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  • Writer's pictureJustin McLennan

Don't Educate on Peer Pressure - Educate on Sidekick Pressure

At Living with SHAPE, we have an analogy that seems to ring true for both adults and kids: we all have an inner Sidekick and Superhero. Our inner Superhero is our bravest and most authentic self. In comparison, our Sidekick is our companion that tries to help us out during some of our most emotional times. They have been through it all with us. They try to look out for us when we are scared and try to take on the world with us when they think we need help. And while all these characteristics can be helpful in their ways, our Sidekick can often be far more fear-based than we need them to be.

Take, for instance, when we encounter peer pressure. During times of peer pressure, we often feel an emotional pressure to fulfill a command that someone else suddenly placed on us. This command can cause our Sidekick to appear first, even before our Superhero, because they often serve as our protector. Since the beginning of time, our Sidekick has been our internal spy searching for danger wherever it may show up. During caveman days, our Sidekick was the one to find the hungry tiger off in the distance. They found them so that our Superhero could have the power to fight them off. Moreover, it is has been a duo that has helped us survive ever since. However, the dangers we face today are very different from fending off a tiger for survival.

Instead, our Sidekick looks for danger in even the subtlest of words and actions of others. Our Sidekick looks for ways to protect us from any threats, whether they be real or imagined. For example, we often mistake peer pressure as the truth. We take what someone else says, and we accept it as real, no examination necessary. This is our Sidekick stepping in just a little too quickly. This is our Sidekick accepting the threat of “being uncool” as too dangerous. They misinterpret the “threat” as something we do not have control over. Take, for example, if someone told us, “if you do not sneak out of your house at night to hang out with us, we are not going to be your friend.” The Sidekick’s first thought might be, “if I do not do this, then I will not have friends,” and the cycle of worry would continue. See the cycle below as the Sidekick begins to take over.

However, what if our Sidekick never had the final say? What if our Superhero respected our Sidekick’s emotional worry, but also helped them a step back before making a decision? The beauty of our Superhero is that they are not afraid to face their fears. That is why they are such great companions for our Sidekick. They recognize the Sidekick’s fears, but they problem-solve ways to address the fear without it consuming their actions. A Sidekick may immediately give in to peer pressure. A Superhero may take a second or two before they take action. A Superhero may question what that peer may have asked them to do. They may ask themselves, “what is realistically the worst thing that would happen if I do not do what they are asking?” “Do I feel comfortable doing what they are asking me to do?” And, if the answer does not fit with their character, a Superhero finds the bravery to protect themselves from the external pressures.

This does not mean that one is better than the other. It just means that the Sidekick needs the Superhero as much as the Superhero needs her Sidekick. If you are ever feeling uncomfortable or have an uneasy feeling in your gut, know that is your Sidekick coming out to keep you out of danger. And, it will be essential to call upon your inner Superhero to help talk to your Sidekick about problem-solving next steps. Some tips you can use when you face peer pressure:

  • Have your Superhero check in with your Sidekick. Ask: “How am I feeling about this?” “Does this feel right to me?” “What are the pros and cons of making this decision?”

  • When people or situations make you feel pressured, feel free to delay your response: “I’ll get back to you on this.” “Check back with me in an hour.”

  • Try to spend time with people who respect you and your boundaries.

  • Feel free to bring a supportive friend to situations where you feel the pressure. Let them know your intentions and that you need their help.

When we don't allow our Superhero to step in, we cave into Sidekick Pressure as you can see below.

When we do allow our Superhero to step in, we deflect Sidekick Pressure, living by our beliefs and values.

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