What does being successful mean to us? Well, for some people it means getting that job. For others, it means making it through the day. Regardless of what our definition of success is, we embrace a feeling of pride when we accomplish something we wanted. That pride makes us feel like we are on top of the world and as if nothing can touch us. But then, we realize that society continually wants us to be successful, and we are devoured into a rat race for success. At every single moment in our lives, we feel like we need to be achieving something. Taking a break for ourselves seems highly unlikely because that isn’t being “successful.” And that’s my biggest concern. I fear that in our world today, we often feel burdened by the notion of success, and in turn, we forget about failure being a stepping stone in our pathway. To address this concern, we’ll take a look at societal pressures, their effects, and how we can work towards change.
Societal pressures are formed by the behaviors, words, and stigmas present in our communities. In regard to success, that may mean looking down on someone inferiority when they aren’t at the same level as us. It means stigmatizing ‘bad’ grades or certain jobs. It means saying harsh things that penetrate someone else’s opinion on success. All these actions combined lead to societal pressures that do nothing but make us feel like we always have to be accomplishing something at every point in our lives.
These societal pressures have drastic effects on teenagers all the way to adults. In the article, “The Pressure to ‘Do it All’ and ‘Be it All’ Can Send You Into a Major Depression,” Zongile Nhlapo discusses how societal pressures around success are pushing the younger generations of today to attain a sort of “perfectionism” and competitiveness at the risk of their mental health. Teenagers with naive minds are brought into this rat race that society has sparked which makes them feel like they need to be successful in everything from sports to school to relationships. In fact, in the article, “All the ways American teenagers are under enormous pressure to succeed,” author Quentin Fottrell asserts that 6 out of 10 teenagers feel pressure to get good grades. Due to this stigma around success, teenagers are currently working countless days and hours to meet the irrational standards that are put in front of them, all at the risk of their own well-being.
Not only teenagers, but adults also face this overwhelming pressure of needing to be consistently successful. In the article, “Why Millennials Should Stop Trying to Be Successful ... Immediately,” author Melanie Curtin claims that 67% of millennials felt a great pressure to succeed in comparison to the 40% of GenXers and 23% of Boomers. They have significantly higher feelings of anxiety and felt like their time was running out. This was all a result of the societal pressures surrounding them and telling these millennials that there was a certain age that they needed to be successful by. In fact, there has also been evidence supporting the idea that social media fuels these societal pressures, and the worries that come with it. According to research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the greater time an adult spends on social media, the more likely they are to have depression. These adults fall into cycles of self-doubt as the artificial details of social media spark thoughts about un-success. Before these worries of today become the downfalls of tomorrow, action needs to be taken.
In order to break these chains of pressure around success, we need to continuously remind ourselves that each and every person has their own pace to accomplish what they want. By acknowledging that everyone has unique pathways, we are able to distinguish our abilities and lifestyles from this pressure. In other words, we dim the fuel of this growing rage and save ourselves. In addition, we can also overcome thoughts and beliefs that limit our own capabilities. When one person changes the way they think, society is already on the way to change. And this can be done through accepting the real meaning of failure. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” When society and the people within it begin realizing that failure is not a barrier to success but rather a stepping stone, we will already be one step closer towards saving the lives of children, teenagers, and adults that are suffering under this burden of needing to have a great mind and needing to succeed. In the end, what’s the point of success if we aren’t enjoying the ups, downs, and all arounds it brings with it?
Nhlapo, Zongile. “The Pressure To 'Do It All' And 'Be It All' Can Send You ...” Huffpost, December 4, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2018/04/12/the-pressure-to-do-it-all-and-be-it-all-can-send-you-into-a-major-depression_a_23409315/
Curtin, Melanie. “Why Millennials Feel More Pressure to Succeed Than Any Other Generation.”Inc.com. Inc., April 27, 2016. https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/why-millennials-feel-more-pressure-to-succeed-than-any-other-generation.html. Fottrell, Quentin. “All the Ways American Teenagers Are under Enormous Pressure to Succeed.”
MarketWatch. MarketWatch, October 10, 2019. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/all-the-ways-american-teenagers-are-under-enormous-pressure-to-succeed-2019-02-20?mod=home-page.