How to Stand Up to Peer Pressure

Three Parts:Feeling Confident in YourselfSaying NoSurrounding Yourself With Better People

When people are taunting and teasing you for not doing something you don't want to, it's hard not to feel frustrated. On some level, you want to just cave in. However, doing so would violate your principles and possibly corrupt your future. Fortunately, peer pressure can be resisted with some effort by building your self-esteem and confidence, learning how to say no, and surrounding yourself with more accommodating people.

Part 1
Feeling Confident in Yourself

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    Trust your gut. You will know when something doesn't feel right. Even if your friend might feel okay about the situation, it might not be okay for you. Be strong and do what is right for you.[1] Your friends will respect your choices, and those that don't respect your decisions are people you don't want to have in your life to begin with.
    • Remember that your opinion and feelings matter, even if they go against the group. You should never be ashamed of not wanting to drink or do drugs. Just because your friends may be ready to have sex doesn't mean you are ready - and there is nothing wrong with that. You are an individual, and you matter. Never let anyone make you feel less than that or question what you believe is right.
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    Make yourself happy. Every person is an individual who enjoys different things. You don't have to do the things your friends or peers do. Maybe you like comic books while they like basketball, or maybe you like swimming while they like video games. Be confident in the things that you like and do things that make you happy. Spend your time engaging in healthy activities that you are passionate about.[2]
    • Doing activities that you like can help you avoid peer pressure. If you are giving in to peer pressure, you are consenting to participate in activities that you are uncomfortable doing. These activities are probably not healthy for you, otherwise you wouldn't feel bad about doing them. Have the confidence to know what you like and what you don't. Keep your focus on the activities you like.
    • Don't confuse this with not trying new things. Just because you don't like sports doesn't mean you shouldn't go to the park and kick around a soccer ball with your friends. Focusing on what you enjoy and your interests can help you be more self-assured, which will make resisting peer pressure easier.
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    Try something new. Maybe it's playing an instrument or a new sport. Maybe it's spending time outside, or starting a collection. The reason peer pressure works is because sometimes you feel like being accepted by your friends is the most important thing in the world. If you have other things going on in your life that make you feel awesome, you won't depend so much on what your friends think of you. By joining new clubs, trying new activities, and learning new skills, you will meet people and make friends who have similar interests. These friends will accept you and encourage you through your new activities.
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    Make your opinions known. Decide what you believe and stand by your principles. Your opinions matter; what you think is important. You want to make it clear that there are some things you believe strongly about, and that you won't do these things before those situations come up.
    • For example, if you know you don't want to smoke, don't wait until someone offers you a cigarette. Find ways to mention to people that you never want to smoke in everyday life. Tell people that you don't understand wasting money on cigarettes. Mention how you hate the smell of smoke if you pass someone smoking. Post articles on Facebook or Twitter that show the effects of smoking on the lungs. If someone in your life has or had lung cancer, talk about how that made you resolve never to smoke. By taking this approach, the likelihood of someone trying to pressure you to do something you don't want to do will be much lower, because people will already know you're not into it.
    • Don't just form opinions about things you might be pressured into. Standing by your principles takes practice. Discuss your opinions with family members and friends so that you get comfortable expressing your opinion.[3]
    • Remember to share your opinion in respectful ways. Everyone is not going to agree with you. Calmly and respectfully explain your viewpoint, and listen attentively to the other person's point of view. [4]
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    Identify troubling or triggering situations. Take a look at your life, an honest look. Think about the things that trigger you to feel bad about yourself or to give in to peer pressure. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Who tries to pressure me into things I don't want to do?
    • When do I usually get pressured?
    • Where am I when these situations occur?
    • Why am I giving in?
    • Why is the approval of this particular person and/or group so important to me?
    • What will I lose if I don't gain the approval of this group?
    • Is giving in worth feeling bad about myself and disappointing my family and other friends?
    • After you answer the questions, look at your answers. Will everyone really hate you if you don't have that cigarette? If the boy won't like you if you don't have sex with him, is that really the kind of boy you want to be dating? Is your popularity really connected to you drinking that beer? Challenge these negative thoughts.[5] Everybody at school won't hate you if you refuse a cigarette, joint, or beer. If popularity is connected to those things in a certain group, perhaps that's not the group for you. There are other groups of friends who won't make you do things that make you feel uncomfortable or bad about yourself.
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    Don't allow people to make you feel bad about yourself. Peer pressure thrives on making you feel bad about yourself, therefore making you feel that you have to do whatever your friends are doing in order to feel good about yourself. Make a resolution that no one is allowed to do this to you anymore. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent".[6]

Part 2
Saying No

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    Plan for situations involving peer pressure. You don't want to avoid what could possibly be fun situations just because of the threat of peer pressure. Instead, prepare yourself mentally for instances of peer pressure so you will be ready to respond positively. Think of scenarios where you might feel pressured. Visualize all the details; what people would do and say, where you are. Rehearse your response.
    • If you want to go to a party, go to the party. If you are afraid you might be pressured into drinking, doing drugs, or having sex, prepare responses for those situations. Hold a can of soda or bottle of water so people might be deterred from offering you alcohol.[7]
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    Go places in a group. If you know you are going to a party or into another situation where peer pressure might be strongest, don't go alone. Go in a group of like-minded friends. If two or three of you go to a party and don't want to drink or do drugs, support each other. Sometimes, it is much easier to stand up to peer pressure when you're not alone and when you have to be held accountable to another person.[8]
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    Prepare stock phrases and responses. If you know that you might be faced with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or sex, have a some responses ready. Keep the phrases casual and light. "Nah, I'm good" or "No, that's just not my thing" is a great way to turn down an offer.
    • If that still doesn't work, blame it on your parents: "My mom will totally smell smoke on my clothes/alcohol on my breath." Say you can't afford to be grounded again, or if you lose your driving privileges you won't have a ride to work. Say "No, my mom will kill me."[9]
    • If you're in sports, say that smoking, drugs, or alcohol will interfere with your training.
    • If you're being pressured into having sex, say you don't have a condom. If the other person has a condom, say the thought of having sex around people doesn't appeal to you, that you don't feel well physically, or that you would rather talk to your friends/dance/play a game. If you're a girl, claim it is your time of the month.
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    Follow up with a change of subject. Try suggesting that the group does something else. Saying "Hey, let's do ___________ instead" is a way to divert the attention and conversation, and hopefully help you out of the situation.
    • Offer to go get food for people: "No thanks! I'm pretty hungry actually -does anyone else want pizza right now?" Talk about the music playing or a movie someone is watching, or suggest going to find some other friends.
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    Be comfortable saying no. You always have the right to say no. No one should ever make you feel bad for not wanting to do something before you're ready, like sex, or for not wanting to do something you don't want to do, like drugs. Real friends won't try to pressure you into doing things you don't want to, but sometimes we find ourselves in situations with people who may not respect our wishes.
    • Say "no thanks!" in a casual way. Don't be rude, mean, or put others down. Be assertive and confident when you say no.
    • Maintain eye contact. Speak up; don't mumble.[10] Always speak with confidence. Body language speaks volumes. If you show any signs of weakness, the person pressuring will continue until they have won the battle.
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    Continue saying no. Sometimes, people will continue trying to pressure you. Keep strong to your principles, be confident, and say no. Try to stay nice to the person; you want to avoid provoking them into an argument if at all possible.
    • Ask the person still pressuring you why they can't respect your choices. Say to them, "I said no, why aren't you listening to me?" or "Please respect my choices like I'm respecting yours."[11]
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    Walk away. If all else fails, walk away if possible. Don't remain in a situation that might get you in trouble or where you feel uncomfortable. If you are at a party, leave the room and find other people to talk to. Call someone to pick you up if you are in a place you cannot easily leave.
    • Never allow someone to keep you in a place you do not feel comfortable. If someone is physically barring you from leaving, call for help.
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    Have a back-up plan. If things turn for the worse, like if you go with a friend to a party and it turns out everyone is getting drunk (including your friend, who drove you) have a plan for what you would do in that situation. Is there someone in your life who you could call who could come and pick you up?
    • Work out a code word with your parents. If you text them that code word, they can call you immediately. You can then say, "Man, that was my mom/dad! I am in such trouble. I've got to go!"[12] This can help you stay responsible and help you get out of a sticky situation, but also help you save face with your peers.
    • Call your parents and say you're feeling ill. Ask them to come pick you up.
    • Always have a phone on you with numbers of people you can call, like older siblings, other friends, relatives, friends' parents. If you don't have a cell phone, carry a list of numbers for people you can call.
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    Use humor. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation and don't feel like you can just say no straight out, try a humorous approach. A witty one-liner or well placed joke can dispel a situation and help deflect the attention.[13]
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    If you feel cornered, make up an excuse. This is a last resort, because you can't lie every time you're put into a difficult situation. People will catch on and the pressure will be worse. But if you're in a bad spot, pretend to feel sick or like you're about to throw up. Say you're allergic to cigarette smoke or alcohol makes you sick to your stomach. Do whatever it takes to avoid doing something you know you don't want to do.

Part 3
Surrounding Yourself With Better People

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    Choose your friends wisely. Surround yourself with friends who have similar interests, principles, and standards as you. These friends are less likely to put you into compromising situations and will stand beside you if you both end up being pressured by peers.[14] Having friends you can count on allows you to do other fun things if you have to walk away from peer pressure situations.
    • Support your friends. Be the person who helps stand up when a friend is in a situation they might find difficult.
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    Evaluate your friends. Are your friends starting to do more and more stuff that you don't want to do? Have they changed since you first became friends? Ask yourself why you are friends with them in the first place.
    • Maybe you can talk to them about their new habits. Sometimes people just want to explore new things; other times they do those things because they feel stressed out by something else. Try to talk to a friend with this approach: "Hey, I noticed you've been doing a lot more smoking/drinking lately...that's fine and totally your choice, but what's up? You never used to do that stuff. Is everything ok?"
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    End negative and harmful relationships. Sometimes, you might have to break up with your friends. This can be really hard to do, but if your friends are constantly pressuring you to do stuff you don't want to do, maybe it's better to move on. If they don't respect your opinions and choices, they're not really you're friends in the first place.
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    Make new friends. If you find yourself surrounded by people who participate in activities you feel uncomfortable doing, make new friends. If you started pursuing new interests, try to find new friends who have those same interests. Look for people at parties who are not drinking, doing drugs, smoking, or having sex. Talk to people in your classes who may have similar interests. There are other people who are avoiding the same things you are.
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    Avoid compromising situations. Don't allow yourself to get into situations where you might be pressured. Be confident enough to not go to a party you know will have tons of alcohol and drugs, or go back to an empty house with a guy or girl you're not ready to get intimate with. Evaluate situations you put yourself into, and make smart decisions.[15]


  • Keep in mind that there's good peer pressure as well as bad peer pressure. For example, inducing friendly academic competition between yourself and a friend is okay, since it pushes you both to do your best.
  • Some people may react differently; don't step down even if they call you weak.
  • You are not the only one who has been pressured. Talk to other victims and/or your parents and teachers who have gone through peer pressure before.
  • Avoid big parties with a lot of people you don't know.
  • Be proud of what you have accomplished. Many people can't get enough courage to set a course for their own lives and stay on it, avoiding the pressures of others.
  • Even though it might be very hard to stand up to peer pressure, think of how big the consequences could be later on. That might help you stand up to it more confidently.

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