May 3, 2024

Navigating Social Pressure: Tips for Teenagers

By Sydney Kittrell
Identity Development
Mental Health & Wellbeing

Do you want to be liked? Seen as cool, athletic, or smart? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, you’re probably a teen who’s simply looking to fit in. The pressure to be seen as cool, smart, athletic etc. can become overwhelming for teens. Therapy can be a helpful tool for both teens and parents in navigating and managing adolescent social pressure.

Understanding Common Social Pressures

Social Media Influence

In the past, adolescents just had their peers to compare themselves to. Now, it is common for teens to use social media as a way to compare themselves to people they’ve never met. Instead of feeling pressure to fit in with peers, the pressure becomes infiltrated and perhaps even more intense with comparison of people whose entire jobs are to promote certain lifestyles and products. These curated images and narratives can easily distort reality and contribute to the pressure to conform, ultimately leading to heightened feelings of competition or insecurity.

Pressure to Engage in Risky Behaviors

Adolescents may feel pressure to engage in substance use, underage drinking, or risky sexual behaviors. Teens may engage in risky behavior in order to gain acceptance or impress their peers. Additionally, teens can often have a sense of invincibility, underestimating any potential negative consequences of risky behavior. The pressure to engage in risky behaviors can have significant impacts on adolescents’ overall health and future goals.

Recognizing Healthy and Unhealthy Social Dynamics 

It would be overly simplistic to assume that all social pressure leads to negative behavior and insecurity. Some social pressure can be empowering and encouraging. That’s why it’s important for both teens and parents to understand the difference between positive and negative social dynamics.

  • Identifying Supportive Friendships: Mutual respect, trust, and positive communication creates a strong foundation for positive peer influence. Supportive friendships involve a sense of safety, knowing that it is safe to express thoughts and feelings without fear of ridicule. If your teen friendships sound like this, know that you have found and created a supportive social environment. If you’re a parent and your teen’s friendships sound like this, point that out to your teen! The social influence that can come from these types of social environments has the potential to be inspiring and uplifting.
  • Recognizing Signs of Toxic Social Pressure: A toxic social environment may include manipulation, lack of respect, and intense dependency. If you’re a teenager that feels invalidated, belittled, or unsafe in your friendships, know that you may be in toxic friendships. Recognizing this can be the first step in a journey towards creating a social environment that encourages you to become your best self.

Tips for Navigating Social Pressure

Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Practicing self-care and self-compassion as a teen is so important. Know that you are valuable and treat yourself accordingly. Whether that’s making time in your day to enjoy nature or move your body, planning pleasant things during the weekend, or keeping a consistent sleep schedule, any of these self-care strategies would aid in creating increased self-confidence and protect against vulnerability to negative social pressures.

Assertive Communication

Learning how to say no is a skill that will be helpful for the rest of your life. It’s first important to know your needs and values and then communicate them in a way that’s assertive and respectful. It may be helpful to use straight-forward “I” statements to take ownership of your decision and reduce defensiveness in others. For example, instead of exclaiming, “You’re stupid for doing that, I’m not gonna do it,” you could say, “I’m not comfortable with that and I won’t be doing it.” It can be scary to assert your boundaries or preferences, but know that by having assertive communication during peer pressure, you are caring for yourself and building your self-confidence.

Critical Thinking Skills

It’s important to understand that just because something is seen as “popular” or “cool” doesn’t mean that it’s right or beneficial. Stereotypes and assumptions can be challenged. It’s also crucial to evaluate the risks and benefits of succumbing to peer pressure. Don’t just do it because everyone else is doing it, but instead, seek to understand motivation and potential consequences. Reflection on personal values and goals can also aid in developing critical thinking skills.

If you yourself are a teenager or you’re a parent of a teenager, know that therapy can be valuable in figuring out how to manage social pressure. You don’t have to figure it out alone and we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.

Written By

Sydney Kittrell

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