I was in Starbucks this morning and noticed the heading on the front of today’s “i” newspaper. “Youngsters trapped in a ‘toxic climate'” Given that I automatically agreed with these six words I splurged 20p and bought the paper.
According to Ian Johnston’s article, we are living in a world in which children “skip meals to stay thin, get bombarded by porn, are bullied and fear they will be failures amid a continuous onslaught of stress”. In short, “the UK is sitting on a mental health time bomb” due to the “pressures of modern-day life”. I wholeheartedly agree with Johnston, but I don’t wish to reiterate his point. If you want to read his entire analysis, click here. The argument that I have developed from this article is that the situation Johnston says children are immersed in today is not by any means applicable to JUST children.
I am a child of the 80s and I turned 30 in the first week of January. And the reason that children today are being brought up in this supposed toxic climate is because my generation created it. They are victims of the idealogical behaviour of me and my peers. If I review my 20s, there were plenty of fantastic times, but these were all set against a backdrop of panic, stress, desperation, concern, competitiveness and pressure. Most of this, admittedly, was self-inflicted, but this infliction was often because of external influence.
I was a push-over at school. I went to an all boys school, God help me, which contained more bitches than the neighbouring girls’ school. I was over-shadowed by an inbred mass of loud, abrasive young men who were all clambering to find their voice and insist that it be heard. I kept my mouth shut. I left this unhealthy environment behind and sauntered off into my 20s, where I was actually able to develop my own personality and have a voice. The issue, though, is that my inner voice (now it’s my outer voice) has always been very Type A. I am driven, rigidly organised, obsessive, status-hungry, sensitive, bluntly truthful, impatient, desperate to be challenged, pro-active, short-fused and I pity those with a lack of want. Some of these traits are great, some are detrimental. This kind of personality is so apparent in my generation, I believe it has created the toxic atmosphere that today’s children are being nudged into. Johnston talks about the mental problems that 1 in 10 children today face, but it is screamingly evident in those in their 20s and 30s right now. We have set the bar, at the expense of our own sanity, and the poor kids of the 90s and naughties are being told to raise it.
What makes me laugh is that my age group are all still behaving as if we were in the playground. I’m guilty of it. Often, in recent years, I have been an overt bully. My lack of patience with those who don’t have the same cut-throat attitudes as me have landed me in the dog-house. This is because my peers and I have created this society in which we are constantly sniping at one another, trying to better those around us. I am constantly striving for perfection, but my idea of perfection is not the same as others’. I work in an industry that I had always wanted to, but I am always trying to up my game and achieve a higher level of success. This is my ultimate goal. The constant barrage of media around us both spurs me on and irritates me to a degree that I have to be involved in it somehow (why else would I write a blog?) I clash with those who want to be home-makers. It’s not my bag. One day it will be, possibly, but while I’m in my prime I am desperate to rinse every last drip of liquid from my sponge of professional ambition. And when something doesn’t work out, I flatline a bit. My generation are very easily depressed, because we are all striving for this poisonous perfection. If you want a kid, and you’re a 30-year-old woman with no man, you will be feeling horrendous about it, I’m sure. The same applies to a 30-year-old lawyer who wanted to make partner by that age. We will spiral downward because of the pressure our own generation have put on ourselves.
Facebook was created by my generation. And it is an adult’s school yard. I am one of the lucky ones that have neither my Mum or Dad on it. And when I talk to them about it, they don’t get it. I use it to publicise this blog, share the odd sardonic comment here and there. Others use it to jab at one another. This is what my parents don’t understand about it. This phenomena is a product of my generation, and I’m sure that millions of 30-somethings out there are muttering “why didn’t I think of that – I want Mark Zuckerberg’s billions so I can have a nice house and be famous”. I know I’m thinking that. He was born 4 months after me, damn him! But essentially, this platform is no longer about arranging coffee dates and wishing people happy birthday; it’s about trying to outdo one another at every possible opportunity. It’s like we’re back in school and it is most certainly toxic.
If there’s a mental health problem in this country it’s only because we are victims of our own desperation. Sadly though, it does exist. A lot of people don’t really understand it, which is a shame. A lot of people think that if you have suffered some sort of self-pressurized obsession then you can be magically cured with a good old-fashioned talking to. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. We are human, not robots, but we treat ourselves like robots and are expected to behave as such, in order to please ourselves and/or please everyone around us to the degree they want to be pleased. Personally I will always be striving for ultimate achievement. This isn’t always a good thing though, and what’s sad is that if I had a child right now I’d probably shove it on to the nearest tennis court as soon as it could hold a racket, instructing it that one day it will be the next star of Wimbledon. Thing is, I am a product of my generation, and that’s just how I am. Fear of failure is good – we SHOULD be afraid! It’s eat or be eaten.