I was really struck by two things that came my way this week. One is the Simon Sinek interview where he explains how Millennials feel about the ‘promises’ they were made about how life is and our responsibility as Leaders and the research from the UCL (University College London) Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool which found that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of 14-year-old girls and nine per cent of boys the same age are depressed.
I was a teenager once and I found that time in my life very difficult. I had feelings of raised emotions, confusion and a lack of understanding of why I felt the way I did. I didn’t however self-harm or consider ending my life. The sad fact of the matter is that many of our young people today do.
Some would argue that teenagers have always felt that this time of life is difficult, raging hormones, exams, having to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life are all probable factors. This research, however, points out that 10 years ago, the figure for girls was less than 12%. So there is an increase in incidence of depression in our young people, so what’s happening?
Is Simon Sinek on the right track? We live in a time when young people will take a selfie an average of four times before they are happy with it and even then may retouch it. If it’s posted on social media and they don’t get as many ‘likes’ as they think they ‘should’ get, then they will take it down and feel bad about themselves.
Our young people are externally referenced, they don’t want to be different, they want to be, look and do what everyone else in their peer group – not all but apparently a large proportion. I was different, I didn’t want what the mainstream wanted and I was bullied, in a relatively minor way. I was excluded from the group, names were called etc. I didn’t have the additional pressure of social media and at my core I had a strong sense that being me was actually ok – even though I was always last to be picked for the netball team. Over the years I have learned that being different is actually an expression of my individuality. I have come to like it and I have grown through it.
How do we talk to our children when they have these feelings and this culture? How can we relate to it if it’s not our experience, can we understand it?
I was talking to someone this week who told me that no matter how often they tell their young daughter that she is beautiful or has done well, it just doesn’t sink in. She can’t accept it.
This research and these issues sadden me. I want every child to feel ‘special’ as we have taught them, we are all special, individual and magnificent – but in our own unique way. To value myself, to appreciate my uniqueness and my magnificence has been hard work. It has been work. Work on myself through ‘therapy’ and self development. I didn’t have the extreme pressures that young people have today. It’s tough for them and as Simon Sneak says ‘It’s not their fault’.