New Castle News

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April 3, 2014

Lori Brothers: Peer pressure a lifelong challenge

NEW CASTLE — It is a misconception to assume that peer pressure is limited only to adolescents and teens.

Peer pressure comes in all stages of life.

“In adults, peers may be determined less by age and more by shared interests or professions,” according to www.faqs.org/health/topics. “Peer pressure peaks during adolescence, but it never entirely disappears. Even adults feel pressure to conform in order to belong to a group whether it is in the workplace, neighborhood, or in the extended family.”

Peer pressure can be both positive and negative. When peer influences are for the better we call it positive. Most often, though, we associate peer pressure with negative influences.

In a culture of peers influencing peers, leadership is established by the majority. The group mentality dictates acceptable behaviors and beliefs, and can deliver judgment and rejection for non-compliant members.

Ouch, that can really hurt.

There are times when we either want to be part of the club, or else we don’t want to rock the boat, so we go along with the group. Our deepest part of being human calls out to belong.

This is what tribes are all about. In modern terms, the tribe can equate to your family or your social circle, or to the group that you connect with at work. You probably belong to many tribes at the same time, based on your interests, your ethnic background, religious beliefs, your education, etc.

Negative peer pressure must be recognized. You know your personal goals and become aware of the circumstances and groups that undermine you. Group mentality doesn’t always mix with personal success.

The downside to the tribal phenomenon can be the negative influence of peer pressure. So the question is: how are the cultures that you are plugged into influencing what you choose and how does it color your view of the world around you?

Are you able to say “no thanks” when the entire office staff is offering you a doughnut, as they consume their own confection, and you’ve just recommitted to choosing wiser for your health? Where is your courage and willpower? Often, it flies out the window.

Review your habits to discover how much you accept group beliefs and groupthinking. In a group dynamic, no matter what your age, thinking for yourself can be a challenge.

This is true for everyone. It takes courage to say no to the birthday cake. We don’t want to disappoint a family member or offend a co-worker. And what if you really like cake? It’s not always easy.

Going along with the group can put you on a bumpy road to meeting personal goals. Sometimes you can get caught up in the attitudes of others which can undermine your integrity or your peace of mind.

When your co-worker or neighbor starts grumbling, do you chime in and add to the negativity and static, or do you decide to stop feeding the negative and choose to create constructive conversation with other constructive people? Some peers can work together to bring positive change, even when there is a problem to be solved. Positive peer pressure requires the majority rule as well.

What about positive group mentality? Think about what could happen if we could shift peer pressure to be a positive influence as an invitation to our families, friends and neighbors to step up and choose wisely?

This could shape the way we interact at home, at work and in other venues.  Imagine the results: slimmer, happier, fit and productive people. If we each adopt the positive peer pressure perspective we could all be part of positive change.

Studies have shown that peer pressure can become a habit. I invite you to make it a good habit.

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