Joe, a boy like any other. There's nothing extraordinary or different about him or his life. He has a family, he has friends. He is a part of the society all of us also are. His thinking, behavior, tastes of food, fashion and music and the decisions he takes in life are greatly influenced by those of people around him. 'What people think' is the most influential factor in the choices he makes. What matters most to him is the people around, some directly related to him, others not. But for whatsoever reason, their opinions matter.
He can never think of what only he wants. His decisions are almost always influenced by what people think of him. These people may not have anything to do with him, but for some reason their opinions matter. He thinks they are important. They are his peers, they make the group he is a part of. He claims he can think independently, but somewhere he knows he can't. He thinks peer pressure does not affect him, but somewhere he knows it's a delusion. Joe is neither happy nor sad, he is confused.
Joe's story applies to you, me and everyone around. In each of us, there is a Joe. We get influenced by our peers. Their opinions and choices affect us. We want to be independent but we cannot get rid of the group we are part of. We cannot free ourselves from our peers or their opinions and we can't do away with their pressure. It affects us all the time, directly or indirectly. Very few have the courage to resist peer pressure and be their own selves rather than being one among the lot. Very few have the courage to follow their heart and not the herd. Peer pressure does affect us, both positively and negatively. The difference between positive and negative peer pressure is that the former pushes us to do something good or restrains us from doing bad while the latter pulls us away from the good or pushes us to do the bad; and all this for the sake of peers, just because the crowd thinks it's the coolest thing to do. It's not unnatural for peer behavior to affect us, but following your peers blindly is not a wise thing to do. Let's see how peer pressure affects us.
Decisions Go Wrong
When you do not like a particular idea or when you have no inclination towards a particular field, it is obvious that you won't like to go by it. For sure, you won't like to go that way. But it is your peer group, which may compel you on doing something you dislike. It's obvious that you won't be happy doing what you do. And you won't succeed. Succumbing to peer pressure in taking important decisions of your life can only land you in sorrow. For example, taking up a field or choosing a career just because your friends did so; without much thought to where your interest lies, can only make you unhappy.
Bad Habits are Cultivated
Peer pressure forces you to do things you are not comfortable doing. It can even lead you to adopt a certain kind of lifestyle, even if you don't really want to. You may not like partying every weekend, you may not be smoking. But peer pressure is powerful. It can turn you from an always-at-home boy/girl to a complete party animal. It can turn you from a total non-smoker to a chain-smoker. There are so many teenagers who take to drinking against their will, just because their peers force them to. In many cases, peer pressure has been the culprit in creating drug addicts. At that vulnerable age, teenagers do not understand that they are actually ruining their life by giving in to pressure from peers.
Identity is Lost
Peer pressure can lead to loss of individuality. Extreme peer pressure may lead you to follow what your peers feel right. Their pressure may compel you to go by everything they think is right. You follow them blindly; you adopt their tastes of fashion, clothing, hair, music and living at large. Peer pressure can actually lead you to lose your own taste. You feel forced to like what they like and do what they do. Peer pressure is the tendency to join the bandwagon; you lose your originality of thought and conduct. You forget the way you wanted to live. You lose your identity.
Adopting Good Habits
Peer pressure is not always bad. It can help you reflect on yourself. Peers may teach you good things and encourage you to follow them. You may be able to change yourself for better. Looking at what others do, can help you bring a positive change in your way of thinking. If you can pick selectively, peer pressure can push you towards something positive. For example, when a child knows that some of his friends regularly read storybooks or that they have subscribed to a library, even he feels tempted to do so. He may get into the habit of reading because of his peers. Seeing that some of your friends exercise daily, even you may take up the habit. Positive peer pressure can lead you to adopt good habits in life.
Exposure to the World
Your peers, their choices and ways of life give you a glimpse of the world outside the four walls of your house. What they think about things in life, how they perceive situations, how they react in different circumstances can actually expose you to the world around. Being part of a larger group of peers exposes you to the variety in human behavior. This makes you reflect on your behavior and know where you stand. Peer pressure can lead you to make right choices in life.
Giving Up Bad Habits
If you are fortunate enough to get a good peer group, your peers can influence the shaping of your personality in a positive way. Their perspective of life can lead you to change yours. It's not pressure every time; sometimes it's inspiration, which makes you change for good. For example, positive peer pressure can make you quit smoking or give up bad habits that you may have. Your peers can inspire you to become more optimistic or more confident. Your peers may influence you to change and make you a better human being.
Teenage Peer Pressure
When talking about the positive and negative effects of peer pressure, you can't escape discussing how peer pressure affects teenagers. It's because they are the most vulnerable and the most affected. During the teenage years, one is exposed to the world outside. There are many changes taking place at the physical and psychological level. One starts feeling he has grown up, he feels he needs to make choices, take important decisions and looking at the plethora of options available, one is confused. It's during these years that one's ideals are formed. These years shape an individual and his life. He feels independent, free and discovers a new 'himself'.
Teenage years are the educative years of one's life. It's the phase they do their high school, go for higher education, take up degree courses. They get busy carving a career for themselves. They spend most of their time among those of their age - their friends, peers. Teenage is the most youthful period of life. At that age, they are young, enthusiastic, ready to take life head on and eager to take in every little thing life brings their way. They enjoy the company of others their age, as full of energy as they are. But this age is also the most dangerous. They are susceptible, anything can influence them and make them change, for better or worse - the line between the two blurs for a brief period. It's not the kids to blame, it's their age.
Teenagers are the most likely to fall prey to peer pressure. So, their parents and teachers should save them from succumbing to it. It's natural for a teenaged kid to feel like imitating his friends. It's natural for him to feel like smoking just because his friends do or feel like drinking because his peers do. It's not abnormal for teenaged kids to adopt all that is considered hip and cool without a second thought. They don't do it deliberately. No. They just can't distinguish between the good and the bad. They need to be taught the difference. They need to be shielded from negative peer pressure. And the solution is not in isolating them from peers. It's in teaching them to make good choices in life.
A strong support from family, an ability to differentiate between the right and the wrong and the skill to choose friends from peers is the key to greet the positive effects of peer pressure and keep the negative ones at bay.