Peer pressure is typically talked about in the context of teens and drug use. But the truth is, peer pressure doesn’t go away after high school, and it often has nothing to do with drugs.
Regardless of your age, fears, anxieties, influences, and social expectations can all entangle together to create peer pressure situations. And although younger people tend to be more vulnerable to peer pressure, you don’t automatically become immune to it just because you’ve grown older.
In some ways, peer pressure can be even more insidious and intense for adults.
There Are Many Types of Peers
For teenagers, peers are usually people who are the same age and in the same stage of life. But for adults, peer groups can be much more diverse.
In addition to people who are the same age as you, you may also feel pressure from people at work, family members, sexual or romantic partners, or neighbors. It may come from people with similar hobbies or interests or from people in a similar situation as you—other parents, people with the same chronic illness, or people of a similar socioeconomic background.
And Many Types of Pressures
Peer pressure can manifest in many different ways. It may be overt, like someone pushing you to do something you’re uncomfortable with. Or it may be more subtle, like feeling left out or feeling like you need to keep up with others.
It may involve pressure to conform to certain standards or expectations. For example, you may feel pressure to drink more alcohol, spend money in certain ways, dress a certain way, or behave a certain way. Or you may feel pressure to take certain risks. You may be pressured out of doing something you wanted to do or pressured to back down from something you believe in.
Regardless of how it manifests, peer pressure can be very negative and stressful. It can make you feel like you’re not good enough or like you’re not in control of your own life.
How To Handle Peer Pressure In Adulthood
Peer pressure is not always a negative thing. Sometimes, it can push you to do things that are good for you, like pursuing a goal, trying a new hobby, or improving your health habits.
So one of the first things you need to do is identify whether the peer pressure you’re experiencing is positive or negative. While every situation is different, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is this something I really want to do?
- Does this go against my values or beliefs?
- Is this something that will improve my health or quality of life?
- Are they forcing me to do this, or are they simply creating an opportunity for me to do this if I want to?
- What do I want, and what do I not want?
Reflecting on these questions can clarify your feelings and help you decide how to proceed.
If you decide that the peer pressure is negative, there are a few things you can do to handle it:
- Talk to the person or group applying the pressure. This can be not easy, but it’s important to communicate your feelings and set boundaries.
- Avoid the person or group. If you’re uncomfortable talking to them, it may be best to stay away from them.
- Talk to someone else. If you’re not ready to talk to the person or group applying the pressure, talking to someone else—a friend, family member, or therapist—can help you process your feelings and figure out a plan.
- Remember that you have a choice. No one should force you to do something you don’t want to do.
You have the power to say no, and you should never be made feel guilty or ashamed for doing what’s best for you.