I think we adults – I am referring to the baby boomers and Gen Xers here – really have to step up now and admit we are responsible. I read an article last night which was probably not the best one to read while trying to relax on a Sunday night! The raw messages from the teenage girls interviewed and opinions from the psych experts really disturbed me.
In today’s world where the external and material define most of us, how are we as adults taking responsibility for role-modelling for the younger generation? We started it – the unrelenting pursuit of material wealth and status, the explosion of cyberspace and its trappings, the obsession to have an interesting alternate life on screens everywhere, the myriad of digital toys and faux friends… We continue to perpetuate the problems when we don’t live authentic lives we are proud of, nor make genuine connections that enrich us and then choose to participate in the same games and illusions, and judge ourselves against the worldly ideals we think ‘society’ holds for us. Most role models teenagers have today are no longer from worthy novels or real world history but the media-exposed celebrities and criminals.
Teenagers now feel huge pressures to conform, outperform, have perfect social-media selves, be thin, dress right, and are increasing sexualised at younger ages, girls and boys alike. Reading firsthand accounts of how these girls cope made me realise how we adults really have to do some serious soul-searching and resolve to stop judging ourselves by the wrong standards, so that we don’t do the same to the younger generation (they will do what we do, unfortunately!).
I have read a couple of Steve Biddulph’s books (they are really insightful) and he is quoted in this article as saying:
“The danger time usually starts around 14; typically, a girl vulnerable to these pressures has a dad who is critical or cold; a mum who is stressed and busy; has had fairly unlimited exposure to TV (such as in her bedroom) from early childhood, and now digital media — texting, Facebook — with no time restrictions.
Special attention is needed from ten to 14, when a girl starts to become her own person. She needs adults who have soul, who ask her about her beliefs, values and what she stands for, what she wants her life to be about. She needs to develop an interest or an activity that really makes her feel alive.”
Let’s consciously look at what personal values we hold and maybe decide to drop those we know deep in our hearts, are not going to serve us well as genuine well-adjusted human beings (with soul) who understand self-worth, enriching relationships and open hearts.