Putting It All in Perspective

Teens these days are facing an infinite amount of challenges and issues. We’re dealing with immeasurable amounts of stress that come from a variety of things. These things can include: school, keeping up with social expectations, grades, social lives, sports, popularity, relationships, planning the future, overthinking, peer pressure, getting enough sleep, sports, and self image.
School in itself can obviously cause tremendous amounts of stress. We have to keep up with homework on top of our extra curricular activities, comprehend roughly 7 straight hours of lessons, deal with social skills at school which can tie into drama sometimes, and keep up our grades as we plan for the future. I know I, as well as a lot of my peers, have dealt with the harsh pressures of high school a lot more this year than previous years. Our curriculum became more challenging and our workload voluminous. On top of all of this, we’re expected to be mapping out our lives and figuring out how we can reach our full potentials.
The other aspect of school stress can come along with issues revolving around popularity and peer pressure. Although the cliques in reality aren’t quite as dramatic as they are in the movies, popularity still remains an issue whether we admit to it or not. Girls are constantly worrying about whether or not others approve of them and often times lose themselves in the pressures to conform. Times are beginning to change though; we’ve found beauty in uniqueness in more contemporary times and I believe it’s something to be celebrated. On the other hand, peer pressure hasn’t seemed to change. I’ve witnessed peers pressuring others to take part in activities they don’t believe in and it’s heartbreaking to see the ending results when they cave in and participate. I know some claim their methods help them cope with their stress, but in actuality it just adds to it.
I could go on and on about all of these topics, but I’ll conclude with one of the biggest stress factors of all time- self image. Poor self image has been a reigning problem for many generations, and will undoubtedly continue on for many generations yet to come. I asked some friends about their perceptions of self image and one claimed that it was important due to the fact that it directly reflects your mental health. Another stated that it is important to develop a high level of confidence in high school to set you up for the future. I then followed that question up with asking them who their biggest influence is, to which they claimed were their parents. I can also attest to this claim seeing as I highly value my parents’ perceptions of me. It seems to me that parents can often times forget just how much influence they have over their sons and daughters. We’re constantly watching our parents to observe the way they go about their lives in hopes of learning their ways. We soak up their praise and take their constructive criticism to heart. It’s of utmost importance that our parents are on board with us and aware of how much we respect them and their opinions of us as young adults who are aspiring to be as successful as them some day. The things they say to us affect us constantly whether we show it or not…so to parents or future parents who may be reading this: Please watch what you say to us. I’ve heard countless stories from multiple girls who are being torn apart because their parents unknowingly put them down, calling them “fat,” etc. which as a result, lowers their self esteem tremendously.
The final question I presented this group with was, “What is beauty according to you?” Here’s what they came up with:

“Believing that you’re beautiful and not trying so hard to be what everyone wants you to be.” -Nicole B.

“Being comfortable in your own skin and having people respect that.” -Ragan G.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” -Helena B.

“I think beauty is having a kind heart and a good soul. If you’re confident in who you are and are a strong and independent person, you’re beautiful on the inside and the outside. Feeling pretty on the outside is not shallow, it’s confidence and if you are kind and respectful, I think it’s beautiful.” -Maren J.

“I think beauty can be anything. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a person, it can be in anything. You can find beauty in a sunrise, the sound of someone’s laugh, like the way the sunlight is dusty as it’s streaming through the window in the morning…beauty is based off of your experiences in life and it is the way you view things. I think there’s beauty in everything and everyone. Beauty is definitely more than skin deep. You want to be around someone charismatic that gives you a new perspective on life and always puts a smile on your face. Beauty is a way of living and viewing things around you.” -Claire N.

All I can say is, “Stop comparing yourself to others.” My mom has always told me, “You can’t control what anyone else does, so worry about yourself.” That piece of advice has helped me through a lot and made me realize that comparing myself to others doesn’t do anything but harm me. There’s beauty in uniqueness and I’m happy to see more people beginning to embrace that. I know that people blame society for our issues, but we are society. If we want to change society, we have to begin with ourselves. Change starts with us.

Thank you to Louisa M, Michaela P, Claire N, Maren J, Nicole B, Helena B and Ragan G for the input and perspectives.