When most people think of peer pressure, they often remember childhood and temptations offered by fellow students, friends, and family members. However, peer pressure knows no age limits. Adults also combat peer pressure and the results are not always as easy to mend as the broken arm obtained by recklessly jumping from the roof of the garage. When it comes to adults and peer pressure, the damage is rarely benign since adults tend to have more at stake.
The thing about adults and peer pressure that many of us don’t realize is that even the good kind can go horribly awry. We may decide to try a new diet pill because we truly need to lose weight and a few friends have praised it, but later we learn that the diet pill harms our vital organs or we find that we are losing too much weight too quickly, but don’t want to stop. Or perhaps we try an extremely healthy diet change and after 6 to 12 months, find that we have an illness brought on by being overzealous. One of the big pressures most adults face is to be happy. The peer pressure we receive about this leads many of us to drink to excess, live beyond our financial means, and become addicted to a variety of things. Rarely, however, do we find that we are any happier as a result.
When it comes to adults and peer pressure, many unhealthy and dysfunctional choices go unnoticed because we are simply doing what we have been taught adults are supposed to do. We have an image of what adulthood looks like and our friends, family, and entertainment venues may all support the image and push us to reach for goals we cannot and perhaps should not maintain. Drinking alcohol is a prime example. We see alcoholic beverages and drinking advertised everywhere adults are supposed to have fun and we might feel pressured into taking one more drink than we need to when socializing with friends and coworkers. What we don’t see as often is the data about traffic accidents caused by drunk driving or how many people in the United States have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles because they made the potentially deadly choice to drink and drive.
That is the danger of peer pressure and reaching adulthood does not act as a natural inoculant. Adults and peer pressure are no better friends than children and peer pressure. And, as in our youth, the remedy is to figure out our values and live them. It is difficult to succumb to peer pressure, no matter your age, when you know who you are and like yourself. Surround yourself with cheerleaders and grounded people, folks you can look up to and emulate, but never lose yourself in the process. It’s simply not worth it.