MANILA, PHILIPPINES - What is peer pressure' 'It's the ever-present impulse to fit in with 'popular' people,' says 13-year-old E. Claire, an incoming high school freshman in an exclusive girls' school in Metro Manila.
'[It's] thinking that being one of them will make one be liked and accepted by their fellow students,' she adds.
For 15-year-old Aikikyle, an incoming junior in an all-boys school in Metro Manila, peer pressure is all about 'students trying to protect their status so that they will remain 'cool.' They want to be accepted by the whole student body, so if you don't do what the others do, you're considered weird.'
Thirteen-year-old Andromeda Porter had her own rude awakening to peer pressure as she was graduating from grade school.
'All of us were invited to the farewell party, and we were supposed to meet a week after graduation at McDonald's with no parents, just a maid. When I told my parents that, they refused to let me go. When I told my classmates about it, I was like, 'This is so unfair!'
Aquaprincess11121, also 13, says she felt peer pressure 'when lots of people were sharing answers during a quiz, and another, when all the girls wore their hair in this certain style.' For 17-year-old Prettywildnat, it 'would mean friends encouraging you to abuse substances like alcohol and get stupid in parties.'
It gets most unbearable when the whole class gangs up on you'exactly what Boadicea, a 15-year-old high school student in Zamboanga, went through.
'I think that the worst experience I had with peer pressure was when I was shunned by everybody for doing something I thought was right, though everybody else thought it was not my business. I told a friend her boyfriend was cheating on her. Everyone was pressuring me to keep quiet or just take back what I said, but I wouldn't, because I knew it was wrong. It was hard at first, because no one in class talked to me since they were all friends with the guy. But it gradually passed and they had to apologize.'
But Boadicea says living and studying in the province has its quirks. Peer pressure over smoking, drinking and sex is not the main issue of girls her age. Teenage 'provincianas,' she says, are all about 'needing to have a boy- or girlfriend.' The pressure is so great, she adds, that 'it makes other people say 'yes' to suitors who they barely even know, or mistake infatuation for the real thing.'
City dweller Prettywildnat nearly gave in to alcohol and drugs, just to belong. 'I admit there were times I was tempted to indulge in them,' she admits.
E. Claire, who finished valedictorian in grade school, was witness to friends who succumbed to peer pressure.
'I've seen people whose grades dropped and whose personalities took a turn for the worse because their supposed friends pressured them to conform to a warped version of 'cool.' It's frightening how easily negative peer pressure can destroy your life, just so you could feel like you belonged, even for a fleeting moment.'
For Aikikyle, that feeling of belonging (and overcoming peer pressure) meant joining organizations.
'My organization helps me meet new people and help people in need, especially the youth at risk,' she says. Aikikyle is an active member of his school's social action group. 'As we contribute to society, we also form a family as well.'
Strong family ties helped Prettywildnat overcome peer pressure.
'I worked hard to be a good student and earn the trust of my parents. I didn't want to throw that away all too easily. I'm very proud to say the friends I surround myself with are good influences and would always remind me of the consequences of my actions. Through all these, I am able to guard myself against unwanted peer pressure and unnecessary mistakes. Keep in mind that with confidence in oneself and faith in God, one will always succeed during difficult moments.'
Aquaprincess11121 says she turns to prayer when she's confronted with peer pressure. 'I pray to God to help me overcome peer pressure because it's kind of the only thing that helps me, actually.'
Sense of assurance
Boadicea says: 'If you've got self-confidence, self-reliance and responsibility, peer pressure will most likely not affect you as much as it affects others. Usually, the people who give in to peer pressure are those who are insecure, or those who lack friends or need a sense of assurance that they can be accepted.'
While self-acceptance may be tough to have at such a young age, E. Claire believes it becomes a doable goal when one gets a little push from friends who really care.
'Overcoming peer pressure is a matter of keeping a positive self-image and sticking with the kind of people who can help me maintain just that,' she says. 'When I appreciate who I am and know what I'm capable of, there is no reason for me to be pressured into doing something only because 'everyone else' is doing it.'
Crazylittlegrasshopper01 gives this advice: 'Choose friends carefully. Have a solid support system of family, friends, teachers and your faith. And know thyself.'