Mental health and wellbeing matters: peer pressure

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In our regular spot where we chat mental health things, a few words on the peer pressure to do things you don’t want to.


Hello and welcome to the big on our site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, and the things that some of us may be going through. This is a regular column, it’s no one size fits all, but the hope is that over the course of this series, there’s something that may be of use to you.

Maybe this article? Because if you’ve ever been coerced into something that you weren’t keen on doing, this may yet be of interest.

I’ve spoken before of peer pressure and the many ways it manifests itself. That most of us are conscious of life’s regular pressures, such as deadlines, bills to pay, people to care for. Yet the peer pressure stuff tends to be a little more subtle, and not always the easiest to wriggle out of.

Take the bit where you’re in a pub environment, or something of that ilk. If you’re the person who doesn’t have a shot, or down a pint, or want one more glass, then you’re someone left to feel like the odd one out. Never mind if you might be on medication, or you don’t drink, or there’s a reluctance in you. The ‘ah, go on’ thing kicks in, and the worry strikes that you may indirectly lose out for not joining in.

I had this in my first job, where the managing director would take a small group to the pub most lunchtimes. Surprise, surprise: guess who the people were who got the best jobs and the biggest pay rises.

But there’s other stuff too. You go and watch a film, and happen not to be keen. Sometimes, this leads to a spirited conversation and debate, which is the ideal. Sometimes, there’s a strange pressure that you have to go along with some kind of hive mind, no matter what you actually feel.

How about if you’re the only one in a group who doesn’t order lunch? The person who’d rather spend their last £10 on a takeaway and a quiet night in than a few drinks down the road?

It’s all a series of balances, certainly, but whereas active encouragement is a good thing, I do feel that the bit where peer pressure crosses a line and gets you feeling you have to do something you actively don’t want to is a problem. This piece won’t solve that of course, but I do want it to recognise it.

The answer, as is often the case, is down to us. Not easy, but sometimes we just have to say no, or hold our own line. People with the best intentions may not see how difficult that is to do sometimes, but it is important to do so.

That’s why, I think, acknowledging the problem first is necessary. Once that’s been done, it’s a bit easier to set boundaries, and to know where our own lines we don’t want to cross are. Then? It’s a case of enforcing them – but it’s a bit easier to do that if we know where the lines are.

Thanks as always for reading. As always, feel free to natter in the comments. This column will return next week.

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