Intense social pressures affect high school students

Walking around campus, it’s easy to see the different cliques: the athletes, the cheerleaders, the drama kids, thePerfect Identityrunners, the bros, and many other groups that form like water droplets on glass windows during the rainstorm of everyday high school life. All have been shaped into their own identity and expression–each with a different reason why they express themselves the way they do.

“In many ways, American teens have never had it tougher. Social pressures are more pervasive and destructive than ever before in American history,” Tiffany Stuart of focusonthefamily.com said.

Though teens are given a choice of how to fit in and who to fit in with, the idea of not fitting in at all is one of the biggest pressures teens face in the modern day.

“Young people explore their own values, ethics, spirituality, racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and gender. While teens are learning what makes them unique, they also have an increased need to ‘fit in.’ Therefore, identity formation can be especially challenging for teens who feel different from others because of their cultural, ethnic, gender, or sexual identity,” according to pbs.org.

The struggle to find one’s identity can be that much more difficult in small towns like Paso Robles’ 30,500 population in 12,739 acres, where a much smaller percentage have ethnic, gender, and sexual uniqueness.

Right when parents are wanting to raise their kids to have morals and be ethical, students face conflicting pressures to fit in and to be unique.

“The discomfort of an inadequate sense of self takes precedence over all else in the life of an adolescent. The search for self can disrupt the quest for achievement, family connection, and all previous normalcy,” Adolescent and Family Counselor Cheryl Jones from www.ncyi.org said.

Jones also said that one way to help them find themselves is to give them choices and options to make them feel like they matter among all the conformity of the world.

“Beginning when a child first understands the spoken word, we can offer the opportunity to make choices.  This gives children the message that they are separate persons, their opinions matter, and their voices are heard.  If children grow up with the idea that they can make decisions to create a life that works for them, the critical process of identity-building is underway,”  Jones said.

The necessity for a parent or some kind of guardian is crucial to help teens feel supported and secured about decisions they make regarding their identities.

“Often, the most difficult part of the process is gaining the trust of adolescents, whose greatest fear is that they will be forced to become something they are not,” Jones said.

However, junior Sam Flores believes that it is easy to find a group to hang out with.

“It’s not difficult to find a group of people, because I have all kinds of friends from different groups. Anyone can “fit in” anywhere,” Flores said.

Despite some students’ ease, all people see themselves a certain way, and they want society to see them that way as well.

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