How far would you go to have others think you were cool? Lie to your parents? Laugh at something you know is offensive? What would you do to avoid being laughed at? Break a law? Play a cruel practical joke on a teacher? Would you follow the pack instead of standing up for yourself? Take risks and behave in ways you'd be mortified to have your grandma know about? You've heard the term since third grade: “peer pressure.” Before you knew exactly what it meant, you knew it was some force that had a huge effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing. While this “force” may sound daunting, one thing you should always remember is that when it comes to peer pressure, you always have a choice — a choice to succumb to the pressures put on by others, or to take the alternative route. Peer pressure, the influence your "friends" exert on you, whether in words of encouragement, criticism, persuasion, or in appearance by way of hair, makeup and clothes, is never more powerful than it is during adolescence. Psychologists have different theories about why. One school of thought says that acceptance by your friends satisfies a need to belong. Another says that life is simply easier when we act like everyone else instead of standing up for ourselves. There’s no doubt conforming is easier. Or it might be that teens try to conform to their perception of others' expectations. Whatever the reason, when it comes to activities — and sometimes even values — young people care more about what their friends think than anyone else. Not all peer pressure is negative, however. The people you hang out with shape your personality: Us girls, for instance, who typically have a supportive network of friends, are less likely to suffer from depression. You and your friends are likely to have lots in common when it comes to healthy habits, too. If your friends play sports, eat right, do well in school or are involved in community service, chances are so will you. If none of them smoke or do drugs, chances are you don’t either. Yet even for the strongest teens, there are times when "in-your-face" peer pressure can force you to consider risky behavior. Whether you're tempted — “Come on, it'll be fun...we'll never get caught,” — taunted — “What's the matter, your mommy say you couldn't go?” — or threatened — “If you were really our friend you'd come with us.” Even in the face of such talk, stay strong: There are ways to handle the pressure by standing up for yourself. Ask a lot of questions.The answers will not only help you determine the risk and put the other person on the defensive, they will also put you in a position of power. Practice saying no. Then when you have to say it, you won't mumble. The more certain you are when standing up for yourself, the less people will bother you. Turn it back on them. If you're threatened, argue that real friends wouldn’t use pressure to make you do something you don't want to do. Get away from the pressure zone. If you know what's going to happen (a conversation bad-mouthing a friend of yours, an invitation to a place you're not comfortable going to), make a quick exit and make sure you have other plans. Find a friend who shares your values to back you up. A supportive friend will be there for you to help you get though even the toughest of situations. Get the leader of the pack alone. Explain how you're feeling and let her know you'd appreciate her backing off. Think of the consequences of giving in. Getting grounded. The police. Your conscience. Keep in mind that, contrary to what's being said, everybody is not "doing it" — no matter what it is. Be your own best friend and stand up for yourself. In the long run, saying “no” can make you more popular than saying “yes” every time. There is no feeling like standing up for yourself and learning to be your own person. And always remember: True friends like you for who you are, not who they want you to be. Read about standing up for yourself and get helpful tips and advice at BeingGirl.com.