Talking mental health: Peer pressure after high school

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Peer pressure occurs when others challenge your values and beliefs in a way that results with you doing something you would not normally do.

People often yield to peer pressure to gain acceptance or live up to others’ expectations to be part of a certain social group.

Contrary to popular belief, peer pressure does not end in high school.

It is in fact very common and faced by university students all the time.

The need to fit in is a normal human desire, but how you respond to it determines how it affects your life.

First-year university students receive an overwhelming number of messages about what to value and how to behave.

Pressure to change and conform comes from different peer groups on campus and a wider influential culture.

You might change the way you dress or how you treat people, or you might adopt more drastic behaviours like drinking, doing drugs or having sex before you feel ready.

Peer pressure can influence your sense of belonging, confidence and self-esteem.

The results of changing to fit in can cause people to withdraw and become mistrustful.

Your personal values can become skewed and you can lose sight of what is really important to you.

It is possible, however, to combat peer pressure. Learning to be assertive and focusing on how you feel about what is happening are the best ways to overcome outside influences.

It is also necessary to be aware of the risks in getting caught up in a crowd mentality.

Try to be responsive to the feeling you get when your personal boundaries are being challenged.

Find a way to say ‘no,’ but remember that it is difficult to stand up to peer pressure.

It is tough to go against what everyone else is doing so you must be patient with yourself.

Ultimately, it is most helpful to find people with like-minded views who can help you feel supported in your decisions. It is useful to also remember that peer pressure is not always negative.

Encouraging pressure can help challenge and motivate you to make positive changes. It can give you a much needed push to try new things. Embrace this for you might discover something great.

Inspirational author Steve Maraboli expressed it best when he said: “At any given point you can release your greatest self. Don’t let anyone hold you back.

“Don’t let anyone dilute you. Don’t be peer-pressured into being less than you are. People willing to dilute themselves for the sake of others is one of the great tragedies of our time.”

At Counselling Services we can work together to help you identify and clarify what is important to you and help you build the confidence to uphold your values. Check us out at www.mylaurier.ca/counselling for information.

Our radio show “Talking Mental Health” will cover this and other topics throughout October. “Talking Mental Health” airs Mondays, Wedensdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. on Radio Laurier.

For feedback or comments about the radio program, please e-mail: talkingmentalhealth@radiolaurier.com.

Jessica Nitsopoulous is a counselling services intern at WLU

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