Peer Pressure Help

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Peer pressure is that coercive force that people use to try to make you behave in a way you might not be comfortable with. The psychological reason it’s so effective is that at the most fundamental level saying no implies exclusion from the group, and with exclusion existential isolation comes into clear relief, an unbearable feeling for conscious intelligent organisms capable of contemplating how insignificant we are compared to the enormity of the universe.

At bottom you say yes to peer pressure not because you end up agreeing the plan is a good one, but because going along with it seems better than the alternative. That creeping anxiety at the edge of your conscious awareness tells you to do what you have to do to remain a member of the group.

Obviously peer pressure comes in a lot of different forms, like pleading, threatening, or sweet talking, but regardless of the form it takes it’s effective primarily because of that unstated threat of exclusion that looms in the background. Therefore the simplest way to combat peer pressure is to realize that you’re probably not going to get excluded in the long-term if you say no, and if you are excluded for standing up for your right to choose your own behaviors is this really a group you want to be a part of?

Psychologically speaking, the reason that people apply peer pressure is not necessarily because they want you around or care about you, but because they want to normalize their own questionable behavior. If everyone goes along with a plan of action, without any dissent, then it must be okay. The group wants your assent not necessarily for your good, but to lower their own anxiety about their behavior. Even if it’s less nefarious than that, chances are what you’re being coerced into doing is in the best interests of the person or people coercing you into doing it.

With these ideas in place, it might be a little easier to say no when you’re feeling that pressure to say yes, because the underlying threat of exclusion is abusive in nature. It’s instilling doubt in order to try to maintain control, the hallmark of all forms of abuse.