A Message to Teens About Peer Pressure

Peer means someone like you, someone on the same level as you. Peers are those around your same age, the kids you go to school with.

How nice are the kids you go to school with? I imagine some of them are pretty nice, but I also know some of them can be very mean. Mean people say and do mean things to others. Even kids you call friends can sometimes act mean, saying and doing things that hurt. There’s nothing worse than waking up and feeling like you’re ugly or stupid or that nobody likes you or that everybody is going to make fun of you.

Adolescence is a time to figure out who you are — not who your parents say you are or want you to be — but who you really feel you are inside. Sometimes the easiest thing to figure out is that you don’t want to be you. You can’t really look ahead into the future and see all the things you’re going to like about yourself then. It’s easier to look in the mirror and see all the things you dislike about yourself now.

Again, not every kid is going to feel this way all of the time, but every kid is going to feel this way some of the time.

As you work on who you are and who you want to be:

  • It’s easy to make mistakes. When you make mistakes, it’s like you’ve got a big target on your back for the mean kids to use against you.
  • It’s easy to be hurt by other people.
  • It’s easy to doubt yourself and listen more to what other people think.

Growing up and maturing isn’t easy; in fact, it’s hard. When it comes to friendships, when you were little, all you worried about was if your best friend liked you. And most of the time, he or she did!

When he or she didn’t like you, it didn’t take long for the two of you to make up. Little-kid friendships were much easier. Teen friendships are harder. Teens care about:

  • How you look
  • What you say
  • What you wear
  • Whether or not you’re part of the group
  • What other people think when it comes to being friends with you

All of that is a lot of pressure — peer pressure — and for much of adolescence that pressure doesn’t feel very good.

On the other side, you’ve got your sense of value, of self-esteem. On the other side, you’ve got what your family thinks about you. The space in the middle can be quite a stretch. During adolescence, that space is bridged by what friends and peers think about you. What friends and peers think about you feels more important than what your parents think about you or even what you think about yourself.

So you wake up and worry about what your friends are going to think about how you look, how you act, or what you do. You also worry about how your peers who aren’t your friends are going to react to the very same things.

Faced with uncertainty, it’s easy to wake up and want to be someone else. The hard part is to keep on moving along until you like who you are no matter what others think or say about you. that’s when the power over how you feel about yourself will belong to you and nobody else.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

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