My Youth Resilience Theory
I hear this statement all the time. “The youth today are not as resilient as we were”. For a period of time I kind of believed this, I would look at how I grew up, the adversities that I faced and went through. I would look at how I turned out so to speak, comparing myself to todays youth.
To understand whether todays youth are more or less or as resilient as previous generations. You need to understand what resilience is and not just the generic definition. The majority of individuals believe resilience to be bouncing back, that is what is taught in most schools and that is the most common answer I receive in my workshops and presentations.
Resilience to a certain degree is about bouncing back. From my life experience and education, I have come to understand resilience as overcoming adversity and working through adversity without giving up, its about becoming adaptable to your situation. Life is always going to present us with challenges, hard times, sad times, and bloody tough times.
I have learnt we (including me) focus on trying to stop these life adversities from ever happening. Instead I have learnt to focus on what we can control and that is learning to work through and overcome these adversities. Learning to develop and implement coping strategies and support networks to assist you in overcoming these life adversities. Being resilient is about becoming adaptable to your situation adaptable to your adversity. Just like an animal becomes adaptable to its surroundings to protect itself from a predator.
Too often we get stuck in the struggle and the adversity and don’t see past that. I have been there and done that. We do not have any foresight or perspective. We have our blinkers on and don’t see anything other than the struggle that is in front of us. This is when we can feel like we are banging our head against the wall. When we go through a life adversity and we begin to struggle, we nearly always (not everyone) focus on the struggle and just do our best to ride it out. Sometimes we turn to alcohol, drugs, anger and different vices to help us through it and ease the pain. This from my own experiences sometimes makes things worse and a lot harder.
So now we understand what resilience is let’s unpack my theory and understand whether our youth are more, less or as resilient as previous generations.
My theory is, I believe that our youth are resilient, are adaptable and do possess the capabilities of overcoming different life adversities but the landscape, the game and the rules have changed. My theory has 2 parts.
If we look at all the different generations for the last say thousand years. Every generation has been faced with its own struggles, inventions and developments. Some of the greatest inventions and developments of the last thousand years include
1. Electric Light – 1879
2. Printing press - 1450
3. Automobile – 1885
4. Telephone – 1876
5. Radio and television – 1895 & 1926
6. Vaccination – 1796
7. Airplane – 1903
8. Gas powered tractor – 1892
9. Anaesthesia – 1844
10. Computer – 1939
All these inventions and developments changed the world and the landscape of the world in their own unique way. They changed the world forever, the way in which it functions and the way in which every man women and child interact in it.
Some of the biggest challenges of the last 1000 years include, war, disease, revolution, violence, invasion, depression, drought and natural disasters. These challengers also have shaped the world we know today and it has also changed and shaped the people that live in it.
BUT these changes, challengers, inventions and developments have not changed the world the way in which the internet has. The internet being created in the 90’s was a revolutionary technological advancement that has changed the world and everything in it forever.
Children today have more stimulation than ever before, social media, gaming, google, apps, websites, every bit of information you could ever want is all online. This stimulation has impacted everyone differently, some in a positive way and some in a negative way.
These impacts have also created different issues and adversities that are going to have evolutionary impacts on individuals. If we all just bury our head in the sand and pretend like nothing is happening, we will be in a very bad predicament.
The statement “the youth aren’t as resilient as we used to be” is an ignorant un informed one. If you looked at an 18-year-old of 30 years ago and looked at what they had on their plate compared to what an 18-year-old has on their plate today, the 2 are going to be very different.
The 18-year-old of today has so much more on their plate including social media, career pressures, parental expectations, self expectations, higher risk of a mental health issue and suicide. (Suicide being the leading cause of death of individuals aged 15 - 45 years & 50 % of young people experiencing a mental health issue do not seek professional help and just suffer in silence).
Society pressures (where they fit in), relationships now more online and less interaction in person. Bullying, school / university pressures and increasing work loads. Financial pressures, pressure to get into an un affordable housing market, easy access to drugs and alcohol and trying to find and understand their sexuality.
I understand that the 18-year-old of 30 years ago was still faced with a lot of these similar pressures but these similar pressures in todays landscape have been amplified.
Social media I believe is one of the main catalysts in creating and increasing pressures and expectations. Every aspect of an individual’s life is now documented on any or all of the social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. Now I use 3 out of the 4 of them mainly for business and personal brand and the use of social media in the right way is very positive and beneficial. But for a naive, ignorant, in experienced 18-year-old it can be a daunting, scary place.
Everything they see on social media they believe is real. Perception is reality right? A young 18-year-old girl seeing photo after photo and video after video of other older women wearing next to nothing posing, showing off their attributes all for likes comments and a sense of fulfilment. A young women thinking and believing she has to act in that way otherwise she is not a real woman. It’s a harsh reality.
On the other hand, a young 18-year-old boy at school could be having altercations with other boys. They could end up in an incident, 30 years ago the incident would have stopped there or at least once you walked out of the school gates. In todays society the bullying or incident continues 24 /7 via social media. It is relentless and destroys young peoples lives, I have seen it happen first hand.
Another big issue that is facing young people is the deconstruction of the family unit. 51 % of all marriages now end in divorce. This breakdown of the family unit has a massive impact on a young person or persons. For when the marriage breaks down the adults are usually consumed with their own grief, sadness and emotional struggle and the kids are sometimes forgotten about or are put in situations where they have to become adults very quickly.
This adds to the already full plate of the young person. In addition, with all the other struggles, adversities and expectations not having that sense of family that sense belonging leaves a void that can be very damaging and can be the catalyst for future mental health struggles. I’ve experienced this first hand within my own journey.
How many families would sit down around a dinner table and share a meal and a real caring conversation. I don’t believe many do. This is a past time although very traditional that aids in filling that need of belonging, being cared for and being part of a family. We as humans are social beings and from an evolutionary level need to belong and be a part of something and it starts with the family.
So with these new added pressures, expectations (also the similar but amplified adversities and struggles of the past) the youth of today have more to deal with, more to process and the landscape and the rules have changed. But what hasn’t changed is the way we combat, deal with and try and work through these adversities, pressures and expectations.
We as a society are slowly changing the way in which we support our struggling youth. Just know that we can’t have the biggest technological advancement of the last 100 million years happen and watch the impacts that it has had and try and work through it with old school mindsets, strategies and perceptions. We are just setting ourselves and everyone else up to fail. We are all working through this new landscape together. We are all trying to find our place and navigate our own journey. The youth are also on this journey, but don’t have the experience, hindsight and learnings of past experiences to help them get through it. So although we are still trying to find our way, we need to understand so are they. So saying they are not as resilient is a selfish, opinionated comment that can have damaging ramifications.
So the youth of today are not less resilient than past generations. They are just as resilient but they are navigating a new tougher landscape, with new terrain but using an old map with old directions. They just need a new map with some new directions, signs and paths and they will adapt to their situations and will work through and overcome these adversities without giving up.