I am totally and completely aware of “fads” that occur within the culture of our youth. Whether it be viral Tik-Tok videos, popular YouTube streamers, flipping bottles so they land right side up, you name it. The perk of working with a lot of youngsters is that they happily introduce me to all sorts of fads, so I can sound “not like a millennial”, whatever that means.
A recent point of popularity that’s captured my attention is the proclivity to describe oneself as “annoying”. As apart of my therapeutic treatment plan, I assess and encourage exploration of one’s internal narrative, exploring the person they experience themselves to be. It is also easily the most uncomfortable dialogue for a kiddo to sit with. The most common deflection of this exploration is “oh, I’m annoying”.
Since when did it become conventional for our youth to paint themselves in such a defeating light? To identify most closely with “annoying”, is like asking yourself to run a marathon without shoes. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and all too awkward. I find myself looking around for the culprit of this popular point of identification.
Is it within the parent’s culture to communicate the message “you’re annoying, stop behaving like a child”? To be fair, it’s quite the fad for parents to post pictures of their children rocking fashionable clothes, obtaining certain achievements, and overall, not embracing the silliness children are meant to embody all over Facebook and Instagram. Rarely do we see posts about quirky interactions between youngsters, emotionally unregulated outbursts, or the “oopsies” that notoriously plague the art of growing up. The obnoxious part about this fad is that it could rob kiddos from the privilege of being, well, youngsters.
Or perhaps the culprit is the culture of our education system. The ever-increasing plight to stuff our youth into a metaphorical box of complacency and average test scores. If you have never heard about the Common Core Standards, consider yourself lucky, or perhaps naïve to the strict nature of our education culture. It’s chalk full of “shoulds” and ineffective curricula that has cost America billions. Teachers have been placed under insurmountable pressure to embrace this ineffective model of teaching, which has left them utterly exhausted and burnt out. This is when I begin to hear sounds of impatience with our kiddos in the classroom, which fuels an internal dialogue of “I’m annoying if I have unmet needs or am confused”. Questions are not encouraged in our classrooms anymore. Only stringent cooperation.
So, let’s see here. We’ve got trend-seeking parents, conformity-fueled education systems, and youth hyper-focused on their social media portrayal. Where in the World is there room for childhood? For the messiness that is meant to inspire growth-oriented humans? For the generation of uniqueness and the encouragement to embrace all that comes with growing into well-adjusted and functioning adults? I certainly don’t see much wiggle room.
It’s a therapeutic point I strive to foster as a clinician that I generate a space dedicated for room to explore what it means to be the client. The child. The human. I am passionate on cultivating a safe and inviting space for the messiness of self-exploration and identification. It is extremely vital to a kiddo’s development to be given grace for the oopsies, validation for the hardships of being a little person existing in an expansive World, and room to figure out how they want to be known, not only to others but themselves. We must meet our children where they are at first and foremost. Set the trendsetting drive aside for the time being and recognize childhood is hard. Realistic expectations have evolved into idealistic expectations, and it’s no wonder mental health deterioration is currently plaguing our youth.
Friendly reminder that “annoying” is an adjective attached to behavior, not the essence of a person.
Sure, humans have a capacity to illustrate annoying behaviors from time to time. However, leaning on and adopting the trait of annoyance is like waving the white flag of defeat. Dig deep, my beautifully imperfect humans, as you are far more worthy than “annoying” allows you to take credit for. Challenge the blanket terms our World’s culture pressures us into accepting as our truth. We are meant to recognize and embrace our complexity, not the all-or-nothing “fads” tied throughout idealistic expectations.