“Society ensures Generation Z to feel pressure from an early age on”

Story and photo by Hedwig

Kim Jansen is a social psychologist and generation expert. She is fascinated by the theme ‘generations’ and in particular, the youngest Generation Y and Z. According to Kim, the uncertain times in which Generation Z are growing up and the way they are raised, plays a big role in the stress they experience. “Generation Z knows that they have to work hard to get a job, buy a house, and even have a life on this planet.”

To understand what causes Generation Z to stress and how to deal with this, according to Kim you first need to know who Generation Z is and why they are the way they are. “Generation Z is growing up in a time of uncertainty with an economic, climate, and corona crisis, a lot of terrorism and a rapid digitisation that brings along dangers,” Kim says that this has a significant impact on Generation Z’s development. “Generation Y and Millennials grew up in a time when anything was possible, but Generation Z realises that they are not going to have better chances than their parents and that they have to work hard to get a good job, buy a house, and for that matter, have a life on this planet at all. They are realistic, insecure, and quite serious.”

Generation Z is very aware of what is happening around them because they are growing up in a digital world where all information is laid out for them, and where it is also difficult to shield yourself from negative news. “Besides, they are taught by their parents that not everyone can be trusted and that they must think for themselves and remain critical. This has made Generation Z very suspicious and there is a feeling of unsafety among the youth,” says Kim. Generation Z’s suspicion of others has resulted in an individualistic society. People have gotten more concerned with themselves. According to Kim, this has advantages, such as that you can organise your life exactly the way you want it without others holding you back, but it can also be lonely. “All of this creates uncertainty and anxiety.”

“Yes, it is nice that you can organise your life the way you want it, but it comes along with a burden,” Kim repeats, “Generation Z feels like they have to live the absolute best life they can. The pressure to perform and the competition among young people is therefore extremely high.” She says this starts at a young age when Generation Z receives school reports. Because of this, they have to think about the future very early in their lives and think about what they want to be when they grow up. “And because of the school report, they start comparing themselves with their classmates. Next to that, they compare themselves to others on social media.” Kim gives the example of seeing friends on Instagram that go on holidays and go to festivals while you are at home, which creates a lot of dissatisfaction. “So society ensures Generation Z to feel pressure from an early age on. It is no surprise that 14 percent of the younger generation and 25 percent of students experience symptoms from burnouts and a lot of them show symptoms of depression.”

Besides comparing with others, social media comes with another disadvantage. Social media has made us forget how to do nothing for a while. “It is important that we can relax and ‘recharge’ after all the stimuli of the day. But instead of doing nothing, Generation Z looks on their phones and receives even more stimuli,” Kim says, “Technological developments have gone so fast that we do not yet know how to deal with them sustainably.”

Because Generation Z is growing up in uncertain times, 81 percent is looking for certainty in a job and they need good guidance in their work. “In general, Generation Z receives more attention from their parents than, say, Generation X received and thus find it harder to learn how to stand on their own.” Kim adds: “They want to work at an organisation with the same values, and informal culture and where they can make a difference. If none of this is there and there is no good guidance, Generation Z will experience a huge energy leak and that also causes stress.”

According to Kim, to avoid experiencing too much stress, it is important to have self-knowledge. “Only when you know who you are, can you know what you need to stay in balance. So ask yourself critical questions, such as: who am I? What do I want? What do I need to relax and what gives me energy? You also gain self-knowledge by gaining experiences and by making mistakes, as long as you reflect on yourself. There are also many tips to give on a specific level, such as going to sleep on time or eating healthy, but you have to know what works for you. This is different for everyone.”