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Perfection Pressure: are all teens expected to be successful before they even graduate?

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It only takes a trip into a music store, fashion shop or the turning on of the TV to see the faces of young people plastered over society’s ever expanding pop culture. It seems so much of media these days is ruled by super-successful teens who dictate the music we listen to and the things we do and watch. Standards are raised, success for young people is earning a new meaning – but is it having devastating effects?

To be young and to be famous/successful/rich. It’s a dream that many young people may have. For many, it will always be that – a dream. But, what happens when you are young...14, 16, 18 years old...and you already are working towards becoming that? What happens when ‘school career’ and ‘actual career’ come together?

Long ago are the days when teen just ‘grew up’ and got a job. Teens today are fighting today to earn that success as early as they can, and whether it be in music, film, athletics, fashion or literature, the simple fact is...they are succeeding.

Ask any teen to name a famous young celebrity – usual suspects will probably come to mind. But, the field is wider than previously believed. So many teens today in endless areas of success seem to live lives teens, especially girls, aspire to want to have, promising stratospheric success and impossible standards of perfection. Whether they be teen actors, musicians, athletes, writers or models, at times it can give the impression that if you are not one of these categories, you are the ‘odd one out’.

But, a recent study shows that falling victim to this ‘super teen’ trap, may do far more harm than good, particularly in females, according to a new book by University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Stephen Hinshaw. His book, ‘The Triple Blind’, suggests the pressure of being ‘perfect’ placed on teen girls in today’s society has led to a surge in teen depression, eating disorders, self-harm and similar problems.

The media’s role models of young people who have achieved all the standards of perfection many girls desire, does not help the issue. "Children choose models for themselves as early as the preschool years," says Dr. Amy Beth Taublieb, a clinical psychologist in Buffalo, NY. Whilst in moderated cases, having a role model can be healthy. They can be a reason to work harder or aspire to be something. But, when this goes into overdrive, it can have dangerous outcomes for the girl involved: "One girl in four by the age of 19 will have developed serious depression, suicidal behavior, binge eating, cutting - etcetera," said Hinshaw, who believes this ‘perfection pressure’ is bringing out the worst in some girls.

And it doesn’t stop there. Wanting to achieve sometimes impossible standards of perfection and success can lead to competition, creating a divide between so-called ‘success’ and ‘non-success.’ But, does this competition really end up giving girls a sense of pride or achievement? Or is it just a case of ‘setting yourself up to fall?’ “High achieving teens are difficult to like as they are very self-centered” writes an anonymous commenter on an internet thread. “Young people today are following all the wrong examples and need desperately to get back to the basics of old fashion values.” writes another person, commenting on the effect today’s young stars and successes have on youth.

So, should teens not be creating dreams of success, sky high careers and awards? Should we not be trying to recreate the success of other lucky/pretty/rich/talented teens? The key is not to obsess, but to find a middle ground. "Kids today have an impossible standard of 'look great, be cool, act cool now and at any expense,'" says Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., author of the "Taste Berries for Teens" series. "Today's teens need to hear from each other that it's OK to look great, be cool and act cool, but the standards for it, and the time table in which it must be done, is not at the expense of mental or physical well-being."

The best bet seems to be to have dreams, work hard to get them...but don’t let it rule your life. Have back up plans, and dream ‘in moderation’. Professional blogger Angelica Biel agrees, writing that...”It is essential for every child to have a balanced life and a good sense of who they are in the world. Every child should have the freedom to be who they are truly meant to be. A child's job should simply be, to be a kid.”



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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

AlyCat said...
Dec. 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm:
Is it alright if I use this in a project I'm wrighting? Also if I can, what date was this published?  
 
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rmfinnThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm:
Haha, thanks for the feedback everyone! I'll try to find time to write more. XO
 
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LizzieIndigo said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm:
This is so true! Some ofthe figures in this shocked me 1in4 woah...
You a good writer carry on with what your doing!
 
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thekerrybarker said...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm:
I think trhis is an inlightining article based correctly on teend behaviour today. I would like to congratulate the author on providing me with an interesting read. Can't wait for her next peice
 
rmfinnThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 9:49 am :
Haha, thank youu!
 
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