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Personal Stories

Societal Standards & the complexity of teen life

Every society has a set of standards to which it is expected that its members will conform. A common occurrence in my life is having that fear inside about what they will think if I am unable to accomplish those standards. This crippling anxiety inside occurs when I sit down and try to relax or when I’m watching a series or a movie. It escalates to the point where nothing makes sense and I have the feeling that whatever I do, it is not going to amount to anything. 

It is common in Indian society for people to have certain expectations and the worst part is that it is always gender related. My mistake in this process is being a progressive-thinking person. I was very open-minded in every aspect, which was not liked by some people. The question which always ran in my mind was, “Why are these few people affecting my mental process?” If I had the answer to that question, everything would have been better, right? Or what if we lived in a society where people just accepted everyone for who they are? Wouldn’t all of us be living in a less toxic, safer and a more inclusive environment by now?

Some quick background: I am going to pursue law, and to do that, one must enroll themselves into CLAT (common law admission test). I applied for CLAT, and another private law college, and during that time, everyone used to say that I would surely get into the private school. That was the first time I felt pressure to show society that I had accomplished something.

The day of the interview came and I became so nervous that my mind went pitch black. I did not answer any of the questions properly. I just shut my laptop and cried. I could not breathe. When I told my parents, my father told me there were so many other options, but the only thing going around my mind was: “How am I supposed to tell people that I did not get into the university?”

As every teenager can relate, it is very hard carrying that burden in the family, especially in my case.

I come from a family where my cousins are either much older than me or way younger, so it only makes sense that I am kind of like the middle child there. I never felt I fit in with either side of the family because I cannot act like my older cousins or my younger ones. But I always wanted to fit into my family somehow. The main reason I was so desperate to fit in was because in school I genuinely did not know if anyone liked me. I only had a handful of people whom I was comfortable with. When the lockdown was imposed, I wanted to reconnect with my peers, but after a while I stopped trying.

I used to envy when my other batch mates would hang out with their groups, and sometimes I even felt lonely and ashamed to tell other people I didn’t have that. I had a complicated high school experience. Although I can’t deny there were happy moments, incidents of bullying always made me feel a hole inside. I thought the feelings I felt were normal, and I never reached out to someone.

I could not move on from the fact that I got rejected from the university and at times I was completely burnt out. I would either sleep, binge watch a series, or have a breakdown about the fact that I did not want to move forward and prepare for my next objective (CLAT). There were sleepless nights where I would have anxiety and stress about what would happen if I did not get into any college. I had to endure all of this just because I put the expectations of society in front of me. I put the unrealistic standards of society (which is pretty normal and generalized to other students as well) in front of me, and it resulted in me having a negative mindset.

There are so many other things as well, starting from how you look to what you wear. Everything is always questioned by people. Especially by your family members. For example, I am a person who strongly believes that makeup is not a necessity for myself. All I want is to feel comfortable in my own skin, but spoiler alert- the others will make sure you don’t. From constantly wearing makeup every time I go out, to eating less than what is necessary to make sure I reduce my weight, this lockdown has been an eye opener to so many things around me. I just realized that at the end of the day, people are always going to judge you for every action and step you take. But it is completely up to you whether you put yourself first, or the expectations of a judgmental society.  

This is my complicated teenage era that I went through and am still going through. But everything to me was a learning process. I feel that because of this I changed myself for the better every day. Now it feels that everything around me is clearer: I have my family and my handful of friends. Numbers do not matter anymore. There were times when I felt like giving up. Times when pushing people away was normal. But one of the biggest mistakes I made was not reaching out to anyone about it. So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to reach out to a person whom you trust and love. Whatever the situation, feelings are yours, you have the right to feel that certain way, and there is nothing stopping you from reaching out.

Written by Ann.

Edited by Miriam Itzkowitz and Tiffany Leveille.

Graphics by Tiffany Leveille.