How To Deal With Peer Pressure

Here's how to handle the pressure without compromising your own values and self-respect.
by Mariel de Jesus   |  Jan 20, 2010
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Making friends with the It Girls, getting access to invite-only parties, and fitting in with the "in" crowd-who among us hasn't wished for all that? Admit it: we've all been guilty of wanting to be so like the friends we admire. That's why we copy how they dress, the way they walk and talk. Friends, after all, are truly a big influence, which is way cool if they bring out the very best in you.

Sadly, it's not like that all the time. So when opinions of others dominate your decision-making, that's your cue to ask yourself tough questions like "Is this what I really want? Will this make me happy?"

Like attracts Like

Your two best girlfriends positively love Leighton Meester and agree that Michael Cera is the funniest. Maybe you even enjoy the same sports or extracurricular activities they do. But at some point, you'll want to try something new, something different from what your barkada likes to do during the weekend. "The teenage years are the time of personality development," says psychiatrist Myrna Q. Almeda. "It's a time of testing the values of the family outside, seeing whether these values are similar or different from the experience of their peers." Don't feel strange if you find people outside your regular group. "It's completely normal and part of the experimentation that comes with growing up," says Dr. Almeda.

Sometimes the choices you make will be difficult. What your friends find cool may be the exact opposite of what your family approves of. For a teenager, "peer pressure" are two words that spell the big difference between being branded major cool or big time nerd—but it's all part of the experience. You learn to make choices that will determine who you are and what you want to become. So don't panic! Here's how to deal with those pressure-cooking situations without losing your cool.

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Ms. Singled Out
Your Predicament:
"Most of my friends have boyfriends. I'm really not in a hurry to have one, but sometimes it feels like everybody expects me to get one too!"
Your Worst Fear: "I'll forever be the third wheel when I'm with other couples—and that's so pathetic!
Reality Check: "There will always be leaders in the age group who will be the first to try new things—whether it's experimenting with make up or getting interested in boys," says Dr. Almeda. "You shouldn't feel too pressured to have all these new experiences right away. Not everyone develops at the same time." So chill! There's nothing wrong with not having a steady guy yet!
What to do: Rule number one: Never rush into a relationship because everyone else is doing it. There's a right time for everyone, and until you meet that special guy, have fun! Your single status is actually a blessing in disguise: use your time wisely. Take a dance class, write for the school paper, take guitar lessons, and meet new people (yes, that includes boys!) Give everyone a chance to get to know the fun, smart talented girl you are. True, you may find your all-girl outings put on hold for now, but it shouldn't mean your friends will no longer be there for you (in fact, they'll probably need a good listener and you're oh-so-good advice) so stick around and be there for them!

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Fashion Victim
Your Predicament:
"My friends like to wear brand name clothes and put together trendy outfits. Sometimes it's hard because clothes like that are expensive."
Your Worst Fear:
"My friends will label me baduy and won't want to be seen with me."
Reality Check: While it is normal to look to your peers for ideas on how to dress, keep in mind there are no hard-and-fast rules. Laila, 17 doesn't go on shopping frenzy to dress like everyone else-unless she spots something she really likes. "I started buying fancy flip-flops because I saw other people wearing them. I really do like the way hey look, so I kept buying them," she says, pointing to her Havaianas. "Otherwise, I wouldn't bother. No matter what the trend is, if you don't feel good in it, I don't think it's worth it."
What to do: Can't afford designer labels? Don't let your cash flow limit your look. Invest in one big piece (a good pair of jeans that fits well will always be in style). Or play fashion detective and check out stores that offer similar styles at more pocket-friendly prices. What counts is feeling confident in the clothes you wear. Add your own personal flair to your outfits—and you'll see that what counts isn't trends or brand name clothing but personal style!

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Mariel de Jesus
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