James Hock - MRH Faculty
Why the “Romanticize Your Life” Notion is Harmful to Teen Mental Health
By Mason Z
Eating breakfast and doing your homework are everyday tasks that the “romanticize your life” idea tries to turn into enjoyable activities. The simple task of eating breakfast each morning should be substituted with going to a coffee shop or bakery. Make studying more pleasant with mood-setting music, a nice cup of tea, and neat, color-coordinated notes. Romanticizing your life, or as the more well-known trend across social media called “being the main character,” all sound like great alternatives to turn these boring tasks into delightful experiences, but it is ultimately harmful to society as a whole, and especially to teen mental health because of its usage in mental illnesses, how the media portrays mental health, and the overall exclusivity of this idea.
To Romanticize is, by definition, to “deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is.” The idea of “romanticizing your life” or acting like the “main character” is pretending your life is great, even when it is not. Not only is this harmful for a multitude of reasons, but specifically it is harmful for teen mental health. Now more than ever mental health experts have seen an exponential increase in rates of depression, according to Mental Health America (mhanational.org). Over 2.3 million teens struggle with depression as of 2021- and those are only diagnosed cases. This trend of turning your hardships into bliss is promoting teens to pretend they are happy because being unhappy is “wrong,” or not a way you should be living your life. This notion even extends to glamorizing or romanticizing mental health. This is largely because of television and media. The once stigmatized idea of a society struggling with mental health issues has now entered a new era of many being open and sharing their own struggles. This has also bled into many television shows and movies where the main character has a mental illness, but it is being portrayed completely wrong. Shows like 13 Reasons Why or American Horror Story and movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower portrayed mental health in a way that introduces friendships, relationships, and fame into the mix.
After Hannah Baker’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why it showcased many people that were close to her crying and upset about her death, and her crush finally realizing he loved her post-death, ultimatly telling vulnerable teens that the only way to get people to care about you is to kill yourself. This is obviously sending the wrong message. Season one of American Horror Story tells a tragic love story of two teens, Violet and Tate. Tate was a school shooter and Violet is a girl with severe depression. This dynamic gives off the impression of a romantic relationship revolving around mental illness, and how two broken people can “fix each other and fall in love.” Perks of Being a Wallflower provides many great conversations about mental health, but portrays it in a “coming of age manner” that lacks proper representation, and glosses over possible important messages. The movie has now become an “edgy movie” that serves as the basis for many “relatable teen quotes.” The reality is that the majority of youth struggle with mental health, and it is important for that to be destigmatized. The misrepresentation in the media alongside the glamorizing and romanticizing trends on social media are extremely harmful to those vulnerable teens.
The “Romanticizing Your Life” notion is not only harmful to teen mental health, but it promotes ideas exclusive to certain groups of people such as those who are wealthy and pretty by modern day social standards. This notion of being the main character promotes a dangerous idea: if you are always presentable, wearing a lot of makeup, and wearing expensive clothes that are “trendy,” you will, in turn, be a happier person. I would argue that this does the complete opposite; teens feel pressured by trends like “romanticize your life” to look or act a certain way. Setting these unrealistic standards for teens only fuels the idea that if you don’t look like the main characters you see on screen, you won’t be happy or content in your overall life. The many ideas presented in these notions involve money and materialistic items as well. For example, my morning breakfast isn’t just eating what I have at home, but it is going out to places like Starbucks and getting an overpriced mocha and a blueberry muffin. If I want to be accepted by my peers and make friends, I have to go out and buy the trendiest outfits only for it to be outdated in a week. The “romanticize your life'' trend is not some shortcut to be happier overall because of its exclusivity to certain social classes and attractiveness standards.
The “romanticize your life” trend/notion, while overall being a very negative and harmful practice, does have many possible upsides. If a person is worried about procrastination or productivity in their everyday life, a possible solution could be the “romanticizing your life” thinking pattern. People tend to be more productive when they are happy with who they are and what they are doing. Some could argue that romanticizing your life is a way to achieve self love and that happiness is a choice. Putting yourself in a happier mindset, even when your life isn’t reflecting that, can be a way to escape reality- much like television, books, and music being forms of escapism. Romanticizing your life does have some upsides, and I believe that partially implementing it into your life can be beneficial, but it shouldn’t be the focal point of your life.
From everyday, mundane tasks to mental health, the “romanticize your life” trend/notion is harmful and dangerous to teens and teen mental health because of its implementation in mental illnesses, how the media portrays mental health, and the exclusivity this idea presents. Romanticizing your life can be beneficial to some degree, and for short periods of time, but acting as if your life is a performance, pretending your life is great even when its not, following unrealistic beauty standards that social media perpetuates, and supporting and promoting false media representation regarding mental health is just making the youth depression epidemic much worse. It promotes unhealthy thinking habits and behavior patterns that can only lead to more problems.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Help is available.
Call (1-800-273-8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
Photo Credits: (Maria Swiatkowski)