If a friend or classmate has ever pushed you into doing something you don't want to do, then you've experienced peer pressure. This is how many young people experiment with underage drinking. If a popular kid offers you a drink, you might think that you'll become popular if you do what he or she says. When a close friend starts drinking, you may worry that you'll lose the friendship if you don't join in.
You may also feel "silent peer pressure" to try drinking. That's when nobody is actually offering you alcohol or encouraging you to try it, but you see other people drinking and feel tempted. This kind of pressure is just as real, but harder to recognize.
There are many ways to handle peer pressure. First, remember these things:
- You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do.
- Giving in to peer pressure is probably not going to magically solve your problems or make people like you.
- It's perfectly okay to say no. You don't owe anyone an explanation.
But let's face it: saying "no" isn't always easy. Most of us worry about fitting in and what others will think of us. If you're worried that you'll lose your friend over a peer pressure situation, you may want to take a closer look at the friendship. A true friend will respect your decisions, and someone who ditches you for not taking orders from them was never a friend to begin with. Also, you may discover that some of your other friends secretly feel the same way you do!
If a friend or classmate tries to pressure you, keep in mind why he or she might be doing it:
- He may be trying to make you feel small, so that he can feel better about himself. You don't need his approval to feel good about yourself.
- She may be afraid of anyone who is different from her. You can listen to what she has to say, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with her.
- He could be afraid of criticism, so he'll do the criticizing first. It's better to be alone than to be with someone who is rude to you all the time.
- Deep down, she may be insecure.
- He could be making up rules so that he fits and you don't. Know that there are people who will appreciate you for who you are. Seek them out.
If a simple "No, thanks" won't do the trick, here are some other tactics for turning down someone who is pressuring you to try drinking:
- "I don't like the taste."
- "The smell of alcohol makes me sick and I don't want to smell like that."
- "My parents will ground me if I come home smelling like alcohol."
- "I know someone who died from drinking and I don't want to do it."
- "I don't want to start because I'm trying to get my parents to quit."
- "No thanks, it's not for me."
Whatever you choose, do what feels right for you. Remember: most young people don't drink, so you're in good company! If someone won't stop pressuring you, it's okay to call for backup. Talk to an adult you trust, like your teacher, guidance counselor, your parents, or an older brother or sister.
Next: IML answers Your Questions about alcohol.