As many of you know, peer pressure is literally part of human nature.

I grew up a weird child, no one had to tell me that. I was the one who hated to share, I never dressed to impress, and I wasn't one of the girls who chased the boys around the playground.

Hard to believe, right?

Well, it's true.

And because of that, I didn't have many friends.

You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with the magic topic of this evening: Peer Pressure. You'll see, just wait.

The first day I walked into middle school I was scared to death and I had a right to be.

I walked right into Judgement Circle.

If you didn't wear converse, skinny jeans, and your hair straight you were the outcast, the weirdo, or 'ugly.' It's not like I cared, though, remember? I was the outcast, I didn't care what anyone thought about me, but coming into middle school was a big deal. I told myself that I would make friends. So, I did. I went out and started introducing myself to everyone I could and I caught on to their likes and dislikes and pretended I liked and disliked the same things. So, when I ran into the 'cool' group at school and talked to them I was in awe. Everyone wanted to be friends with them and I did too. I started following them around and watching how they do it. Why does everyone want to be friends with them? What do I need to change about myself to be like them?

The biggest thing they did was cuss, which was the first time I heard what a 'cuss word' was and me, not knowing what they are, caught on to saying them. Until I came home and said "b*tch" and my grandma literally had to sit me down and explain what it was and why it was bad and why you shouldn't say everything everyone else does just because it's what 'everyone' is doing.

Which started to become my excuse for just about everything I did.

I started dressing different, acting different, talking different, listening to different music, watching different things on tv.

I had become a product of Peer Pressure.

As middle school went on, I struggled to make friends, but I caught on and I strived to fit in. I lived and breathed fitting in. If everyone was wearing their hair in a ponytail, I was. If everyone was listening to Justin Bieber, I was.

It got worse.

I made a friend, well a few, who I thought we're the most fun and amazing people ever. I thought they would be the people who would always be there. So, me being desperate for acceptance, did everything they did. I mean EVERYTHING. If they we're cussing, I was. If they we're sneaking out, I was. If they were smoking cigarettes, I was.

Guys, I was 12. 12 YEARS OLD.

That's what Peer Pressure does. You see the worst possible things being done, the ones your parents warned you about, and people influence you to do them so you can "fit in". Peer Pressure happens because you don’t want to be left out. So you go with what other people think in order for them to include you. A peer can be anyone, like a friend, classmate, or even someone you admire. You might try to live up to people's expectations, but it’s important to know not to have other people’s expectations make you forget what you want. If you follow the crowd, you might get lost in it. I grew up, though, and learned that fitting in isn't everything. I learned to say the magic word, NO. It took me a long time to learn that and honestly I'm still learning.

If someone is willing to put your reputation or life at risk, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.

If someone is constantly trying to get you to do something you know isn't right, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.

The sooner you learn that the better, because one day that "friend" of yours could possibly talk you into doing something that could potentially ruin your life.

You deserve better, you deserve people who want the best for you and strive to help you. People who make you happy and an all around better person. Those types of people are rare, but those are your people. That is who you need in your life– not people who use peer pressure in a bad way, but a good way.

Just because everyone is doing it, that doesn't always make it right.

Always remember that.

Much love,

JS