Help young adults to be less hard on themselves

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Under headings such as #burnt out and with alarming headlines about the u2018common disease of a new generationu20191, there is a lot of attention in the media for the mental pressure experienced among young adults.

That it is precisely this group that comes into contact with it , may sound crazy. In the image, their stage of life is often equal to the freedom to shape one’s own life, after the strict frameworks of parents, upbringing and school.

Individual approach does not solve social causes
Many young adults themselves experience this phase differently. For them, it is mainly about meeting high expectations: getting good grades, building a resume and a flashy career restart in addition to a rich social life. And that creates pressure.

The solution is therefore quickly sought in tackling the u2018innerworldu2019 of young adults, for example with yoga, mindfulness, psychological counseling or medication within the medical circuit. This can be of value to individuals. Nevertheless, a one-sided focus could also lead to an unwanted medicalization of feelings that are actually normal for the phase of life in which someone finds themselves. In any case, this perspective does not solve the underlying social causes of individual bottlenecks. It therefore remains, as it were, mopping with the tap open.

It is difficult to escape the one-sided standards
The situations of young adults differ enormously. It is pre-eminently a phase of development, searching, freedom and uncertainty. That quest looks different for everyone.

Even so, from an early age everyone’s functioning has been measured against one-sided, compelling standards u2013 at school, the labor market, but also on social media. They demand a certain way of performing, which is not obvious to everyone, and it is difficult to avoid it. You2018 seem like normal normsu2019 that are little questioned, and that are sometimes pushed to the impossible in competition.

The social tendency towards individualization plays an important role here: the reflex to solve it yourself by improving appears to be greater than collectively questioning prevailing norms.

The search for personal interpretation of life disappears
It means that young adults invest their energy in meeting these external standards. After all, they are clear and they see them everywhere around them. The search for a personal interpretation of life, appropriate to one’s own qualities, situation and imperfections, so closely linked to young adulthood, fades into the background.

After all, that can be a laborious process of trial and error that takes time and takes effort. However, it does mean that differences between people are ignored instead of being brought to justice. And that gloomy, insecure and hesitant feelings, which can also be part of life, become something abnormal. This increases the risk of drop-out or unwanted medicalisation afterwards.2

There must be more room and appreciation for pluralism
This mismatch between the rigid, one-sided social standard for functioning on the one hand and the precisely large diversity among young adults, on the other hand, requires a structural approach. In short, there should be more space and appreciation for multiform ways of functioning.

Show that there are several ways

Firstly by questioning oppressive standards. This can be done, for example, by showing that there is not just one way of functioning that is excellent, but that this is precisely multiform and context-bound, depending on someone’s personal situation, qualities and imperfections. Regardless of whether or not others do u2018betteru2019, and regardless of whether this satisfies u2018how something shouldu2019.

Teach them to think about their own lives

Secondly by facilitating that children and young people learn the skills to consciously relate to external expectations, to make their own choices and to set limits. That is, encouraging them to think about how they want to shape their own lives. For example, schools can pay more attention to personal development and provide subjects such as labor market science and career choice. Employers can contribute by working more with apprentice-apprentice relationships in the workplace or with active coaching and intervision.

Appreciate differences

And thirdly, by using benchmarks that are better able to appreciate his differences. Educational institutions can play a role in this by selecting and assessing in different ways. Not only on the basis of figures or via a fixed, written test or assessment moment, but making use of multiple sources of information and personal conversations. by, for example, selecting and assessing more on the basis of personality and competence instead of grade lists and assessments.

But don’t make the problem too big
Feelings of uncertainty are part of the young adulthood. Finally, a warning not to exaggerate the problem of mental pressure among young adults is therefore appropriate.

By elevating the discussion to a social level, we want to help individual bottlenecks for his and young adults to deal with this phase in their lives.

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