Imagine you’re with a group of friends and another friend outside your group walks over and starts talking to someone in the group. Several of your friends begin making fun of her. You know it’s hurtful, but you want to fit in. You laugh along . . . totally regretting it later. Or suppose a friend wants you to audition for a play, but you feel a little too shy. She pleads with you to do it, so you reluctantly agree. Later, you’re surprisingly excited to see your name on the cast list.
Both of these scenarios are examples of how your friends and peers can influence your actions—both positively and negatively. During elementary and middle school we can be especially sensitive to peer influence, better known as peer pressure. Believe it or not, there’s some science behind why and how we make choices. Here’s an easy breakdown of the science! When a person makes a decision, different parts of the brain spring into action. The brain’s limbic system generates an emotional response, and the prefrontal cortex produces rational thinking. In situations like the two above, “what we are doing is very quickly, and often unconsciously, calculating the rewards and costs of different actions,” says psychologist Laurence Steinberg, a leading expert on adolescent peer influence. “When we do this calculation and come to the conclusion that the potential rewards of a particular action outweigh the potential costs, we act in that way.”
As girls, we sometimes take more risks when we are with our friends. When we’re around friends, our choices can be swayed because we want to be liked and remain part of our peer group. Our choices can be risky without careful thought or sensitivity to the negative consequences poor choices can bring.
The good news!! Risk taking is perfectly normal! For example, trying a new sport, hobby or even raising your hand in class when you don’t know that you’ll succeed is a type of risk that helps us grow and mature. The solution is not to eliminate risk taking, rather it is to make positive choices!
Here’s my top tips on how to stay true to yourself and make positive choices regardless of your situation.
It’s OK to say NO. It can be scary at first but trust me, it’s a character trait worth working on. If another girl stops being your friend or if girls eliminate you from the group, you’re better off in the long haul. It might hurt and it’s ok to be disappointed but were they REALLY your friends to begin with? It’s a hard question but always a good one when evaluating friendships.
Take some time to truly think about your choices. Look at the consequences and weight your options. Know your values!
BE YOU! In my opinion, this is the best way to deal with peer pressure, choices and friendships. Authentic friends are the best. Being authentic eliminates the burden and exhaustion of always trying to be what you think others expect. When we have the confidence to truly be ourselves, we unmask the drama and begin to navigate towards friendships that are likeminded. Risky choices happen less often and our authentic BFF’s allow us girls to shine our own unique light.
Are you ready to take the Risky or Not Quiz? Click below to begin!!