Whether you like it or not, on a daily basis, you’re affected by the influence that others have on you. This is evident in the aesthetic canons and cultural demands that tell you how you should be and how you should live if you want to be considered valid. Even in your closest personal relationships, you can have a hard time coping with social pressure.
How many times have you agreed to a plan or activity that you didn’t really want to do? How many times have you said something that you didn’t mean just to fit in or please others? This is perfectly natural. Because, at the end of the day, as a human, you’re a social being, hence you need to feel that you belong to a group in order to survive. However, if you don’t properly manage this pressure, you might suffer undesirable consequences.
Why should you learn to deal with social pressure?
When you give in to social pressure, you’re being disloyal to yourself. You become confused and feel uncomfortable. That’s because, when you say something you don’t think, or do something you don’t feel, you’re generating a dissonance inside you that stops you from feeling okay.
Nevertheless, setting boundaries, refusing, and contradicting others is scary. In fact, you may feel really afraid of being excluded, rejected, or judged. On the other hand, if you give in to the desires of others, you feel guilty because you’ve betrayed yourself.
Paradoxically, trying to please others can bring you problems on a social level. For instance, if you say you’re going to do something you don’t want to do, you’re likely to back down later, and this will make you appear indecisive, irresponsible, and unreliable in the eyes of others. Indeed, your initial desire, which was to please and avoid a conflict, will end up turning against you and you’ll find yourself facing the exact consequences you were trying to avoid.
Therefore, it’s preferable to remain firm and consistent from the beginning, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. How can you achieve it?
How to deal with social pressure
The desire to please others and be accepted by them is completely natural. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that you should get carried away by it.
In order to deal with social pressure, you have to develop self-confidence, then you’ll feel assured that you’ll be fine even if you do set certain boundaries. The following tips will be useful.
1. Work on your self-esteem
This may sound clichéd or trite, but it’s essential. Think of self-esteem as love for yourself. It means you love, approve, and validate yourself. Therefore, you don’t need or expect others to do so. You consider yourself as valuable and worthy and hold yourself in high esteem, you’re faithful to your desires and needs, and you act accordingly.
On the other hand, if you feel insecure, fragile, and in need of others, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up giving in to social pressure in many ways.
2. Don’t reply immediately
If you act on automatic pilot and respond without thinking, it’s probably your need to please that’s guiding you. For this reason, it’s important to adopt the habit of taking a few seconds to reflect before responding to any request, suggestion, or comment. Hopefully, in that time, you’ll realize that you were about to accept something you don’t want and you can change your decision accordingly.
Self-confident people don’t need this period of reflection as they automatically take their own preferences into account. However, if you’ve been too accommodating to others for years, taking this moment can make a real difference and give you the opportunity to implement a new way of doing things.
3. Ask yourself first
Before automatically believing what others say is correct, ask yourself what you think about it. Do you agree with their values and views? If not, always prioritize your own perspective.
For example, if a friend tells you that not drinking alcohol is for boring people or that you should lose weight to be attractive, or your partner says that you should move in together, stop and think. Ask yourself if you agree with them. Do you really want to drink, lose weight, or move in with your partner?
You must give yourself the space to clarify your own ideas and priorities. Without this foundation, you’ll get carried away by what others suggest to you.
4. Don’t justify yourself
Many people (especially women) feel that they have to justify their decisions, give explanations, or excuse themselves when they don’t comply with what’s asked of them. In fact, a simple “no” doesn’t seem to be enough to them and they offer justifications and excuses that many times aren’t even the real reason for them refusing something.
“I’d like to, but I can’t”, “I don’t have time”, “I’ll think about it and I’ll tell you later”. Do these phrases sound familiar to you? If so, you must be aware that you have the right to say “no”, and that your answers and decisions are valid and don’t require additional explanations.
5. Use assertive techniques
When you try to excuse or justify yourself, you open the door for the other to continue trying to persuade you. Occasionally, even if your answer is direct and resounding, your interlocutor may continue to insist and try to change your mind. In these cases, you can resort to assertive strategies such as the broken-record technique.
This technique simply consists of repeating a message (that reflects your position) over and over again, despite the pressure, insistence, and manipulation you receive. Say “No thanks, I don’t feel like it”. If they insist, saying “Come on, just think about it, you’ll have a really good time, don’t be boring…” simply say “No, thanks, I don’t feel like it”.
Coping with social pressure is a learning curve
It’s clear that initially applying the above guidelines will require a conscious effort on your part.
You must overcome the inertia of all those years when you were motivated by the desire to please others and the fear of being rejected. However, with daily practice, it’ll get easier and easier. Make a start today.
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