As a teenager, I can say with confidence that adolescence is challenging. My teenage years came with sets of problems because there were always multiple aspects that I had to worry about.
Each year, as I got older, I received a new set of challenges that I had to tackle.
1. One common problem that I faced was the need to fit in. When I was in middle school, Abercrombie and Hollister were the stores at which teenagers shopped. Every day, I would see my peers shop at these stores and then sport their logoed apparel. Wearing the clothes from Abercrombie and Hollister was like a rite of passage. Essentially, you were telling the world that you were cool enough to afford clothes from these stores. If you did not have these clothes, there was no way that you would ever be a part of the popular crowd. Any hope for you had been instantly shot down. Therefore, I persistently asked my mom to take me until one day she finally agreed. I guess she realized that she would have to agree because I would keep asking until she did. I remember being so excited about the shopping trip to the extent that I told my friends as soon as my mom agreed. I kept going on about it until the day of the shopping trip. It ended up being one of the happiest moments of my life, according to my middle school self.
Yet the apparel sold at Abercrombie and Hollister is similar to the that sold at Target. The only difference is the brand. While Abercrombie and Hollister are popular, they are also much more expensive. I remember going to Hollister, and only being able to buy a shirt with a $20 bill. I realize now that if I went back to middle school with the maturity that I have today, I probably would not go out of my way to buy clothes from these stores unless it suited my style and the price was reasonable.
Peer pressure also can affects an individual’s decision to partake in drugs and alcohol. Those who want to be a part of the “popular” crowd feel pressurized to engage in behaviors that are considered “cool,” which normally consists of drinking alcohol or smoking weed at parties. No one wants to feel like the outcast. I remember going to a senior prom after-party and being the only one who was not smoking weed or drinking alcohol. This was partly because I was driving home that night, and partly because I really don’t like the taste of alcohol. However, guests, who did not know me, would ask my friend who the “kid” was, clearly referring to me. This was ironic considering everyone at the party was under 21.
2. Another issue that is commonly experienced in high school is the need to look good. While many girls want to look “hot” especially to attract a potential significant other, this phenomenon seemed to be an overly important focus at my high school. Girls would leave to go to the bathroom to touch up their mascara several times a day. During breaks in-between classes, girls would crowd the bathroom mirrors, making sure their hair and makeup did not require touch up. I remember my freshman year when I did not care at all about my outfit. I would sport a polo shirt and khaki pants, tie my hair up in a ponytail, and not wear any makeup. I vividly recall my mother’s frustration at the fact that I was surrounded by girls who looked more dressed up. Amongst them, there was me, who did not seem to care about how I looked. Through my four years of high school, my appearance changed dramatically. I began to care about the way I looked. By the end of my senior year, I was known as a fashionista. My outfit started consisting of leggings, boots, a cute top and a scarf (if it was cold). I would accessorize and make sure my outfit was coordinated. In addition, I would make sure my hair and makeup were satisfactory when I went to the bathroom. I almost became one of those girls.
The other factor was body image. Weight was crucial because the high school trend was skinny jeans and yoga pants — essentially, form-fitting clothes. Thus, a girl had to have the perfect body. This meant toned thighs, tight butt and a flat stomach. In order to attain this “perfect” image, girls would eat side salads as lunch. Females in student government voted to incorporate a salad bar to add a variety of vegetables. Girls would go to the gym every day and only indulge in alcoholic beverages on weekends.
If you did not have the perfect body, you would start to feel self-conscious. You were surrounded by girls who had them, and yet no matter how hard you tried, you were unable to achieve it. If I had the level of maturity that I had in high school, I would tell myself that as long as I ate healthily and exercised regularly, I should accept my body. Instead of being overly critical of myself, I should try and occasionally compliment myself and instill positive thoughts. Image is not everything – instead, it is the way an individual feels about themselves that matters.
3. The third and most important issue that teenagers face is the pressure to do well. We live in a society in which we are pressured to excel and strive to be the best of the best. Every year, the acceptance rate for admissions to highly competitive schools decrease and the standards increase. Every student is expected to be well-rounded, striking the perfect balance between school and extracurricular activities. In that balance, students must put in 100 percent effort, in order to obtain leadership positions, and cope with an intense school workload. It is highly demanding, and there are instances when it feels like there is no time to breathe.
While it is important to work hard and achieve, it is also important not to burn oneself out. Having gone through the college process made me realize that everyone belongs somewhere. If an individual did not get into a certain school, that doesn’t mean he/she is not qualified. It means that that school was not right for him/her. Everyone has a place — it just takes time to find it. Trust me on this one.