Youth story: Peer pressure & my combat against conformity

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This story was written by a member of Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council (NYC).

Have you ever been told to, “go your own way” when faced with a dilemma? We all roll our eyes and say we will, but if only we meant it…

No matter how often it’s repeated, let’s all face it — we naturally tend to mirror the behaviour of those in our surroundings. While it’s not a good nor a bad habit, I believe we should reflect on how much we let others impact us. Why? Because we’re independent people and we can choose for ourselves.

As a teen, I always found it hypocritical how social media can promote both authenticity and conformity. With the rise of Instagram models and YouTubers, it’s easier than ever to feel like a part of a community, and to look up to influencers as mentors and family members.

Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This means our close circle of peers can be seen as parts of ourselves. That’s why I often find it difficult, even now, to go against my family’s or friends’ opinions, because they’re the people I care for most and don’t want to disappoint.

When I was around nine years old, I went to a summer camp where I met lots of other kids. At dinnertime, we’d all gather around in the cafeteria. At some point, my group of friends and I decided to throw a competition of “who could drink the most glasses of water.” Little me, very competitive and careless, drank 14 glasses of water in the span of 20 minutes.

Obviously, I was encouraged by my friends, who were cheering me on and laughing. As the night went on, my body was diluted of all its minerals, which caused me to collapse and be rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any long-term effects from that night, but you can imagine how far it can quickly go.

It’s the sentiment of belonging to a group that’s tricky, because we can become vulnerable to the people we open ourselves up to. One universal truth I’m convinced of is real friends will always respect your choices. It doesn’t matter what’s at risk — if you’ve thought through the pros/cons and don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t do it. Your true friends shouldn’t force you to do anything. You’re the master of your own choices.

For instance, I’ve often turned down drugs, alcohol and party invitations because I’ve made my own conscious decisions about what I do and don’t want to do. This can, however, leave a cold impression at first, because you’re not following the decisions of the people you may usually agree with.

I think, most of the time, our friends are the people we think most alike. However, I don’t let the “awkward” moment of saying “no” overshadow my power over myself, because I know I’m first and foremost loyal to my values and beliefs. In the end, I realize it’s not my peers who raise my hand to drink water or smoke weed. I’m the one who faces the consequences of my actions, not my friends. And that’s what I try to remember in my everyday life.

Whether it’s from friends, classmates, siblings or someone else, dealing with pressure from others can be tough. If you’re struggling with peer pressure, you can reach out to a trusted friend, or a parent/caregiver, teacher or other safe adult. You can also call, chat or text with Kids Help Phone 24/7. We’re always here for you.