Peer pressure is a constant battle that will never cease to exist. We face it as children, teenagers, and even as adults. As children, we all have a friend that dares us to jump from a high elevation. As teenagers, we all have a friend of a friend who wants us to sample whatever they are smoking. And as adults, we glance over at our peers wanting to match or exceed their criteria. We compete for annual salaries, square footage in homes, thin waistlines, or to be invited to the same places. There is a natural urge towards fitting in, even when it is detrimental to our health.

Those who go against the grain can face backlash from those that we revere, whether that may be an individual or an entire social circle. If we defy these pressures, it forces us to find another group of friends – one where we aren’t filled with the anxieties to live up to someone who we aren’t. Or, they may understand – and take it as a lesson that you are not interested in what they have offered. This situation is a rare case.

The obstacle of peer pressure is most apparent during our teenage years – notably that eighth-grade transition into high school and on. As developing adults, we are trying to figure out what kind of person we are going to be. It’s natural having difficulty grasping who you are so you morph until you feel the pieces fit even if they don’t. Self-acceptance can take an entire lifetime. Peer pressures, especially today, can guide the shape-shifting that we experience. The throttling of social media platforms has amplified modern-day tensions. It has introduced an even darker side of peer pressure. It’s a world that you can paint yourself in, showing off your lavish trips, your photoshopped photos, and how many friends you have. It’s easy to outright lie about how exciting your day to day life is. Some of us buy into it.

It’s a painful stage in life, especially for the LGBTQ community. If you need some insight on what it is to be a teenage girl, watch Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. This pressure is critical to discuss amongst the youth. However, the LGBTQ youth are more vulnerable due to their struggle with identity and the stressful environment of societal judgment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the LGBTQ community are more likely to have substance abuse issues than their heterosexual counterpart. This alarming fact further suggests that there needs to be support for handling peer pressure in this community. Low self-esteems are a reoccurring issue in the LGBTQ community due to external factors. People can be cruel, but children can be ruthless. Clinical child psychologist Dr. Kenneth Shore shares that “children with low selfesteem are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, and might lose their perspective about right and wrong.”

Dr. Shore states that we should take the steps to “promote the child’s self-esteem, avoid overreacting to their words, choose our battles carefully, help them develop good decision-making skills, and to get to know their friends.” As adults, we are more selfaware of peer pressure’s semblance, even if we still give into them. It’s our responsibility to address peer pressure to those who are in the fragile years of their life. We can steer them in the right direction, teaching them
from our own experiences, mistakes, and successes.

Dr. Shore goes on to say that “your child might tell you things that make your jaw drop. If you overreact, you will discourage them from talking with you about those issues again. At the same time, use those teachable moments to introduce some cautions without moralizing or lecturing.”

Being reprimanded for a decision may be a central catalyst for a child to participate in an even more precipitous act. Peer pressure varies from community to community. It isn’t as simple as saying no. There is critical thinking involved, an action, a consequence, and a lesson learned in the best-case scenario. When there isn’t any support from home, it makes us all the more susceptible to the persuasive language, and behavior. These decisions can play a role in our future. Some steps can be taken to avoid coercion. Dr. Kenneth Shore believes that we should “take a stand on high-risk peer behavior. Not sweating the small stuff will enable you to be more effective when you challenge them on the larger issues.” Trust is of the essence.

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