External vs. Internal Pressure

Shianne Berger and Isabell Kopf

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Most influential pressure from outside world
By Isabell Kopf

Teenagers around the world struggle with handling any kind of pressure, especially from those closest to them. Friends, family, teachers, mentors, neighbors and other people around these teens oftentimes have an influence on them one way or another. There has been at least one way every person in a teen’s life has positively or negatively impacted them.

External pressure comes from people who teens interact with on a regular basis, whether it be at home, school, a job or out-and-about in the community. These people have some sort of influence on the teen. Sometimes, it’s the way they dress or look. Other times it’s by the activities they engage in or the way they behave.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pressure from friends in particular, more commonly known as peer pressure, can take many forms, including encouragement, requests, challenges, threats or insults. Teens also respond to unspoken peer pressure by feeling the need to partake in a certain activity simply because their friends are doing it.

It has been shown that one’s acceptance by their peers triggers a stronger, more positive emotion during their young adult lives than in adulthood, which may be a significant reason why teens feel compelled to “belong.” Teens see their peers engaging in certain activities and join in to “look cool” or “be like them.” These activities can range from drugs, alcohol, smoking, vaping, sex and everything in between.

HHS found that 74.3 percent of high schoolers have tried alcohol, and the Adolescent Substance Knowledge Base reports that about 30 percent of teens are offered drugs. Furthermore, the American Lung Association discovered that 3.1 million teenagers smoke, and the Kaiser Foundation reported about half of teenagers feel pressured to have sex in their personal relationships.

Personally, I have been pressured multiple times to do one of these activities in particular. People who were close to me at the time kept telling me that “it’s not a big deal” or “it’s too fun not to do (the activity),” but it wasn’t a convincing reason for me. Media also portrayed this activity as fun, rewarding, harmless and common. But through school I had already learned the negative consequences from this activity.

My friends and the media combined confused my decisions and made me seriously consider giving into the pressure. But I’m thankful for those who had a reverse impact on my life, the ones who gave me positive encouragement and logical reasons for not performing those daunting actions.

Opposite from those encouraging slippery habits, peers can have a positive influence in a teen’s life. Peers discouraging harmful activities and replacing them with positive alternatives have just as much of an influence as those encouraging destructive behavior. Positive peer pressure also comes in a variety of styles. For example, teens may be motivated to apply for a job or study harder because their friends have spending money and are earning good grades, respectively.

But how can teens best deal with peer pressure? Strategies include setting personal boundaries, removing negative influences from one’s environment and spending time with those who have a positive presence in one’s life. Peer pressure can build up and explode at any given moment, so it is better to have filled the teenage brain with positive habits and words of encouragement rather than damaging actions and demeaning language.

I have always struggled with sticking to my morals and beliefs because, as I have come to realize, I am a people-pleaser. And I feel guilty when someone else is upset. So my initial thought is if someone wants me to do this with them, it would make them happy and, therefore, bring me satisfaction. Now, however, I tell myself that I can’t demoralize myself simply to please others because if I step in, I can’t step back out.

Another tip I have found very helpful is finding someone who will respect your decisions and beliefs even if it seems like the rest of the world is against you. This person will accept your morals even when they don’t match theirs, and they won’t make you feel guilty or wrong for having that perspective.

No matter what, even if everyone tells you you’re crazy, if the majority of people are against you or when those you believe are closest to you turn themselves away, stick to your gut. You have to do what’s best for you, not what is best for others. And, under no circumstances, give in to negative peer pressure and force yourself to do something just to please others. You are an original individual, not a copy of the vast majority of society.

Most powerful pressure from within
By Shianne Berger

Internal stress and pressure are often overlooked, but they can lead to depression and anxiety in severe cases.

Everyone puts pressure on oneself, even if he or she doesn’t acknowledge it. The pressure to do more . . . be more . . . get more done. The pressure to be smart and successful. The pressure to overcome our challenges. The pressure to be liked, loved, admired and accepted.

Pressure put on oneself leads to the feelings of never being good enough, never accepting compliments — rather, viewing them as challenges — and anxiety creeping up whenever deadlines come closer.

Many people don’t realize they are putting pressure on themselves or fail to accept it. Some behaviors that can open someone’s eyes include letting the failures keep one from trying, never thinking one’s good enough, being stressed all the time, having unrealistic expectations and always wanting more from oneself, according to Psychology Today.

Personally, I have suffered from putting pressure on myself for a while. I have to be perfect in everything I do and hold myself to high expectations. I hate myself when I fail, and I fill every second of my free time with something to do.

According to a study done by Psychology Today, 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem due to self-pressure engaged in activities such as cutting, bullying, drugs, smoking, drinking or being anorexic.

Although self-pressure is hard to identify, there are multiple ways to help relieve it. Don’t listen to others. Don’t worry about what they think or how they view you. They are busy focusing on their own lives.

Forget about perfectionism. There is a line between perfectionism and being the best you can be. To help with this, don’t worry about mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. If you allow yourself to redefine mistakes, the less likely you are to be stuck in perfectionism.

Cut down on the stuff you take on. Don’t agree to do more than you can. Eliminate the less important things in your life. Only you can decide what is more important than others. There is always a choice even if it doesn’t feel like it.

In addition, don’t take things too seriously. When stressed our brains secretes hormones, such as adrenaline. Adrenaline helps with the “fight-or- flight” response. When this happens, you focus on the cause of the stress instead of the task at hand. According to Mayo Clinic, relaxing can help with lowering the adrenaline produced and staying focused on the task given.

Lastly, just breathe. I do this all the time. Just stop and breathe. According to WebMD, one of the best breathing exercises is deep breathing. Find a comfortable position and then breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, feeling them rise and lower with each breath. Repeat until needed.

Internal pressure can make one’s life complicated and full of anxiety. Finding a way that works to relieve it can change your life for the better.