I remember my first day of high school. I spent hours choosing just the right outfit and spent hours getting ready. It was high school. I wasn’t a kid anymore. This was the big deal. What I’d waited all these years for. Sure, I was nervous. Would I make new friends? Would I fit in? So, I took a deep breath, and off I went. When I arrived, it was loud and busy and people were everywhere...but they all seemed to know exactly where to go and what to do. All of a sudden, I was terrified. All my plans just vanished. And, I felt like I was smothering. Like I somehow didn’t belong. That little voice in my head whispered, “You can’t do this.” All I wanted to do was get away.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. The teen years are some of the hardest years to navigate. Your body is still changing and maturing. Parts of your brain that help with decision-making are still growing. In fact, a teenage brain undergoes a period of zing that can be quite overwhelming for you and your parents. Yeah, there’s actually a reason teens do things that make parents scratch their heads. Your brain is still maturing. As a teen, you’re between the time of being a kid and being an adult. Add in hormones changing and you’ve got the recipe for an emotional roller coaster no one is prepared for.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can blame bad behavior on your brain. It just means that the part of your brain that is responsible for decision making and being able to see long-term consequences isn’t quite done growing yet. So, sometimes, teens do things that grown-ups know will not end well. It leaves grown-ups wondering, “What did you do that for?” You’re probably nodding your head because you’ve had that very conversation with your parents. We all have.
At the same time, your teen years can be some of the most exciting and carefree times you will have in life. You’ll be experiencing so many things for the first time. You will be learning so much about yourself, about others, and about the world we live in. You’ll be laying the groundwork for the adult you’ll become.
While all this is happening, it is normal to experience some highs and lows, struggles and wins. It’s a common assumption that all teens are moody and aloof and demanding, wanting to be “grown”. There’s actually a name for this phenomenon. It’s called teen angst. It isn’t a mental health condition per se, but rather a period when teens are navigating through all of the changes and stressors involved with maturing. Adults sometimes see this as “just being a teenager” and in some ways, yes. That is exactly what is happening. There’s more though. Angst is a word that means fear, worry, or dread. It stems from feelings of insecurity or apprehension. It’s especially evident in teens because, let’s be honest, the teen years are a period of intense, rapid growth and change. No one is prepared and we all go through it.
What if it didn’t have to be so traumatic and dramatic? What if you could learn to manage your emotions and build a foundation of confidence and strength? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can.
Who Am I?
Hi, I’m Richard Meadows and I was “that” teen. The one who struggled with self-esteem and confidence. The one who wrestled with social anxiety. The one who wanted so desperately to feel ok. I wanted to be able to go places and do things and have that easy-going life I saw so many of my friends living. Did they have their own stressors? Sure. Somehow, mine just felt different. I knew something was different but at the time, I didn’t know what it was. I just felt like I somehow didn’t fit in and trying just left me feeling scared and defeated.
The age-old advice of “just deal with it” wasn’t helpful.
I don’t remember the exact moment, but at some point, I just had enough. I had a choice to make. I could do one of two things:
I could let things stay the same and continue to be a scared, shy, anxious kid who silently wished to be someone else. Or,
I could suck it up and DO something about it.
I started educating myself on what I was experiencing. I read everything I could find. I sought out counseling to help me understand what was happening. I learned that I was dealing with anxiety and I learned what it really looks like, especially for a teen. It’s not all “panic attacks” and being scared to raise my hand in class. It’s so much more. It’s the feelings of insecurity and isolation. It’s the fear of rejection and judgment. It’s not feeling confident in myself to speak my mind and not knowing how to say what I feel. It was all that and so much more. The more I learned, the better I started to feel too. I actually tried the strategies I was learning about. And, you know what? Over time, it helped. A lot.
When I was going through my teen years, there weren’t a lot of resources written just for teens. Most of the books and resources were for adults. While they helped me, they didn’t really speak my language. I wasn’t an adult yet so some of the advice just didn’t apply. A lot of things helped though, and I can say proudly that I made it to adulthood with a better handle on my anxiety and a better understanding.
As I made my way through my teens and into adulthood, I made it my mission to figure out just what all this anxiety was about and more importantly, what I could do about it. I set out on a journey to healing myself and finding what worked. I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to give the next generation what wasn’t available for me.
And that’s how this book was born.
Why This Book and Why Now?
If we all go through these teen struggles and somehow make it to adulthood, you might be wondering, “Well, why this book and why now?” And that’s a legit question. Why now?
You’ve probably heard people say things like:
Kids today have it so easy…
When I was your age…
Back in the day…
You’ve heard it. Probably a lot. I did too. It’s a sentiment that every teen has heard from grown-ups at one time or another, probably from time immemorial. And, like every teen before you, you’ve probably rolled your eyes and thought, “You don’t get it.” And know what? You’re right. They don’t. I don’t. But, not for the reasons you might think. Still, it doesn’t make being a teen any easier or make the grown-ups in your life totally wrong either. In some ways, you’re both right. Let me explain.
The fact is, every generation of teens deals with things the previous generations didn’t. For example, when my dad was a teen, there was no TV, no internet, and no cell phones. Seriously. In my teen years, we had cell phones the size of a brick, and cable TV was the coolest thing to have. The Internet was not a thing yet. My parents thought my musical choices were “trash”, but then their parents thought the same thing about their “rock and roll”.
You are growing up in a time that your parents or grandparents couldn’t have imagined. Teens today are faced with a world of real-time information streams, instant gratification, and social pressures unlike those of previous generations. It’s a different kind of pressure and it’s increasing. Teens report feeling pressure to be perfect in every area and have it all figured out more than ever before. Social media has only added to that pressure. You are the first generation to navigate social media and have to deal with the realities of an online community. Likes and shares and clicks have become a source of validation and support. Teen depression and anxiety are on the rise. The pressure is intense and has implications for your emotional well-being and self-esteem.
I was that teen and I see what today's teens are struggling with. I found what worked for me and I want to share that with you. There’s never been a better time until now.
Why This Book Is Different
Just from my own experience, I found that a lot of books give a ton of vague advice and not a lot of practical stuff you can use. Or they present a lot of complicated techniques and strategies that teens either won’t do or need a therapist to help with. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some great resources out there too. I wanted to share some real deal tips and information that was helpful to me and that I used to get myself to a better place and better manage my own anxiety through my teen years. Basically, it’s a resource written by someone who has been where you are.
How to Use This Book
The book is divided into chapters, each one addressing some aspects of teen life and coping. We start with focusing on the internal parts of you - your personality, and the roles of self-esteem and confidence. We then move to communication which is a big one for teens and adults alike. Being heard is the key to it all. We then take a closer look at the social factors including social media, social anxiety, and dealing with those situations that are most anxiety-provoking. Finally, we’ll explore ways to deal with stress so you can make more time for the fun stuff.
It might surprise you to see that I’ve included a section just for parents. Let’s be real here, your parents are a part of your life and can be a great support. Understanding what you’re interested in and trying to accomplish helps them to support you as you learn new ways of dealing with issues. I know, it’s hard to imagine your mom or dad was ever your age but, trust me, they were. They may have had different experiences, but the wisdom they have gained is ageless and can help you in your own teen experience.
Finally, you’ll find a section with resources that you can use to get help or learn more. I’ve also included tools and templates that can make organizing your journey just a little easier.
There is no right or wrong way to use this book. It all depends on your style of learning and what you’re most comfortable with. You can start at the beginning and read each chapter in order. Or, some people prefer to skim the table of contents and read the chapters that interest them the most first. Either way, the important thing is to read the book. Lots of people buy books and then never actually read them. They then complain that “it didn’t help”. Well, of course, it didn’t if they didn't read it.
We learn by doing.
Throughout each chapter, you’ll find questions that are meant to get you thinking about your own situation, experiences, and ways of coping. You’ll find information and suggestions for new ways of dealing with what’s stressing you. I would suggest keeping a notebook or journal to make notes. I will be asking you to think about some things and sometimes, answer questions. A notebook or journal is a powerful way to keep track of what you’re learning and a way to look back as you continue. The very act of writing also helps you to remember and take in what you’re learning. Your brain will accept what you give it. If you choose not to keep the notebook, that’s ok. This book is not meant to feel like homework. I want this experience to be a good one for you.
At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a “Now It’s Your Turn” section. Here you’ll find a suggested activity or strategy to try based on what was discussed in the chapter. This is where the learning really happens.
We learn in two ways. We learn information by reading, listening, and observing. We also learn by experience - by using what we’ve learned from reading, listening, and observing. The first few (or hundred) times may not go well. That’s ok, if you already know how to do something, why would you need to learn? We master skills through trial and error. We try and fail, try and fail until we try and succeed.
Here’s an example:
Humans aren’t born walking. We have to learn. First, we crawl, then we pull up, and then come to our first steps. You probably don’t remember but in the beginning, you toppled over times before you walked on your own. You were trying and failing until you tried and succeeded. The more you did it, the better you got at it. Over time, you mastered walking. And, you were pretty dang proud.
The same idea holds for anything we learn from riding a bike, to learning to write, to playing baseball…even learning things like communicating, coping skills, and managing emotions. It all starts with a try.
Another way you can use this book is with a trusted friend or adult or even a counselor. Sometimes, we can’t see our own behavior clearly or as others see it. Having a perspective from outside ourselves can be helpful. Of course, at the end of the day, the decisions you make are your own but having another point of view (not someone telling you what to do) can be helpful. If you’re not as confident in yourself as you’d like to be, having someone validate what you’re doing or thinking of doing can be helpful.
I hope that you will find not just practical advice here but also some inspiration. You are living in a time of endless possibilities and exciting advances. The future is yours for the taking. It is my hope that this book gives you one more tool to get you where you want to go and have the life you dream of.
Ready to take that first step? Let’s go!