At a party in grade 10, when I looked around and saw every one of the attendees with a drink in their hand, I could only say ‘no’ so many times. By the fifth or the sixth ‘Oh come on! It’s just one drink’, I gave in.
While peer pressure can be positive, the negative kind can have grievous consequences. It may be direct, like offering or refilling a drink, or indirect, like being part of a social circle where everyone drinks. And while you may find it in yourself to deal with it and not give in to peer pressure, this very act can leave you feeling outcast, or isolated.
Why does peer pressure work?
As social creatures, conformity, the desire to fit in, and acceptance are extremely powerful motivators for us. We often find ourselves normalising an idea or action because ‘everyone is doing it’.
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During the teen years, consuming alcohol is often seen as a sign of how ‘chilled out’ a person is. It is difficult being the only ‘uncool’ one in your friend circle. The need to be liked by your peers often overpowers the wish to stick by your principles or even likings. What may start as one sip taken just to ‘fit in’ can turn into a glass and then two, very soon.
It is difficult being the ‘uncool’ one in the friend circle. The need to be liked by your peers often overpowers the wish to not drink alcohol.
Your friends may argue that alcohol is a way to bond better, and getting drunk together could lead to so many fun-filled and memorable experiences. But you have to ask yourself, is all this worth it? If you find yourself being forced into an experience, can you even call it fun?
Possible consequences of saying ‘no’
Sometimes we are afraid of the consequences that can come our way for saying ‘no’. The prospects of consistent teasing, being called ‘uptight’, and later not being invited to gatherings, ultimately leading to a social cut-off are more frightening than chugging that bitter drink. As a teen, being part of a social circle is more than just about having ‘cool’ friends, it is about social validation. No one likes to be left out.
On the bright side, when you stick to what you believe in, it’s a great feeling. Trust me, if you don’t give in to peer pressure, you will eventually find people who don’t care if you drink your mojito virgin or not, and who don’t push you to try things against your will. It boosts your self-respect and confidence. Plus you make it very clear to people around you that they must respect your agency. A ‘no’ means ‘no’, always. I realised saying ‘I’m not comfortable with this so please don’t ask me again’ has always worked for me, and gets the point across in a polite way.
Experiences of people who overcame peer pressure
Ruhani Bhasin, a 16-year-old student in grade 11 revealed, “My friends were always going out and having fun. Soon, they started having beer as well. I wasn’t comfortable drinking as I promised myself not to while I was a teen. They gave me subtle hints which started becoming stronger. They directly asked me to try it saying it was nothing big. I started hanging out with my other friends who respected my choices.”
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Ankita Kaur (name changed on request), an 18-year-old undergraduate student recollected her teenage days saying, “Initially I gave into it and started drinking occasionally. However, I realised that it could go out of hand soon if I didn’t check myself. So I started declining drinks and started hanging out with people who wouldn’t pressurise me into drinking at all”.
I started hanging out with my other friends who respected my choices.
Kamakshi, a 15-year-old tenth-grader said, “A lot of my friends drink at parties. I don’t like the idea of drinking at such a young age. So, I limit the number of parties I go to where I know for sure that drinks are going to be served. Sometimes, I feel left out the next day when most of my friends are talking about it but they include me too. Moreover, party gossip lasts only a day or a half. I am getting used to it now and am very happy with my decision”.
Picture Credit: The Indian Express
Bhavya Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the authors’ own.