If you thought that peer pressure ended in high school, think again. While we can understand peer pressure in adolescents as they are still forming their identities, a sadder reality is adults falling prey to peer pressures. While one would expect adults in their thirties and forties to be more confident about themselves, many still give in to peer pressure to fit in.
As a therapist who deals with adults and teenagers, I surprisingly see more adults who have succumbed to peer pressure. Some examples of peer pressure in adults is:
- Being coerced by friends to drink alcohol or experiment with other substances.
- Buying material possessions such as cars, designer clothing & accessories either just because you want to fit in.
- Feel that you need to be seen at certain trendy places to be accepted by friends.
- Sending your children to a certain school or insisting they participate in particular activities so you have more in common with those you want to socialise with.
- Doing exercise you don’t even enjoy or eat food you’re not crazy about because that’s what is popular in your group.
- Taking holidays you can barely afford because everyone in your group seems to be doing it.
- Trying to like whatever others think is cool (e.g. reality shows, music, etc.)
- Agreeing to do things you dislike just to be accepted by friends.
- Not stating your opinion if it differs from those in your group.
The dangers of adult peer pressure that I see in practice are:
- Financial stress due to trying to keep up.
- Unhappiness & discontentment because the pressure to keep up continues to grow.
- Jealousy if others in one’s group seems to have outdone them.
- Marital problems when one partner does not support the other’s attempts at keeping up.
So, how do you ensure you don’t fall victim to peer pressure…or if you already have, to save yourself from the detrimental effects?
- Authenticity: I often speak about authenticity because I truly believe that it is the key to living a meaningful, content life. However, it’s not as easy. Basically what authenticity means is to be yourself, to be real, to do what makes you happy, to speak freely, to not go along with what’s trendy if its not what makes you happy! The reason that most people struggle with authenticity is because they fear rejection. The truth is that rejection is a strong possibility. However, if you are free to be who are you, you will attract the right people into your life. And your biggest reward will be peace – because you feel free to express yourself outwardly as you feel inside.
- Practice mindfulness: this will help you identify when your thoughts and actions are being incongruent. If you are able to identify that certain actions disrupt your peace, you are more likely to make choices that are better for your physical and mental health.
- Set healthy boundaries: this means saying no to things that disrupt your peace or that you just don’t want to or enjoy doing. This may mean turning down invites or not feeling pressured to follow advice from others that don’t resonate with you.
- Be clear about your values: if you are clear about those values that are important to you, it becomes easier to reject anything inconsistent with those values. E.g. if family time is important to you, but friends constantly invite you to spend time with them during your family time, it’s easier to refuse because it means going against a value you hold strongly.
- Choose your tribe carefully: While we may have many acquaintances, our closest friends should be those who share similar values to us and who respect our different opinions, beliefs and preferences. Distance yourself from those who pressurise you to do things you prefer not to do. E.g. I have many patients who are trying to change behaviours such as drinking alcohol or adhering to a diabetic diet – it’s important for your own health and self-respect to distance yourself from those who pressurise you to ‘have just one drink’ or ‘just have one slice of cake.’
- Have a plan: While you may choose your ‘tribe’ there will always be times that you will have to be around those that pressurise you. Its helps to have a plan in mind already. Think of ways to refuse and to not judge them for their choices, but to remind yourself that as you have your values that are dear to you, they also have values that are important to them.
As adults, know that there are children watching and learning from your behaviour. We want to raise children who are confident to be themselves and not succumb to the pressure to fit in with the ‘popular crowd’.
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~ Dr Seuss