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Opinion: Teen Anxiety Results from Stifled Self-Expression

Over Interim Week, Athens Academy students watched the movie Angst, which seeks to raise awareness about anxiety.

Teens all around the world face a lot of anxieties. One cause of anxiety is that they have trouble expressing their opinion. Students get anxious when they feel their voices are not being heard; they get lost when they only keep their ideas to themselves.

Imagine you are in a math class and the teacher is talking about a challenging problem to which 95% of the class doesn’t know the answer. However, you are in that 5% of people. You write the answer on the sketch paper and get ready to raise your hand. Suddenly, you feel unsure about that number you just got. What if I am wrong? Even though the calculation process is perfect, you still think there is a chance to make a mistake. When you look at the number again, it does not look right. Finally, you put down your hand. When the teacher reveals the answer, you look at the exact same number on the sketch paper and think: I should have shouted out the answer earlier! But everything is too late!

There are a lot of students, between the age of 13 and 18, who have suffered through a similar situation. Most of them would say, I think I can do it next time. But next time, the same thing happens.

Students worry about other people’s opinions and doubt themselves. If my answers are wrong, my opinions are different from others, what will they think of me? I absolutely don’t want to be the special one! As a teenager, students always feel insecure about their relationships. In order to be a part of the community, they must be same as everyone else; in order to maintain the relationship, they must lose some of their own identities, so they keep their opinions to themselves. Also, they have a hard time believing in themselves. This might be because they have been seen as untrustworthy by adults or friends. Some parents love to say things like: “You will understand it when you are older. Now just do what I told you to do.” As time passes, students will start questioning themselves and choose to blindly follow other people. After all, they do not think they can be understood. My parents and my classmates cannot understand me, so I am the weird kid. I better just keep my mouth shut because nobody knows what I am talking about anyway. However, this kind of idea can lead to severe anxiety and depression.

As a result, students are anxious about themselves and get lost. They choose to be a coward, like a turtle retracting their heads into the shells. They stay in their little comfort zone and never catch the chance to express their true self. But would they be happy with that? The answer is no. A long period of time of constraining their honest opinion causes losing the ability to think and becoming anxious about not being understood.

The solution to deal with this is listening to other people and communicating with a small group of people. Listening to different ideas and thoughts can help students to think. They will have more things to share and have a desire to share. Starting to talk to one person or a small group of people can help. They would not consider themselves different, because the person they talk to has a different opinion from others too. In this case, two people both have their own ideas. Since there are only two or three people, they do not need to worry that they are different from everyone else. After several communications like that, they might find themselves be able to regain some confidence. Once students believe in themselves, other difficulties are just a piece of cake. Remember, you are always the strongest defense for yourself.

For people who suffer from anxieties, to be able to face their anxieties is the hardest part. Nevertheless, this can be done if you put on your armor and believe in yourself, and once you do that, life gets easier.