How Does Social Pressure Impact Our Choices?

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated April 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Tanya Harell, LPC

For better or for worse, our choices as human beings are primarily impacted by social pressures. An article Psychology Today refers to social pressure as powerful enough to alter humans’ perception of reality. While each of us bears responsibility for our own choices, understanding the role that social pressure can play in choice-making is profoundly imperative.

As indicated by the research, social pressure can come in positive or negative forms. Put simply, this form of pressure is merely the influence that surrounding collective groups have on individuals. In and of itself, social pressure is a very real reason to carefully choose who you associate with. The people you surround yourself with can easily pull you up or drag you down.

While social pressure, in and of itself, is part of living in human society, human beings are not totally helpless. In no way does social pressure mean that individuals are incapable of thinking for themselves or making independent decisions. With that in mind, understanding the leading ways that social pressure impacts our choices is still necessary.

Top Five Ways Social Pressure Impacts Our Choices

According to the National Institutes of Health, social pressure does share links to the performance of human behavior. Many people have a tendency to pick up on the habits of those who are around them or in their social circles; habits become choices, and the choices we make determine our outcomes in life. Also, it’s important to note that various factors on individual levels can impact one’s susceptibility to social pressure.

Only you can decide whether or not social pressure is impacting you positively or negatively. With that being said, mindfulness of the following ways that social pressure impacts our choices can only help you.

Creates the Desire to Fit In

By its very nature, social pressure encourages people to fit in with those around them. Sometimes, fitting in comes naturally, but in other cases, one may feel the need to change their views, choices, and outlooks to avoid being the odd one out. In situations like this, social pressure comes with a very high propensity to be problematic.

In some ways, social pressure is viewed negatively, and, in many regards, this view is justified. Although each person is responsible for their own choices, social pressure can encourage us to behave in ways that are unbecoming, out of character, or even immoral. Of course, there is a flip side to this also. If we are surrounded by people who are doing well and engaging in constructive behavior patterns, social pressure can also push us towards bettering ourselves and fitting in with the crowd.

Teaches Us What Not to Do

Social pressure impacts not only you but also the people around you. The story of someone getting in with the wrong crowd and making poor choices is sadly all too familiar; this ultimately boils down to social pressure, though. Observing other people make decisions that aren’t good for them can sometimes serve as a warning to us as individuals by teaching us what not to do.

As a general rule, learning from the mistakes of others is advisable to only learning things the hard way. This is not to say that you’ll never make mistakes or feel the impacts of social pressure; these are inevitable parts of life. Still, there is as much value in being taught what not to do as there is in learning what we should do.

Helps Us Grow

As previously stated, social pressure is not always negative, harmful, or toxic. In many cases, social pressure from the right groups of people can help us grow as individuals. Being around others who are doing the right things, engaging in productive behaviors, etc. can encourage us to follow suit. In doing so, we can often break negative habits, push ourselves outside of comfort zones, and grow as individuals.

On the flip side, mistakes can also help us grow as individuals. American Psychological Association points out the positive and negative aspects of social pressure. As such, it goes without saying that human beings grow from both positive and negative experiences. Even when we make mistakes along the way because of social pressure, we can still learn from the experience and become more familiar with what to avoid in the future.

Creates a Sense of Support

Despite the often-negative connotations linked to social pressure, it can create a feeling of support. Whether or not this support turns out to be positive or negative depends upon specific circumstances at hand. Nevertheless, engaging in certain behaviors due to social pressure often causes us to feel supported and connected to those in our social groups.

A sense of support is a double-edged sword. Just about everyone wants to feel as though they belong, but who we are supported by makes the difference. When we find ourselves around people who encourage us to make good choices, the outcomes are likely to have more positive effects than they would in a group of bad influences.

Takes Us Outside Our Comfort Zone

In many social groups, people are encouraged to try new things that they haven’t or wouldn’t ordinarily do. Similarly, to other choices impacted by social pressure, going outside of our comfort zones can work in our favor or against us.

Barring extreme behaviors or circumstances, going outside of our comfort zone allows us to learn more about ourselves, life, and what we do and don’t want. Sometimes, leaving your comfort zone because of social pressure can make you reconsider your group of friends. In other cases, being taken outside of our comfort zone helps us realize that we’ve found the right group of people, after all.

Making Independent Choices

There is certainly worth and value in making independent choices without adhering to the pressure from others. Nevertheless, this is often easier said than done. Depending on our environment, how we were raised, and a plethora of other factors, social pressure can be immensely hard to resist.

While no one person is entirely immune to social pressure, maintaining the ability to make independent choices is essential. It’s OK to listen to our peers and those in our social groups; however, we should avoid merely going along with things that don’t feel right simply because others around us are doing so.

On another note, it’s important to remember the influence and value that you carry as an individual. Being comfortable enough to be yourself (even if this means differing from the crowd) is a great skill to have. You, as an individual, are also part of the social circle, and you never know who you could be inspiring.

Ideally, each and every one of us should seek to find a healthy balance between social pressure and independent choices. There is value in the community, a sense of belonging, and support; however, of equal importance is the ability to stand on your own two feet and make choices that are worthwhile to you.

When Social Pressure Feels Too Hard to Resist

If you are someone who severely struggles with social pressure, you should know that you’re not alone. This is a problem that many people face, and the very first step is recognizing the presence of an issue. While social pressure does impact our choices in various ways, it should never feel impossible to resist or at least think about. Despite the natural influence that our surroundings have on us as human beings, our own will and freedom as individuals should still be present.

In many cases, people struggle to resist social pressure because they fear disapproval from those around them. This is natural to some extent; although, no one should ever feel completely paralyzed in this way. If you have concerns that the people around you will desert you for not going along with what they want, reconsidering your presence in that social group might be a good idea.

Resources for Support and Guidance

If you find yourself regularly struggling with social pressure or other issues, speaking with a counselor could be of value to you. Learning more about your situation, gaining new perspectives, and finding solutions are only a fraction of the benefits linked to working with a mental health specialist.

No matter what your situation is like or what you may be going through, support and guidance will always be available at BetterHelp.com. When you choose to get professional care from BetterHelp, you will be paired with a licensed and empathic counselor. Online counseling comes with many opportunities for you to not only overcome challenges but also learn more about yourself and develop new skills.

Online counseling is not an overnight fix, and it won’t make life’s challenges vanish into thin air. What BetterHelp can do, however, is be there for you every step of the way. We can also commit to working with you on a schedule that is workable and convenient for you.

Regardless of who you are, what you may be up against, or how tough things may seem, there’s always hope. If you put your mind to it, you can overcome whatever stands in your way. BetterHelp looks forward to offering support and guidance on your journey.

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