There is one message I believe all teenagers need to hear every single day: “You are more than enough!” I think this generation is growing up always wondering if they are “enough”: good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, athletic enough, musical enough, popular enough, working enough, doing enough, the list goes on and on. And to the entire list I say “ENOUGH!” Stop the madness, our teenagers are so much more than their parents ever were at their age and this is not entirely a good thing.
In my work, every day, I see the stress that teenagers are under, the pressure they put on themselves, the expectations they feel from each other, and the important adults in their lives. I come home at the end of a day thinking, “I wish I could just lift the anvils off their backs!” Each year it seems like these weights just get heavier and heavier on their shoulders and it grows harder to relieve the pressure. At some point, they are going to snap, and as a society, we will realize too late what we have truly done to this generation of youth.
The message of Enough! needs to come at our teenagers from many different directions, since the message “you are not enough” or worse yet “you will never be enough” has come at them from so many channels for so many years. Would it surprise you to know that often my students who are the most anxious, most insecure, most afraid they are “not enough” come from really good homes with great loving parents?
Why? When teens see each other taking 5 AP courses a year, being a varsity athlete, and on student council they give themselves the message “If I am not doing that I am not doing enough.” When they hear parents, guidance counselors, and colleges tell them to take “the most challenging curriculum available at their school,” they worry they are not taking enough hard classes or that someone else is taking more. When they believe “everyone gets a 30 on the ACT” (fun fact only 7% of students in the country achieved a 30 or higher in 2018) they believe if they don’t they are not “high enough.” When they constantly hear the “college” message from parents and well-meaning adults and peers, they often start to wonder if they have what it takes.
I can tell you after 12 years in my field working with hundreds and hundreds of teenagers – this trend is intensifying and turning into an alarming trend. It will take brave adults, and teens, working together to question the sanity of sacrificing a healthy high school experience at the altar of “getting into a good college.”
It is time to remind our teenagers they are more than enough! It is time to let them take back control of their “fun” teenage years. It is time to say enough AP/Honors/IB classes. It is time to say that is a great GPA/ACT/SAT instead of constantly wondering if it is enough. It is time to say enough clubs, leadership, work, sports. I believe it is time to get back to focusing on building our teenagers’ confidence and helping them be comfortable in their own skin.
If you are a teenager or young adult reading this, hear my words and know I mean them. You are enough!