How to manage peer pressure to your advantage

How to manage peer pressure to your advantage

For many, Christmas is a great time for parties and indulgence! However, if your health is a priority, a sense of “peer pressure” to eat, drink and be merry during the festive season can be challenging. This short article looks at peer pressure, explores its nature and gives some tips about how to manage it and use it to your advantage too!

What is “peer pressure”?

As human beings, we have a strong tendency to stick with the crowd and want to fit in. This is really what “peer pressure” is. Peer pressure is often raised as a negative thing, but it is also there for a positive reason. It can help in very practical ways: for example, it can save us time in making decisions and allows us to assess a situation quickly based upon the action of others in a group. It can help us feel safer and more secure – just like in a school of fish, we are less prone to “predators” if we keep in with the crowd. Although it seems that peer pressure comes from the outside, the roots of peer pressure are really grounded in meeting our inner need for a sense of belonging to a crowd and our need for safety and security.

There are of course downsides to being a “victim” of peer pressure. Sticking with the crowd can stifle our individuality, creativity and ability to think. It can also lead us to making poor decisions when the interest of the crowd differ from our own.

Peer pressure comes from different avenues – there are pressures from friends and family, pressures from work and pressures from society. For most of us, family is the unit which makes us feel most protected and to which we feel the strongest sense of belonging. When the chips are down, our families are often the first to support us to ensure we have the food, shelter and emotional support we need. Societal pressures are the most indirect, the most hidden, but they are often the most influential in determining our behaviors (because they influence friends and family too). For example, Christmas has obvious religious and commercial social pressures which influence friends and family too.

As we have already suggested, if health is top of your agenda, the run up to Christmas can be a tough. Below we provide some tips for dealing with the social “pressure” to indulge so you can do your best to keep health high up the agenda!

Five suggestions for dealing with peer pressure

  1. Work on your “self-awareness”.
    Sometimes when we get stressed, confused or feel conflicted we can end up more likely to go along with the crowd. Understanding our inner selves can be key to managing ourselves effectively when we feel this way. Feelings of stress, confusion and conflict can sometimes be the triggers to drive us towards indulgence too, so if this is you, the short term is to know yourself and avoid situations that drive these things. In the long term, however, we suggest you find ways of becoming more self-aware and self-reliant and one of the most effective methods we recommend is meditation. Meditation minimizes the temptation for us to fall into following the crowd by enabling us to keep calm and centered within ourselves. We are more likely to then know what it is we really want, rather than subordinating to others.
  2. Take responsibility.
    This is one of the core messages we use in our life makeover retreats. Although this might sound a little patronizing, what this really means is avoiding blaming people or situations on the outside for any of our negative “feelings”. Instead we suggest you become curious about how you may have attracted the situation. You know you are taking responsibility if you have fully accepted a so called “negative” situation, and understood how it could have served you too.
  3. Plan ahead.
    As a general principle, if we have clear intentions for our day, then it is harder to get distracted and side-tracked by the agenda of others. Accept that some others will want to indulge too much and want to pressurize you to do the same. It’s easier to make your excuses when you need to when you have something specific planned instead (e.g. cooking a healthy meal for friends at home!). You could also use “peer pressure” to your advantage (transforming it into “peer support”) by joining groups or inviting people who share the same values around health and wellbeing as you do. For instance, you could keep up to date with the latest health and wellbeing publications or keep in regular touch with an organization with similar values (like La Crisalida Retreats!) and use newsletters, blogs and other forms of support on offer to your advantage.
  4. Be wise.
    For example, it almost goes without saying that if you are full, you are less likely to want to indulge. Therefore, take some healthy snacks with you before venturing out to a social occasion and eat them on the way. There is a well-known saying that “ignorance is bliss” which can be the case with food too. Some food contains a lot of artificial ingredients and others hide a huge number of calories. Although at La Crisalida we do not strongly encourage calorie counting, knowing calorie content is something we suggest can help you to moderate your food intake around Christmas time.
  5. Be assertive.
    For some, to be under the “spell” of peer pressure, it can seem almost impossible to be assertive. However, there is a mindset that backs assertiveness, which is one of love. If you love yourself and others you will trust yourself, your independence and when necessary back yourself. Love is neither being nasty or nice. It is a perfect balance and is full of strength and certainty. So next time you need to be assertive, try moving to a place of love. You may be surprised just what you are capable of!

We hope this short article has given you some food for thought on peer pressure and how to go about managing it – let us know how you get on and best of luck with your practice!

Wishing you a wonderful time this Christmas with plenty of love, wisdom and healthy assertiveness!

About the author

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He is a life and success coach, Transformational Coach and a master trainer in NLP. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.