BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

The pressure to feel accepted

Posted by egehl on August 27, 2009

Last night I stumbled upon a Lifetime original movie called “Acceptance” with Joan Cusack (who I love), and it quickly sucked me in for the duration.  The premise was about the pressures teenagers feel when it comes to getting into the “right” college.  The protagonist was a young girl in her senior year whose stressed out mom wants her to get into an Ivy League school by acting like the perfect student.  Throughout the movie the teenagers and parents must come to terms with each others strengths and weaknesses, and adjust their expectations with what defines success.  Acceptance

The show got me thinking about the increased pressures girls feel today to be the best and nothing else.   There are ridiculous expectations that every girl must get into the best school, achieve straight A’s, get a stellar SAT score, and engage in every extracurricular activity to show off their well-roundedness.  The pressure to succeed has always been around, but it seems more pronounced than ever. 

It’s Ivy League or bust, and a one size fits all model that defines success.  You must be intelligent, outgoing, popular, athletic, a leader and engage in enough community service to practically save the world. 

As a result of these societal expectations and cultural trends teen girls are more at risk of a whole host of clinical problems and challenges.  At first glance, the stress may seem like run-of-the-mill teenage angst worried about homework, parents, and getting into college but if you dig a little deeper the statistics start to tell another story. 

Up to 20 percent of girls aged 10-19 experience episodes of major depression.  Over the past 50 years or more, the average onset of female depression has fallen from the mid-30s to the mid-20s, with a significant portion of young women becoming depressed by their early to mid-teens.  In addition to depression, one-tenth of all teenage girls try to commit suicide, self-mutilation is on the rise, and some form of eating disorder inflicts close to 5% of all teenage girls.  All of this adds up to a staggering sum that ¼ of all girls are suffering in great pain.

Unfortunately the girls without a clinical label are hardly without their challenges. Virtually all of today’s teenagers are struggling with challenges that threaten to overwhelm them.  Too many girls are battling with self-hatred, dieting, sexual confusion, and the overall feeling that they will never act, look, or feel good enough.  Adults are putting too much strain on them and if they don’t set reasonable expectations girls will constantly feel a sense of failure for not achieving unrealistic goals.  Girls are supposed to know what they are doing with the rest of their lives at 17 and that’s a heavy burden to carry on such young shoulders.  

Like everything in life, there has to be a healthy balance—motivate our young people to reach their potential and goals yet nurture their talents and accept their individuality even if it’s not what society deems as the “perfect” outcome.  We must give expectations that girls can meet because they are capable of working hard, but will suffer if they feel like they are doomed to fail.  

To be a successful adult, a young girl just needs to try her best, follow her heart and continue to explore what makes her happy.  Success can be defined in so many ways and having a certain alma mater on your resume does not guarantee professional and personal happiness.


One Response to “The pressure to feel accepted”

  1. Breast feeding for 10 – 15 minutes per breast 8 – 10 times every 24 hours is an ideal target. Crying is a sign of hunger, which means you should actually feed your baby before he starts crying. During the first few days, you may have to wake your baby to begin breast feeding, and he may end up falling asleep during feeding.

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