The politics of friendship – Handling peer pressure

  • By Sahana Rajan

Peer pressure could be negative or positive. It is positive when your friends stop you and advice you against doing things which they feel could do you more harm than help. It is negative when you are doing a certain set of things precisely because you want to be accepted without the full agreement of your conscience.

The prime signs of peer pressure include the sensation of not gelling with those around you, of feeling the pressure to act in a certain manner with others and having to do things you do not wish to do.

Adolescence is the time when a person walks the path of forming his/her or own identity, and in this process, has to connect with others and be accepted. Joining and being part of a certain group requires for you to dress in a certain manner, of being part of particular event, listening to certain kind of music, decision about using drugs for recreation, choice of who you would date, as well as academic performance.

There can be direct, indirect, or self-motivated pressure to be part of a group. Someone could directly lay down things that you need to follow for you to be accepted among the group. Indirectly, you could be brought into an environment where your friends show as though certain activities define them and you ought to learn these to be a part. Lastly, in a self-motivated pressure, you would be forcing yourself without any external motivation to do things to be part of a group and be accepted.

When you feel that you are under negative peer pressure, realize that companionship is a matter of understanding and respect. If those, whom you call your friends, do not have the liberality to recognize and accept you for what you are, then it is best to walk away than become someone distinctly different than your own self. Moreover, also remember that your conscience says ‘no’ to certain things and in saying ‘no,’ you do not stop being cool or be uptight, but pragmatic and mature.

Adolescence is the transition into maturity and not into adulthood of subordination by others. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you are being forced into using drugs or doing things which you clearly recognize to be harmful - remember that right now, your ‘friends’ might not realize their follies, but once the consequences dawn on them, they would also likely see ‘correctness.’

Moreover, even though you decide not to be friends with a certain set of people, don’t judge them and look down on them - this would only mean that you do not understand their situation. You are just a different kind of person and differences don’t necessarily imply any form of hierarchy or deficiency.

If you feel that things are getting out of control, then seek help from others - a family member, a teacher, or a counselor.

Lastly, remember that companionship grows slowly over time and a lot depends on building trust. Give yourself time to know the kind of people you want to be with and don’t go with any groups. Make a choice of companionship which reflects on the person you are, and stand up for your beliefs without any pressures.