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Someone in your age group.
A feeling that you are being pushed toward making a certain decision - good or bad.

We are all influenced by peer pressure - both teens and adults - because we all want to feel we belong to a group of friends. Our friends help us to feel like we "belong" and provide both social and emotional support.

Adults are influenced by peer pressure in the workplace by the way they dress and by their group of friends in whether they take up golf or see a certain movie.

With teens, peer pressure can be both good and bad. It can influence you in many different ways, including:

  • How you dress.

  • Who your friends are.

  • Your grades in school.

  • Whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Whether you use drugs or alcohol.

When we think of bad peer pressure, it's usually connected to pressure to:

  • Smoke.

  • Drink alcohol.

  • Do drugs.

  • Have sex.

  • Do something illegal.

  • Do something violent.

Always listen to your gut feelings. If your conscience is telling you that something is not good for you, don't do it! Unfortunately, sometimes people in groups act differently and do things they'd never do on their own. Why? Because we all lose at least some of our own identity in a group. And normal controls we put on our behavior can crumble because of the need we feel to fit in and be respected by others. However, a good rule to follow is: If it is something you wouldn't do by yourself, don't do it with a group either!

There are two kinds of peer pressure - spoken and unspoken.

  It'll be fun.
  It won't hurt you.
  Your parents will never find out.
  Everyone's doing it.

  You're never any fun.
  You're such a baby.
  You're such a wimp.

  Who needs you as a friend any way.
  If you don't, we won't hang out any more.
  Why don't you leave then.

Don't want to hurt someone's feelings.
Don't know how to get out of the situation.
Don't want to be made fun of.
Are afraid of being rejected by others.
Want to be liked.
Don't want to lose a friend.

Unspoken peer pressure is something much more subtle. It's what you feel inside without anyone saying anything to you. You feel this when you want to be part of the crowd and do what others are doing. Or you may want to take a risk and do something exciting. Or, you may experience:

- A group of kids is standing together. Everyone is talking and maybe looking at something you can't see, laughing and joking.

- Kids who think they're cool give you a certain look that says "We're cool and you're not."

A group of kids is walking off to do "whatever," laughing, talking, and slapping each other on the back.

So what do you do now?

You still know that what they are suggesting is wrong and you're really not comfortable doing it. You're under a lot of spoken pressure. What do you do???
Here's some do's and don'ts:

Do Don't
Say no. Be afraid to say no.
Walk away from the situation. Go along hoping for the best.
Stick up for yourself. Make excuses.

And one of the best ways ever devised for saying "no," is to just say:

"I'm fine."

Because you really are. Just the way you are. And you can say it with confidence, without insulting anyone, and generally without a comeback.

Now what about the subtle unspoken peer pressure? When you really want to inside and feel influenced by the spoken reasons. Here's some suggestions:
Take a reality check. What are the possible consequences?
Think about the dangers involved.
Walk away and do something else you enjoy.

A survey of over 600 teens revealed that:
-   44% often feel pressured to lie, steal, or cheat.
-   25% often feel pressured to use drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes.
-   23% often feel pressured to have sex.

So, when you feel pressured, you're not alone. The important thing is how you respond to that pressure. Only you are responsible for your own actions - not your friends. So make sure it's what you want and that you're willing to accept all of the consequences connected to your actions; because it's you who will pay the price for bad choices.

Remember, drugs are drugs. Period. Alcohol is alcohol. They're not good or bad. They're chemicals. It's their use that can be really bad.

Drugs and alcohol are like dynamite - It's not good or bad either.

Use a couple of sticks of dynamite to clear away a boulder that's blocking a road to the jungle hospital, and it's good. Use it to blow up the hospital, and it's bad.

Drugs are like that. Some have real value, but any chemical that can change the way you think and feel can be dangerous. That's especially true because the effects of drugs and alcohol are internal and can cause real changes in your body and brain.

It isn't just hangovers, or failing in school, or getting arrested either. There are other very serious long-term consequences - like the changes in your brain chemistry that can follow drug and alcohol use.

Did you know that between the ages of ten and twenty your brain is still developing? That's right. This is the time period when your behavior patterns are developing and being wired. The decisions and behavior you establish (good or bad) will also be with you in adulthood. Make good decisions as a teenager, and you'll continue to make good decisions as an adult; and visa versa. As the researchers say, "The brain you get as an adult is the brain you wire as a teenager." So don't blow it now because you're going to need that brain for the rest of your life.

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