It happens to all of us. It might happen in elementary school or even in college, but at some point, everyone will face peer pressure. Peer pressure comes in many forms, from singing karaoke to experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. It is important to know how to stand up to peer pressure so you are ready and equipped when challenged with it.

Strategies for Saying “No”

First, you need to know you’re doing the right thing — period. Standing up against your own peers can be daunting and intimidating. The fear of getting kicked out of the social group and not fitting in seems like it’s the worst thing in the world. In reality, it’s not. While you might lose a couple of “likes” or even some friends, in the long run, you will have prevented yourself from doing something uncomfortable, embarrassing or even dangerous. Consider that all actions have consequences, and remember you’re doing the right thing by saying no.

Now that you mentally know it’s okay to say no, it’s time to actually say it. The action of standing up against peer pressure is often the hardest part. Instead of saying “no” directly, try saying something like, “I don’t think that’s the best idea.” This is an indirect way to say no. It also makes those peer pressuring you stop and ask themselves, “Is this really a good idea?” Avoid saying something like, “Maybe next time.” This implies not only that there will be a next time, but also that you will do whatever you’re being pressured to do that next time.

Many recommend that when you say no, you should do it with eye contact and authority in your voice. The more confident you are in your answer, the more likely those peer pressuring you will actually hear and believe what you are saying. For those who won’t listen, don’t be afraid to state your position repeatedly. After the first few times, it will get easier and easier to say no. Even if it feels like those peer pressuring you are not going to give up, they will eventually get tired of hearing you say no and move on with their day.

People also say you can make it easier on yourself by practicing in safe environments, such as when a sibling is trying to get you to do their chores. While it might not be easy, saying no is the best way to get out of a peer pressure situation.

You May Need to Pull Some Weeds

If you find yourself in peer pressure situations often, some self-reflection might be needed. Consider the source of where the peer pressure is coming from. Ask yourself, “Are they really the people I want to be associated with? Are these people really my friends if they are repeatedly asking me to do something I’m uncomfortable with?” If the answer is no, it might be time to find some new friends. If you’re still unsure, one psychologist recommends this: Ask yourself if this friendship feels like a genuine relationship or more like a transaction. The psychologist goes on to say that some people are only interested in what others can offer them. Other signs to look for include feeling manipulated, doing all the work in the relationship and not being yourself.

While finding new friends can be scary in the long run, you will gain many benefits. These include taking a stand for what you believe is right, being pushed out of your comfort zone and connecting with people who have a positive influence on your life. Once you stand up to peer pressure for yourself, it’s time to step in and help others.

Helping Others Escape Peer Pressure

If you see something, say something! Since speaking up and out against peer pressure can be so overwhelming, having support is critical. Stepping in and saying one thing can make a huge difference and prevent someone from doing something that has life-altering consequences. Sometimes, people just need to know they are not alone in a situation to better be able to stand up for themselves.

You can even take this one step further and educate a peer-pressuring person about the negative impact they could be having on someone’s life. If the peer pressure is affecting multiple people, encourage them to take a stand with you and get help. If this is in a school setting, go to the teacher or whoever is in charge. If it is at a sporting activity, go to the coach or assistant coach. If the peer pressure is overwhelming and you don’t feel like you have anyone you can turn to, look into counseling. Many schools offer counseling for students. UC Santa Cruz offers both off-campus and on-campus therapy. With off-campus services, counselors and therapists are available on evenings or weekends and may provide more flexibility. If you’re facing peer pressure and seek a therapist for help, remember that any information you communicate to the therapist is confidential.

Reflecting on What We’ve Learned

The most effective way to handle peer pressure is to say something, either to someone you trust or to those peer pressuring you. You can also help stand up for others. No matter where you stand, nothing wrong will come from speaking out. Peer pressure is something that everyone faces and is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Learning how to handle peer pressure is an important life skill and will help you avoid uncomfortable situations or activities.

When standing up to peer pressure, it’s important to know you are doing the right thing. It’s also important to say “no” to those peer pressuring you. Saying no can be difficult, but with practice and confidence, you will find success. If the peer pressure continues, consider speaking to those peer pressuring you, a counselor or someone you trust. Then consider who you are hanging out with and if these people are really your friends or not. As difficult as the process may be, standing up to peer pressure will not only help keep you out of an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, but also equip you with skills that will help you succeed in life.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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