Navigating Social Pressure
Missy O., B.S. Nutritional Science, Lifestyle Consultant, Coon Rapids, MN

We’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we felt socially pressured to do something that we didn’t intend to do. Peer pressure is commonly associated with young, impressionable children; however, even the wisest, strongest, and most disciplined of adults are susceptible to the social pressures of family, friends, or coworkers. As adults these pressures can often be to drink alcohol or eat unhealthy foods. Regardless of your intentions going into a social situation, it is human nature to feel compelled to conform to the group. Although social pressure isn’t necessarily meant to be destructive, it can make gathering with loved ones stressful, especially if you have specific lifestyle goals. There may not be a cure for succumbing to social pressure, but with a better understanding of the psychology surrounding it and some tips and tricks to help navigate it, social situations can be enjoyable and still align with your health goals.

 

Psychology of Social Pressures

If you find yourself feeling like you have no willpower in social situations, know that you are not alone. Few people are immune to the pressure to conform to the group in a social situation. From the time that we are born, the influences of our outside world are shaping who we are and who we will become (2). Over time, we watch, mimic, and mirror all the influences around us. Because our social environment is constantly shaping our thoughts and behaviors, it only makes sense that we would want to fit in with the crowd or at least appear to. It’s easy to set goals or intentions on the way to the family barbeque or the friend’s pool party, but to follow through once in the social situation can be incredibly challenging. You may have decided to refrain from having alcohol, but your friend convinces you to “just have one.” Or maybe you opted to bring your favorite Livea bar in lieu of dessert, but you give in because you don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings; she did make your favorite after all. The pressure may not even be direct. Just being in an environment where people are partaking in indulgent foods and alcohol can be enough pressure to cause you to deviate from the original plan to refrain. In fact, studies have shown that when we are not conforming to the actions of our peers in a social situation, it can make us feel isolated and alone (1). With so much social pressure in our daily lives, how can we possibly stay consistent with our goals, while also maintaining our social lives?

 

Dealing with Social Pressures

Just because you have committed to a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t mean that you want to completely give up your social life. There will always be temptation to deviate from the plan that you have established for yourself, but there are conscious things that you can do to alleviate the stress of social pressures. The easiest, but sometimes most daunting way to ease the social pressure is to let your friends and family in on your lifestyle goals. It can be hard to bring people into that sometimes-vulnerable place with you, but more often than not, the close people in your life will be supportive. You may even discover that someone in your circle is also trying to achieve similar goals. And if your friends and family are not as supportive as you would hope, set healthy boundaries; it’s okay to ask the people in your life to refrain from trying to derail your progress. It can also be helpful, when at gatherings, to surround yourself with people that you want to emulate or that seem to have similar aspirations. It may not always seem like it, but there’s almost always someone at the party that is refraining from drinking or choosing to eat a healthy meal. The more you surround yourself with like-minded individuals, the easier it is to maintain these healthy habits. You may even find yourself being coerced into other healthy lifestyle changes. (There is such a thing as positive social pressure.) In addition to the mental strategies of dealing with a social situation, there are also some fun ways that you can prepare for the potential challenges. You can learn about Social Support Networks and Controlling Your Environment in these wellness workbook topics in your Livea Guide.

 

Come Prepared

            Knowing that you may be tempted to have that cocktail or try that indulgent appetizer or dessert, set yourself up for success with a few of these fun tips.

  • Bring a fun, fancy glass to the event that you can easily put some bubbly water, diet soda, or even pure H20. Have fun with your selection so you’re excited to use it. (No one will know it’s water.)
  • Try a fun mocktail recipe that you can share with the group. Adding a diet ginger-ale to a Livea H20 Enhancer or a bubbly water to your cool drink Livea meal can be a quick and easy way to spice up a beverage. Also, check out the fun mocktail recipes on Livea.com.
  • Bring a healthy appetizer to share; contribute something you know you will enjoy, i.e., a veggie tray with some hummus or a lite dressing. Don’t forget to check out com for festive appetizers, side dishes, and desserts for all your social gatherings.
  • If you’re attending a barbeque or other outdoor event, suggest some outdoor activities like cornhole or croquet to take the focus off of the food and drink. Not every event has to revolve around food; encourage socializing away from the refreshments.

Like every other difficult thing in life, with practice, making healthy choices in social situations gets easier. Afford yourself some grace and take pride in the small wins. Not every situation is going to end up going exactly as planned. One deviation from the plan doesn’t mean the whole event is a bust; if you make a choice that you are not proud of, brush it off and move forward; it’s much easier to recover from one slip-up than an entire weekend-long derailment. Most importantly, recognize your achievements and embrace every challenge as a growing experience. Even if it wasn’t perfect, acknowledge the things that went well and learn from the things that did not. As always, be sure to talk to your Livea consultant for even more strategies and recipes to help navigate social pressure!

 

Resources

  1. Dobrin, Arthur. “The Astonishing Power of Social Pressure.” Psychology Today, April 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/the-astonishing-power-social-pressure
  2. Pattilo, Ali. “Peer Pressure Psychology: Why Social Context Shapes Decision Making.” Inverse, August 2020, https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/the-psychology-of-peer-pressure