The challenges of peer pressure have been felt by millions all over the world throughout the decades. Many bearcats at PRHS feel the pressures of being “popular” or “fitting in” on a daily basis. When it comes to fitting in with these “popular” groups, or “cliques”, the peer pressure applied may seem transparent to parents, or school staff. However, this is a very prominent issue in students attending Paso Robles High School. Out of 208 students surveyed at PRHS, 91% said they are presented with pressure on a daily basis, when it comes to fitting in. When asked if they have friends who change their personality based on who they're hanging out with 50% said yes, on a daily basis; 32% said sometimes, depending on the group they're with; only 18% said that their friends do not do this.
Peer pressure is most commonly related with drugs, alcohol, or sex. While these are all very common products of peer pressure, there are many more types of peer pressure that are being overlooked. Everyday students at PRHS try their best to “fit in”. From clothing, to word choices, to the classes you take, the pressure to fit in is inescapable.
“Most girls get up early every morning to make themselves ‘presentable’.” -Anonymous PRHS Student
Something as inconsequential as waking up an extra 30 minutes early to look "presentable" for school, reveals a lot. Why do teens care so much about what others think of them? From the article, Psychology Today, it has been proven that a section of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, is underdeveloped in adolescents. This part of the brain is what controls how you cope with peer pressure, or being excluded. Since this part of the brain is underdeveloped in adolescents and teens, they tend to react in a more negative way than adults would.
Also from Psychology Today, it is proven that teens evaluate risky situations just as well as adults do. If teens evaluate risky situations as well as adults, why do they get themselves into risky situations? In an experiment conducted in 2010, MRI tests were conducted on several teen/adolescent brains and the images revealed an increased interest in peer relationships, and the susceptibility to those relationships in the early teen years -- peaking at age 14.
Common people do not have control over their brain, how it functions, or how it develops, so what can we do to help our peers, students, or children cope with peer pressure, or propensity to change who they are, just to fit in? From the article How to Handle Peer Pressure - Counseling and Psychological Services, make sure to always support your loved ones and the people you're close with, encouraging them to do the right thing; reminding them of their morals and values can help them make a smarter decision. If you are struggling with the dangers of peer pressure, here are some tips - also from How to Handle Peer Pressure - Counseling and Psychological Services - that could help you:
- Check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I think this decision could benefit me, could it harm me?”, “What are the pros and cons of this decision?”
- Avoid spending time with people who make you feel pressured to do something you aren't interested in. It is not okay for others to peer pressure you, remove yourself from those unhealthy situations.
- Spend more time with people who support you and your decisions, rather than people who pressure you into uncomfortable situations.
- Become comfortable with the idea that it is okay to not be liked by everyone
- Practice saying no, or if saying no is too difficult, use an excuse. If someone offers you a drink at a party and you're too scared to say you don't want it, you can say you have to wake up early the next morning, have a big exam the next day, or you’re taking a medication that does not permit you to drink alcohol.
- “Bystander intervention”, if you see someone being pressured or is being made fun of for not “fitting in”, stand up for them. You can distract the person applying the pressure by simply walking up to the victim and asking them if you can talk to them. This gives them an easy excuse to walk away from the situation. If you see someone sitting alone at school, ask them how their day was, sometimes little things matter the most.
- Never be afraid to ask for advice. Many teens are afraid to ask their parents or other trusted adults for advice because they fear they might get in some sort of trouble. While most people have this fear, asking for advice could actually bring you closer to your parents. They will be able to know they can trust you and see you doing the right thing by seeking advice from an experienced adult who cares about you.
Many of these ideas may seem like they're associated with only drugs, sex, or alcohol; when you apply these same ideas to everyday life and how you manage the stresses of fitting in, they could help you a lot!
How are bearcats contributing to this issue, and making Paso Robles High School an inclusive and comfortable campus for everyone?
Anne Domenic, a teacher at PRHS said, “As an individual I would have to confront my own insecurities first, my insecurities keep me from reaching out. As an introverted person it’s kind of hard to reach out, I would need to be aware of other people suffering and reach out when I see it, but to do that I need to work on my own inner problems first."
"I try to contribute to this issue a lot, I talk to a lot of people and ask them how their day was, sometimes I’ll give random people compliments. If I can make someone smile, that makes my day," said Luis Villalobos, a sophomore at PRHS
We can all make an effort to reduce the social pressure that is applied on students attending PRHS by being more like Anne Domenic, and Luis; simply saying hi to someone you don’t know, smiling at someone, giving someone a compliment, but also learning to love yourself while doing those kind things.
Angel Dalool - just like Luis, and Mrs. Domenic - keeps a smile on her face despite any pressures that come her way. In the photo below you will see Angel and how her story of how she's gotten through some of the hardest things that have come her way.
What do bearcats have to say about fitting in?