As someone who struggles with anxiety herself, trust me, I know what it feels like when the pressure comes down hard. Impatiently tapping feet, a sudden urge to run back home at times, a permanent restlessness are more than familiar to me. The question I wondered for the longest time was whether there were others like me and boy, was I surprised.
Mental health is not a topic everyone’s either comfortable discussing, or completely aware of. And so for a REALLY long while it seemed like legit only I understood what was happening. Until I saw a counsellor, or spoke to my friends. Or frankly, until exam szn hit and everyone was going through the same things and literally falling to pieces. So why is this particular experience so common amongst Gen Z? Well, for a couple of reasons, and so I’ll jot some down for y’all:
1. Social Media
Literally, when are we off our phones? The likes and comments don’t stop until we’re forced to fall asleep at night, and even then our phones ping on and off to remind us about how many people like us, or care to comment. The main correlation social media and anxiety have in common is the comparison factor. When you see people living their best life on Insta while you’re struggling with not even wanting to get out of bed, you feel more miserable about yourself. Ditto if you see someone look so much hotter, or get a new bae when you’ve just been sobbing to your bestie about a break-up. Social media reminds you of things you lack, but doesn’t given you the BTS of the post - most people are like you and I and are probably going through problems too.
2. Body Image
Okay, this one I can’t stress enough. Although this is kinda linked to social media, this deserves a whole chunk to itself. These days body trends are rapidly swapping in and out each week - at one point skinny was #in, now it’s that completely unattainable hourglass figure. Celebs, influencers, fitness queens are what we aspire to be, and we beat ourselves down each time pizza rolls around and wrinkle our tummy up in disgust. Step in: Facetune. Literally, body image and ‘likeability’ are SO related that we’re willing to pose oddly, compress our body into tiny pixels each time we post on the ‘Gram just to look #cute, and get those likes. Likes don’t = beauty, babes. Your happiness does.
3. Superficial and Materialistic Friendships
For the love of all things chocolate, save us from the snakes that we believe are friends for years! Firstly, this whole clique business is back - Mean Girls is happening irl, y’all. You’re only cool enough to hang with us if you wear Fendi, and go clubbing each night. Or you’re only gonna be invited here if you do someone a favor, or if they’re feeling particularly generous. Even within your friends it’s sometimes hard to establish trust because you could’ve been snaked by your bestie Katie in grade 5 when she became popular in grade 10. The whole thing really makes you wonder - am I not good enough to be their friend? What do they have that I don’t? Hence begins the transformation to become whoever you’re not. At all.
4. Suuuuper High Standards For Everything
Okay, we can’t help with this one, unfortunately. We just live in a world of tech gurus, super successful CEOs at the age of 21, or someone who runs a charity at the age of 18. It’s not a people problem, this one, it’s an era-problem. We just happen to constantly try to live up to a metric that totally rejects ‘mediocrity’. There’s no respect for individual pace, you’re all expected to be equally successful and doing amazing things super early on. It’s all about your ‘brand value’ or wtv that means. It’s important to realise that people’s definition of ‘success’ is different depending on each one’s ability. Just because you took a gap year doesn’t make you any less awesome than your bestie who’s at Stanford. It’s easy to feel a lil’ (or a LOT) lost when you’re not considered as ‘productive’, but trust me, give yourself a break sometimes and go with YOUR flow. If reading any of this made you feel even 7 per cent better or make you think “tbh, relatable”, my job here is DONE. It’s easy to say “go see a therapist” or “dude, cheer up”, but sometimes, you just need someone to GET you.