So when Meredith talked about her life at a large student ministry retreat, her peers were stunned to learn that an intense struggle with self-image had led her down the path to an eating disorder.
How could Meredith have struggled with her self-worth when she had everything going for her?
This was Holly’s question as she listened to Meredith speak. Holly struggled with the same things, but she’d assumed that someone like Meredith would never have the problems she did. After all, her family life was nothing like Meredith’s, and she wasn’t nearly as pretty, popular, or involved at school. Although she was a little nervous to confide in someone she barely knew, Holly decided to text Meredith to thank her for sharing what she did and to share her own struggles. Because each was willing to be vulnerable, a new, unexpected friendship blossomed between the two girls.
As Emma scrolled through her social media feed Sunday evening, she felt more and more depressed. In every picture her friends were literally perfect. Why couldn’t she be them? Her life was so boring compared to theirs. Besides seeing plans she had been left out of, she also noticed how many more “comments” and “likes” everyone else received on their photos. “I need to delete my post,” Emma thought. “I’ll just look like a loser if I don’t get more ‘likes.’”
Caroline was scrolling through social media that same Sunday night after a full weekend of fun. She couldn’t decide which of her pictures to post; she wanted to make sure it wasn’t the same one another friend had already posted. But she needed to decide quickly, as she knew it was important to post at just the right time to get the most “likes.” Typically, she got hundreds within minutes, which gave her great satisfaction. She loved the attention and had become dependent on it for self-confidence boosts.
For Emma and Caroline, social media was the way they determined how they compared to their peers. While their experiences were different, their hearts were the same. They both desperately wanted to know they were okay.
Can you relate?
Have you experienced feelings like Meredith’s, Holly’s, Emma’s, or Caroline’s?
Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others, trying to determine where you measure up and where you don’t?
Have you felt isolated or alone, thinking that your parents wouldn’t understand and your friends don’t have the same problems as you do?
You are not alone! We are all in the same boat. Believe it or not, every one of us is broken and struggling.
Whether you look like you have it all together or you know you don’t, whether you have lots of friends or feel like you don’t have any, whether your family is intact or barely functioning, you can be sure that your peers are experiencing many of the same insecurities and thoughts. The struggles will look different from person to person, but because there is an underlying desire in each of us to be accepted, we all struggle.
I’ve talked with a lot of teens and conducted an informal, online survey that made the reality of our similar struggles very clear. Among the things I discovered:
- Almost 75 percent of the teens surveyed struggle with comparing themselves to others, whether on social media, at school, a social event, or elsewhere.
- Over 50 percent don’t feel like they measure up to their friends. They view their friends as prettier, more popular, wealthier, better dressed, more fun, or just plain cooler in the way they act.
- Fifty percent have felt stressed or depressed because they do not measure up.
- Fifty percent feel a very high level of stress from the pressure to be perfect at everything.
- The majority of those surveyed say they feel alone and cannot talk to their parents about what they are experiencing. Nearly 50 percent say they cannot share openly with their friends.
- Even friends are often viewed as unsafe to talk to because survey respondents fear they will be judged, misunderstood, or not taken seriously. They question whether their friends can be trusted or would even care.
- Half of the teens said they would change something about their appearance if they could; the other half wish they could change something about their personality or abilities.
- Almost everyone feels things must be perfect for them to be happy.
Whoa! Those numbers represent a generation of struggling teenagers and young adults. It’s likely that you identify with these survey responses and your peers do too, whether you think they have it all together or not. My guess is that they, like you, may at times feel alone in their thoughts, afraid to be vulnerable and honest even with friends.
Excerpted from Face Time © 2017 by Kristen Hatton. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission. To purchase this and other helpful resources, please visit www.newgrowthpress.com