With rise in external pressure on teens, more emphasis should be on own internal well-being

Grace Miller, Writer

As a junior in high school, I often hear my fellow students reminisce about the good old days when they were children and didn’t have to deal with the grind of a young adult reality. As kids, their time after school consisted of carefree play, and they slept their nights away without a second thought. This has never been the case for me.

Extreme sensitivity and a fear of others’ opinions — even as a small child — have eaten away at my thoughts for as long as I can remember. This fear boxed me in and it tore away at my mind until I no longer found the same level of enjoyment in the things I used to love.

All of a sudden, there was nothing but indifference. I left all of my friends to keep to myself and I no longer cared about school. My absences piled up and I slept constantly. It seemed like there was an impenetrable brick wall between me and everyone I knew, but to my surprise, it was all in my head.

After finally listening to the voices around me, I went to a psychiatrist and got prescribed medication to quell my anxiety. Not only did this choice to seek help make my life easier to manage, but it taught me the most important lesson of all: Other peoples’ opinions mean nothing when compared to the power of self-validation.

I don’t speak for myself when I say that a little bit of stress is good. Pushing yourself is good. However, there has to be a healthy balance in your life. School is tougher than ever, and according to the APA’s 2018 Stress in America survey, teens report higher levels of anxiety and depression than all other age groups. It’s definitely worth it to take a step back and evaluate why you make the choices you do. Why are you on social media every waking minute? Why do you take every AP class and play every sport under the sun? If it’s what you want to do, then all the more power to you. If you’re doing it because you feel obligated whether it’s due to parental or peer pressure, please consider putting your mental health first. There’s no point to living a life that others expect from you because it makes them happy.

I’ll be the first to say that making your own choices is harder than it sounds. Heck, I made it to 17 without ever considering my own mental well-being. However, now that I have this realization, I wouldn’t change it for the world. After realizing how much happier I could be, I made a decision that freshman Grace would have never imagined — I dropped two of my AP classes. Although I know Harvard would never accept me, I’ve learned to accept myself and that’s all that matters.

My only hope for my fellow peers and really anyone reading this is that they too learn to accept themselves regardless of others’ standards and make decisions for their own happiness. This task in its entirety is daunting, and I don’t think I’ve even completely reached my goal. Take my word for it when I say that I am likely one of the most anxious people you’ll ever meet. My decision to seek self-acceptance is proof that anyone can do it. You just need to look beyond others and do what’s best for you.