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Generation Zers Are Facing A Burnout Crisis. It's Our Own Fault.

(Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, Pool)

I often talk with other Generation Zers about how they’ve taken on too many responsibilities, especially students and young professionals who have an irrational fear of falling behind.

College students, in particular, feel the need to balance internships, jobs, clubs, and an excessive amount of course credits — many times without actually needing to do so.

The reality of the situation is that the more responsibilities young people try to place on themselves, especially if there is no necessary familial or financial need to do so, the less likely they are to succeed at any one thing. Even worse, their personal well-being is compromised.

Somewhere in between the “you are special” craze of the 1990s/early 2000s and now, the line between challenging yourself and overworking became disturbingly blurred. In the post-lockdown era, young people are now scrambling to “catch up” in order to meet an arbitrary standard as opposed to discovering God’s purpose for their lives.

In my sophomore and senior year of high school, I dealt with severe burnout. The first time had to do with my ridiculous level of involvement in my school’s theater department, and the second time was when I worked for a state Senator’s re-election campaign in the hotly competitive Orange County, Calif.

While I would love to pretend that I was able to balance everything perfectly, the truth is that I quit my campaign job two weeks before the election because I could not handle the high-pressure environment. I decided to lean more heavily into freelance writing, which works out well for me as a full-time student. It also finally gave me the chance to breathe and take time for other priorities in my life, and I had not done that in a while.

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There are a few hard truths for Generation Z to come to terms with, and the first is that you are only in competition with yourself. Sure, you might feel jealousy regarding somebody’s personal or professional accomplishments, but that is not going to help you pursue your own goals. Social media is fantastic at portraying a false notion of prosperity, even though everyone is secretly fighting their own battles offline.

Another hard truth is that Generation Z (and Millenials) have the knives out for each other because of the illusion of competition. If someone is truly successful, they want other people to experience their own success too. Intentionally giving someone bad advice or gatekeeping them from opportunities is not worth it, and there is almost no gain from trying to take your peers down a peg. I’ve been doing things in the politics and media sphere for a few years now, and in that short time frame, I’ve learned that it’s always the people much older than me who have had my back, not the ones who are in the same age group. It’s sad but true.

We’ve created this culture and now we are facing the consequences.

The point is this: We should not be wasting the prime years of our life in a ridiculous rat race on the off chance we will receive a fancy title or social capital one day. There is a difference between working hard and overexerting oneself, and that difference is a mix of spirituality and focus. Developing authentic friendships and relationships with others will be much more valuable than another so-called “resume builder” (pro tip: if the only reason you’re doing something is that it will “look good on a resume”, rethink that commitment).

Pushing yourself too hard, too soon is no substitute for slow, stable growth. So keep your head up and take care of yourself, snowflake. You’re doing enough.