Peer Pressure: A commonly mislooked stigma

Peer Pressure: A Commonly Mislooked Stigma

By Adrian Chong

What is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is the process in which individuals within the same group influence others in the group to engage in a behavior or activity that they may not otherwise engage in. So how does peer pressure relate to youth culture? Well, peer pressure is seen to be prevalent amongst adolescents and youths with it being an “undercover” culture that is not commonly spoken, discussed, or realized in our day-to-day lives given the culture we grew up with. Rather, it seemingly affects our lives in all different ways, both good and bad, either pushing us to be better in representing ourselves in the face of the community or simply dragging us down with the constant subconscious thoughts of not being good enough. Here, we will discuss more in-depth the different types of peer pressure, the benefits, and drawbacks of peer pressure with some final take-home advice.

The Different Types of Peer Pressure:

  1. Spoken vs Unspoken Peer Pressure
Spoken peer pressure occurs when someone directly asks or persuades another person to engage in a specific behavior. This means that the recipient of these orders is very likely to oblige and to engage in such behavior or activities, especially in a one-to-one environment. In most cases, the behavior or activities engaged in would usually be negative (but can result in positive consequences) when engaged in a bigger group with core values and principles that contradict another’s belief. On the other hand, unspoken peer pressure occurs indirectly when youths are standing at crossroads of many options, rendering them vulnerable to the different choices they can make. However, youths may oftentimes lack the mental capacity and maturity to make the right decisions, thus being susceptible to negative thoughts and behaviors that are often triggered by more mature and popular friends. Some aspects of decision-making that youths may easily compromise on would be in terms of fashion, music, or even the type of engagement pursued on social media.
  1. Direct vs Indirect Peer Pressure
Direct peer pressure can present itself either in spoken or unspoken methods. Amongst all the different forms of peer pressure, this would be the most influential, powerful, and one that can potentially engrave the core values that a person may uphold for a long period of time, even throughout their entire life. This form of peer pressure would be the most common whereby the pathway has already been paved in front of the person’s eyes. All they have to do is to decide whether to take the first step forward to engage or simply take a step back and reject. In most cases, it would obviously be blindly following the choice that has already been perfectly laid out in front of them. Take an example of you being in a bar when your colleague offers you a cup of beer; the action has already been made, and you just need to make an informed decision. Almost 99% of the time, you would subconsciously extend your hand and gladly receive the cup of beer. What makes it worse is that on-the-spot decision-making makes it even more stressful for one to think rationally, further disregarding their own free will to make a choice. Indirect peer pressure would be a tough one to navigate. Just like unspoken peer pressure, it is something that can drastically disorient a person’s personal point of view when standing amongst a group of people that could potentially have a completely different viewpoint. This form of peer pressure would not usually be associated with speech or direct actions but from a more cultural-based point of view. Taking the example of bullying, it is universally known that bullying is wrong. However, why are there still so many people doing it? Well, it’s simply because of indirect peer pressure. Bullying has been seemingly normalized amongst the general population and is now seen as something “cool”.

So What Are the Benefits of Peer Pressure?

  1. Encourages Excellence
Well, there may have been a number of bad examples that have been quoted in the above statements, but peer pressure can bring about positive effects too. One of them is being a force of motivation that pushes you to be better and better until you achieve the best version of yourself in life! Life is always filled with surprises, and you too will be shocked by the different inspirational people that can come your way. From the professor in your classes to industry leaders that drive your learning engine, positive peer pressure from the right people and environment can really be a springboard that propels you to compare yourself with others in a healthy manner, allowing you to think fast, learn creatively, and set achievable targets for yourself in which you too can experience a growing momentum to achieve those goals.
  1. Sense of Belonging and Support
Though it may sound like something that originates from family and friends, positive peer pressure can also help you mature alongside like-minded people. When you’ve found your group of friends or people that think, act, and behave the same way as you do, you’ll ultimately feel empowered and have increased your personal wellbeing. With the right kind of support and encouragement, one may feel physically and emotionally connected to these groups of people. Even when things get tough and your friends or family may not understand you the most, it’s this group of people that could perhaps understand what you’re going through, thus being your support system in times of need.
  1. Introduction of Hobbies and Interests
As youths are constantly developing themselves as well as their own thought processes, it is common for them to actively lookout for potential inspirations from their surroundings. Rather than standing around blatantly figuring out what to do with life, positive peer pressure presents itself useful through friends around youths. With the companionship of friends engaging in beneficial activities or cultivating inspiring hobbies, it is very likely that one would eventually grow into hobbies and develop positive interest throughout their lives. This is especially true when it comes to youth being exposed to voluntary activities and community services.

But What Are the Adverse Effects of Peer Pressure?

Before we continue with this section of the article, let’s have a look at some data revolving around this. Here are some statistics about peer pressure that may illustrate the adverse effects of peer pressure:
  1. 85% of high schoolers have felt peer pressure
  2. 75% of adolescents have tried alcohol due to peer pressure
  3. 63% of young women feel pressured to dress a certain way
  4. Increase of stress and anxiety
Growing up within Asian culture, it’s pretty inevitable to say that Asian parents would’ve at least compared you to someone else. Be it their friend’s children, your siblings, or cousins, such comparison adds so much unnecessary stress to youths nowadays. With that being said, this is one example of the adverse effects of peer pressure when used in the wrong context or motive. Although peer pressure is great for encouraging excellence, it will backfire and instead jeopardize one’s mental health when used excessively while also continuously pinpointing one’s mistakes in all forms of detail. This instead will be the negative effect of peer pressure that can be easily managed when all stakeholders manage it in moderation.
  1. Identity Loss
With the influence of friends from different groups and community settings, the probability of succumbing to peer pressure is very high. For those that come from traditional cultural settings, it would be extremely difficult for some to showcase their true thoughts and opinions without the fear of embarrassment from others. According to research, the more time a person spends with a group without being given the opportunity to express themselves, the more likely they are to follow the pack, eventually blending in with the crowd and subconsciously losing their own identity.
  1. May Engage in Self-Harm and Suicide Ideation
*Disclaimer: The following paragraph contains some sensitive information. Please read at your own discretion or kindly ignore this section. Reiterating the previous points of identity loss and indirect peer pressure, it can be said that if taken too far, peer pressure can ultimately take a toll on a person’s mental and psychological wellbeing, causing them to feel disconnected from the rest of society. When peer pressure gets too bad, some people simply can’t just stand in their own skin. Without obtaining proper treatment or support, the likelihood of suicide or other self-harming methods will be prevalent. One example of this would be seen whereby the LGBT community has yet to find its approval in most Asian countries. As such, the stress of conforming to society’s standards can be so daunting that many of them tend to have suicidal thoughts.

Conclusion

Overall, peer pressure can be seen as a double-edged sword. When used wisely, it can certainly motivate people to achieve great heights and promote healthy competition. However, when pushed beyond the limit, it can have severe neurological effects that can affect a said person for an entire lifetime. Therefore, it is important to balance the effects of peer pressure to ensure that everyone stays out of danger. Lastly, here are some final take-home advice for those struggling with peer pressure:
  1. Just be yourself. Everyone is different, and your happiness is not built upon others.
  2. Know your true self-worth. Find friends or a group that can see that in you.
  3. Know when to seek professional help. Your opinions are always valid and worth listening to.

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