Peer pressure is a term that everyone is familiar wih. We often associate it with adolescents succumbing to activities resulting in harm of people, or property. Yet, beyond our teenage years, the subject of peer pressure rarely gets raised.
Does peer pressure go away? Do we ‘grow out of it’ or become less sensitive to it?
For the majority of us, the ‘thrill’ of being rebellious and acting in a thoughtless way has a real shelf life. As we grow up, we take on more responsibilities and have less scope to behave in a way we thought was acceptable a few years prior. But, peer pressure doesn’t neceesarily disintegrate. It doesn’t ‘go away’, it just rears its head in a different way, particuarly in the fitness industry.
When you makes a conscious effort to pursue a more active, healthy lifestyle, it is normally well-received among friends. They celebrate and commend your commitment, positively reinforcing your decision and providing you with motivation. This peer pressure is extremely positive – almost empowering – and adds fuel to your fire. As your journey continues and your progress becomes visible, you are complimented, maybe even called inspirational, again spurring you on to continue.
However, after this initial ‘honeymoon period’ of your healthy lifestyle, responses to your choices start to become mixed. Instead of constant praise about your commitment and achievement; you might receive comments that ‘you are no longer fun’ or ‘Why can’t you eat 2 tubs of ice-cream, you used to!’ Having experienced comments like this myself from a variety of people, I understand how demoralising and de-motivating such words are. I always thought ‘I never comment on their dietary or fitness choices’ and ‘can’t you see I’m happy?’ Overcoming negative peer pressure towards my choice of living healthily is one of my biggest struggles. I am a people pleaser and negative comments weigh heavily on me. Yet, over time, I have come to realize that these comments come from one, or a combination of the following four things:
- Lack of understanding. I forget that, compared to the vast majority of people, I am well-informed about nutrition and fitness. I am by no means an expert, but I am significantly more educated on calories, exercise and health than lots of people. They don’t understand the implications of our choices – it is not something that they can comprehend.
- Longing to re-live memories. People love to reminisce and while you may associate those 2 tubs of ice-cream with feeling sick and hating how your tummy felt afterwards, your friend might remember the giggles and jokes you shared over those 2 tubs of ice-cream.
- Jealousy. An ugly emotion, but it surfaces in all of us. They could be jealous of anything, from how you look, to your commitment, to your new found passion.
- Simply not realizing the effects of their comments. They might be innocently poking fun at you and not realizing how detrimental their comments are to you.
People say that you behave like the five people you spend the most time with. We are all influenced by peer pressure, whether it be positive or negative. We can be positively influenced by social media role models; inspirational friends and supportive family. We can also be negatively influenced by all of the above. Both positive and negative motivation drives our decisions. Yet, we don’t have to let negative peer pressure affect us. Although it is much easier said than done, you will learn to let it wash over you. Most of the time the negative peer pressure actually stems from nothing negative at all. With the uprising on social media of ‘self love’ and ’empowerment’, hopefully more people will become more educated on both health and fitness and the impact of their comments. Until that time comes, carry on smashing it. You’ve got this.