The Subtle Faces of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can come in many forms.  Some are subtle and some overt.  I think sometimes teens don’t see the subtle forms because they are too caught up in fitting in, being popular or being liked.

Peer pressure and bullying can intersect a lot of the time. It  can be your friends subtly making fun of you, laughing, putting you down & then saying, “just kidding.”  Remember, at the core of every statement there is some truth. It can also be your friends saying, “you’re no fun” because you don’t want to do something that feels dangerous. You should be free and comfortable to make those choices for yourself.

Rule of thumb, if someone asks you or tells you to do something over and over that you’re not interested in doing,  that’s peer pressure. If your friends make you feel uncomfortable for not going along with the crowd, for wanting to do something different, for trying something different….. that’s peer pressure. If your boyfriend tells you that you don’t care about him because you’re not interested or willing to do something for him or with him…. that’s peer pressure. If he withholds affection like a hug or smile because you don’t want to go somewhere with him….. that’s peer pressure. Any situation in which you are feeling uncomfortable, getting nervous or knots are forming in your stomach, that’s your body ‘s way of telling you something is wrong. Trust your instincts. We should never be forced into doing anything that makes us uncomfortable.  I wish I could say to all teens that peer pressure is only something that happens when you’re young, but unfortunately it’s not. Peer pressure can occur in adulthood as well; however, the way we handle those situations will tell people  how we demand to be treated. Respect yourself and other will respect you too. Those who don’t aren’t worth knowing.

Healthy relationships never require people to prove themselves in ways that are unsafe or uncomfortable. Healthy relationships fill us with comfort and ease. They make us feel safe and accept us for who we are. That is the sign of a true friend.

The Triangle of Self-Perseverance: Confidence, Self-Esteem and Approval

Confidence, self-esteem and approval are all tied very closely. Combined, I call this the triangle of self-perseverance.  They are interwoven and when out of balance, we can’t be the best version of ourselves. Like a science project that successfully shows cause-and-effect when elements are evenly poured, so too happens with the proper mixture of confidence, self-esteem and approval. Through building one’s confidence we see self-esteem emerge; however, the challenge is where we seek our approval.  For many teens, they look to their peers for approval and if they don’t receive the acceptance they seek, this can damage their confidence and ultimately their self-esteem. So keeping the triangle of self-perseverance in balance is not easy.

Confidence is that undefinable ability or feeling we have that tells us that we can do it.  That we are smart enough or strong enough to take something on, win or lose.  It provides us with a sense of self where we are comfortable to try something and not fear failure, but look upon it as a growth opportunity. This builds resilience in all of us which in turn squashes fear and cultivates self-esteem.

Self-esteem is how much you like who you are and how much you accept and respect yourself. Healthy self-esteem can serve much like a shield of armor against the challenges of the world.  Self-esteem will change throughout your life, so the key to positive self-esteem is to stay confident in who you are and to surround yourself with good people who give you a healthy dose of reality as well as approval.

Approval or acceptance comes in many forms from interactions with parents, teachers, coaches to friends and colleagues.  However, ultimate approval comes from a place deep within that says, “I’m ok with me. I accept me for who I am.” Getting to that place can be tough for many of us.  During the critical teen years, youth look to their peers more than anyone else for approval. They also need to see this approval reinforced at home and school by caring adults in their lives. This is how the delicate balancing act of confidence, self-esteem and approval come together.

To raise confident kids, we must reinforce their success and failures; give them room to grow and build autonomy. Through this process, confidence will ultimately blossom.  Then we must encourage them to take on challenges big or small and praise them for their successes as well understand their defeats. This is where their self-esteem will be tested. Remember, valuable life lessons come from failure. As Robert F. Kennedy said,  “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” Encourage them to keep going, teach them perseverance and resilience will follow.  Ultimately, they will grow strong, trust in themselves and look inward for approval.  Through this symmetry self-perseverance will ultimately be found.