We often think of the term peer pressure to be a negative thing. We imagine teens trying to persuade other teens to do drugs, have reckless sex, or ditch school.
But peer pressure is really just anytime our peers encourage us to change our values, attitudes, and behaviors. And it doesn’t always need to be a negative thing.
When surrounded by the right people, peer pressure can be positive.
If a peer encourages you to work hard, do well in school, exercise, eat a healthy diet, and be kind to others… it’s still peer pressure. It just happens to be encouraging a set of values that most people find acceptable.
People are always going to influence each other. And we should accept that. Unless you live in a bubble, there will always be family, friends, and peers that reshape who you are.
The goal isn’t to avoid peer pressure, but try to surround yourself with peer pressure that is healthy and productive.
If you hang around people who are always encouraging you to do things that go against your core values, then you may not want to keep hanging around those people.
On the other hand, if you hang around people who encourage you to act in ways that you want to change, then they can be an excellent source of motivation.
Want to start working out at the gym more often? Then find a friend or coworker who already does it on a regular basis. They can help you find a gym, teach you how to use the equipment, and encourage you to go 3-4 times every week.
Want to boost your grades at college? Then find a student in your class who knows the material really well. Try to set up a date to study for the next exam. Or exchange research papers and give each other constructive criticism.
These can both be considered a form of positive peer pressure. The key is you want to change something about your life, so you find people who can guide you to make that change.
A lot of the habits we do are influenced by our environment and the types of people we associate with. So when we take an active role in changing these things, we can often change our habits as well.
One of the number one ways recovering alcoholics fall back into their old habits is by continuing to hang around people who they associate with drinking.
Sometimes it’s direct peer pressure: “Come on man. Just one drink. It’s your birthday!” And other times it’s indirect peer pressure. Just the mere presence of being around your old friends make you want to crack open a beer.
These social influences play a huge role in how we think and behave.
The guide Regaining Consciousness talks about “vampires” that can ruin our life. These are people who suck up positivity from us, and motivate us to think and act in destructive ways. They are negative peer pressure.
“Vampire slayers” are the opposite. They crush the negativity in our lives and instead serve as a valuable source of inspiration and encouragement. They are positive peer pressure.
As painful as it may be, sometimes in life we need to separate ourselves from the vampires, and instead find ourselves some vampire slayers.
It can be difficult to end relationships with people who we’ve been friends with for a long time. But if they only feed our negative habits, it’s probably best for us to walk away.
Then we can build a more supportive social circle by finding people who encourage us to embody the values that we really want to have.
The takeaway message here is to pay close attention to the people you are engaged with on a frequent basis. Because they can have a very real effect on your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.
Instead, surround yourself with people who help bring out the better you.
Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement