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Expectations, the Never-Ending Battle Against Academia

Have you ever felt insecure, downtrodden or like a disappointment because you can’t meet up to the expectations put upon you by those around you? If so, you’re not alone. Both teens and adults agree that the amount of academic, parental and societal pressure placed on teens is insurmountable. So how should we deal with it?

There are many things related to school that can cause stress. Often, due to early school start times and overwhelming amounts of homework, as well as various after-school programs that teens participate in, a teen who needs 8-10 hours of sleep a night, as recommended by several studies, will get to sleep around 1 A.M., waking up a mere six hours later in order to be ready for school. Not only is this detrimental to a student’s physical health, but sleep deprivation and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are very closely intertwined. This means that sleeping a considerably less than healthy amount leads not only to increased stress and decreased attention span but also to an increased risk of developing a seriously debilitating mood disorder.

A less clinical issue, though an issue nonetheless, is that students are afraid of disappointing the adults putting such high expectations on them. When parents put too much pressure on their children to perform to the level that the parents think they can achieve, they are actively harming their child’s personal growth and room for self-identification.

One way this can manifest itself is a student’s fear of the reaction of their parents if they do a less than perfect job at something. Both I and my friends have struggled with setting ourselves up for failure because we feel we can’t meet what our parents expect from us. This kind of defense mechanism is unfortunately common among people with perfectionist tendencies. Fear of doing something well but not perfectly causes the thought process: if you can’t do something perfectly, you shouldn’t be doing it at all, because if you present something subpar, then people will know you are flawed.

In addition to the expectations to do well that students receive from outside sources, some students suffer from the high expectations that they place on themselves. I know I compare myself to others, to my friends who are good at subjects I’m not, to my brother who excels in math while I’ve never been able to pass with higher than a B-. I would try to force myself to understand something I couldn’t without asking for help because I couldn’t be perceived as stupid, as less than.

So what can students do to alleviate some of the pressure? Communicate. Reaching out to people can be hard and it can be scary, but in the long run, it’s what’s best.

Bottling up emotions is never healthy and feeling like you have to take on the world alone is a feeling no one should have to suffer through.

While students do need to take the initiative to communicate with their parents and teachers, parents and teachers should actively listen to and believe the problems that are being presented to them. Communication is a two-way street. Having a good relationship with one’s teachers is something that is helpful for everyone. When you feel comfortable approaching your teachers, it’s much easier to get the help needed to not only succeed in life, but to do so on your own terms and in a way that doesn’t become overwhelming.

All in all, while there are far too many expectations placed on teens, there are also many ways that students can deal with it and there are ways that parents and teachers can help. It’s hard not to feel swamped by all of the standards that we are expected to live up to, but if you have a good support system, it’s not impossible to power through them.

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Rory is a Midwestern teen interested in destroying the patriarchy and creating a better world. They like girls, Norse and Celtic mythology, and learning far too many languages at once.

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