How to Deal with Pressure

Van Ly Vu talks about peer pressure, how to overcome it and shares her own story.

How to Deal with Pressure

Have you ever felt embarrassed when your score is not as high as your friends in your academic group? Have you ever felt bad when scrolling through social networks and looking at achievements of your friends? Have you ever felt jealous when your friends have a high-paying job while you still depend on your parents?

If the answer is yes, then you are probably suffering from peer pressure. In this article, I would like to answer a few questions about it. 

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is a psychological syndrome that we have already suffered, are suffering and will probably suffer in the future. It is when we are influenced by other people of the same social group, who have the same social status, interests, and experiences as us. As a result, people who are suffering from peer pressure have to change their attitudes and/or behaviors to fit this social group. From there arise unnecessary pressure and even negative emotions. 

Peer pressure can start when we are still small kids, intensify when we go to school and reach its peak when we hit puberty. It can be said that middle and high schoolers are often under peer pressure on a daily basis. However, not only teenagers but also students like us are subject to peer pressure. According to research, six to seven out of ten people suffer from it, especially in academic and working environments.

In short, peer pressure is the direct or indirect impact from our friends, relatives, colleagues on us.

What are the signs of peer pressure?

One of the most obvious signs of peer pressure is social comparison. There are two types of social comparison: upward comparison and downward comparison. People who are the subject to peer pressure often use upward comparison, which means they tend to compare themselves with people who they consider are better than them. They admire others’ achievements and feel inferior to them. 

Another sign of peer pressure is the change of behaviors and/or beliefs. In order to gain the similar achievement as other people or to fit the social group, subject to peer pressure has to change their own behaviors and/or beliefs. For example, a freshman who wants to get along with his classmates often has to attend parties he himself does not want to. 

There are also warning signs that we need to pay attention, for example:

  • Gloomy emotion or sense of hopelessness

  • Aggression or antisocial behavior

  • Difficulty in falling asleep

  • Loss of appetite or overeating

  • Aversion to going to school/university

What are the causes of peer pressure?

The first cause I would like to talk about is the instability of the characteristics. As we all know that adolescents are more easily influenced by friends and surroundings when their thoughts and characteristics have not yet developed stably.

Also, do you know that Asian people are more likely to suffer from peer pressure? It is because people who live in the Eastern countries tend to use social comparison more. It is understandable because they want to define themselves and gain a position in the society where collectivism is valued. It is normal for our parents to compare us with other children as soon as we start going to school. They keep asking why our score is not as high as theirs, why they win the first prize while we only gain the second, why they help their parents with the housework while we just sit around, etc. These questions gradually make us form a habit of comparing ourselves with others and a need of being superior to others. 

According to Maslow, there are five categories of need that motivate the behavior of people:

  • physiological needs 
  • afety needs
  • love and belonging needs
  • esteem needs
  • self-actualization needs

The first three needs are easier to be fulfilled than before, that is why nowadays people are seeking to be respected and trusted; to be creative; to show their talent and express themselves, and they hope that their achievements will be recognized, and admired by others.

In addition, it is impossible not to mention the appearance of the Internet and social networks, which is a “double-edged knife”. When they provide more information than ever before, they also intensify peer pressure. For example, we can easily see the achievements of other people with the help of social networks and comparison with them is something that is difficult to avoid.  

How to deal with peer pressure?

First of all, we need to remember that everybody has his/her strengths and weaknesses. It is pointless to compare our weaknesses with others’ strengths. 

Everyone is born unique. No comparison is possible. You are you, and I am I.

Before admiring and wishing to gain the same achievements as others’ at all costs, you need to know the price they have to pay to achieve these things and do not forget to ask yourself if you really need them or not. 

We should learn to accept ourselves and our weaknesses. Instead of paying attention to others’ talents, why don’t we discover our potential ones?

Moreover, love yourself! To love yourself is to understand and appreciate yourself. Instead of scrolling through social networks, looking at others’ achievements and feeling bad about ourselves, how about reading a good book and enriching our souls?

Finally, you can always seek help from other people. At HSE there is a Center for Psychological Counseling, where students can come to when they have problems with their mental health. 

Is peer pressure really a bad thing?

In my opinion, peer pressure is not a bad thing. We all know that peer pressure brings negative effects but they also have positive ones. There is no denying that peer pressure in some circumstances can make you better because through peer pressure you get motivated. The ranking system at HSE is an example for this. Since the rankings are public among students, they are constantly under peer pressure. Students with strong will instead of being discouraged when their rank is lower than others will try to study and train themselves to achieve high results. As a consequence, they receive scholarships from HSE because they are among the top students with high scores and most importantly, they gradually improve themselves thanks to these efforts.

I myself used to suffer from peer pressure. It happened when I was a high schooler. I studied at a gifted school in Vietnam, where my peers were excellent, and they were especially good at foreign languages. They received scholarships from universities from all over the world, some even got them in the 10th grade. To be honest, I was jealous of them. I knew that they had to study real hard in order to maintain a high GPA for scholarships. They had to prepare for tests, such as IELTS and TOFEL. Some even had to write essays and participate in university admission interviews. At the same time, they could actively participate in extracurricular activities. Meanwhile I spent my time literally doing nothing. It was only when I saw their achievements on social networks that I realized how inferior myself was. I knew all their efforts in order to gain scholarships from universities, but I still could not stop myself from being envious of them. At that time, instead of stopping comparing myself to others or choosing to accept myself for who I really was, I chose to run away. What do I mean by saying “run away”? I stopped all my social networking activities so I would not have to see the achievements of my friends. I avoided all conversations about studying abroad, however, at that time, a lot of people, including my friends and my relatives, kept asking me if I planned to apply for an overseas university. Then the opportunity to study at HSE came to me during that time. Honestly, I never had any intention of studying abroad. I was afraid to go to a new place where I do not know anyone. I was also afraid that I would not be able to adjust to life abroad. However, I still came to Russia to study and sometimes I wonder if my decision was made under the pressure from my peers and relatives. Yet I have never regretted this decision because thanks to it, I felt myself becoming more mature and independent. I learned many new things, got to know more people, and gradually loved and accepted myself more. I guess peer pressure is not such a bad thing, right? 


I hope form my article you got to know more about peer pressure. It is something that anyone can encounter in life, regardless of age. It is not really a bad thing if you know to accept and appreciate yourself, and then peer pressure can make you a better “you”.



Van Ly Vu