*These are just my opinions; feel free to disagree
As soon as we are old enough to know what alcohol and drugs are, we are taught to “just say no” and not to “give in to peer pressure.” But what exactly is peer pressure? I don’t know because I’ve never encountered it, and from what I know, many people don’t.
I remember learning about drugs, cigarettes and alcohol in my seventh grade health class- I’m sure I had prior knowledge, but this is when the “life lessons” began. I remember being terrified that my friends would pressure me into drinking and smoking, because that’s what I was taught to believe. I, and many others, were taught to believe that as soon as I got to high school we would have endless encounters with all the bad things in life, and that it would be really hard to say no. People would try every angle; complain that we were a “buzz-kill” or that if we didn’t smoke we wouldn’t be cool. I was scared to enter high school because I thought saying “no” would be so much harder than I thought.
Boy was I wrong.
My first official confrontation with alcohol was at a prom after party. That’s right, I went four years without seeing or touching a bottle of alcohol, and it really wasn’t that hard. This is how my dreaded first meeting with peer pressure went:
Friend: (holding a wine cooler) “Want a sip?”
Me: “No thanks.”
Friend: (nods, and turns back to previous conversation)
No complaining that I was killing all the fun, or not looking cool enough, or even that I was an outsider.
A polite “no” over the sound of music and beer pong, a nod of the head and that was it.
I was slightly disappointed.
After all those years of bracing myself for the dreaded battle with whoever was going to pressure me into smoking or drinking never happened. All those times we acted out different scenarios for how to say no and I didn’t even have to raise my voice. This incident combine with finding pictures of someone many years younger than me drinking made me wonder if there really is such a thing as “peer pressure” or if it is just a myth that was made up long ago to try and justify the things adults frown upon?
I’m generally curious and honestly think it’s the latter. Someone in their teens wants to experiment with drugs or cigarettes and instead of admitting that, they use the timeless “My friends made me do it” excuse and suddenly they’re no longer the bad guy, just someone who didn’t want to disappoint others.
But maybe it’s not this black and white. Maybe some people really don’t like no for an answer and maybe some people really just want to look “cool.” Yet at the same time I don’t think all this time should be spent on how to say “No” in unrealistic ways to situations that don’t occur that often. More time could be spent on learning the danger of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and how to be safe if one chooses to participate in those activities.
Not having to face peer pressure isn’t a new thing; I remember my dad telling me about a similar experience when a lot of his friends smoked, but never pressured him. They respected him and couldn’t care less if he took up the same habit (he didn’t).
My point is, I don’t think we can always blame peer pressure for our mistakes because I don’t think it truly and fully exists in the way we are meant to believe.