that you can tell them why you do not have an interest in it, and why you think the thing is wrong, or bad, or unproductive. If they are good friends they will respect that you are telling them this, and appreciate that you have different interests. At the end of the day you always have to be true to yourself. Because if you are not true to yourself how can you be true to other people? But also, what you should think about, is the influence that you might able to have on your friends. Don't always feel that you have to be influenced. Have you tried to influence your friends with things? Or show them alternatives to things that you think are not so good for them?

Ahmad: I haven't actively tried that no. I've always heard of negative peer pressure, is there such thing as positive peer pressure?

Therapist: Yes actually there is! And that's exactly what we should all be inspiring to be. Positive peer pressure is basically being a positive influence to your peers. So where your peers may be getting involved in things that do not line up with your principles, such as drinking, smoking, partying. You can show them alternatives, such as exercising, taking part in sports, other gaming activities, discussing interesting topics, learning new things etc. This is something that is really important growing up, especially when you are trying to find good friends and strong social circle. When you realise that your friends behaviours aren't something that you agree with or are not in line with your principles, it is really important that you do not ignore it. The longer you ignore it, the harder it will be to leave that circle. The sooner you can recognise negative peer pressure, and set your boundaries by staying away from it, the more people will be able to see your honesty, and will respect your confidence in sticking by your principles. What you will also find is that you will be more likely to find more honest friends, and a better social circle. You'll be able to build a more confident, honest and stronger personality, which you'll realise that people around you will start to appreciate.

Ahmad: I'm really going to have to think long and hard about what I do and why I do it. I really want to be more confident in my behaviour, but also more honest. I think this will only start once I start being true to myself.

Disclaimer! Always seek professional medical advice!

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