Lost in the dream: the fantasy epidemic

It’s time to escape the fantasy land and adopt a more grounded strategy for success

Nishwa Tasavvar May 15, 2024


In a society where success is frequently defined by the scope of one’s goals, the younger generation is sliding into a fantasy trap. The idea that if you can imagine it, you can accomplish it has become a catchphrase, but what happens when imagination trumps reality? Let us take a voyage inside the brains of today’s young, where overconfidence meets overstimulation, to investigate the underlying reasons and potential answers to this developing problem.

Young people are inundated with images of success from an early age, whether it’s social media influencers displaying their beautiful lifestyles or self-help gurus touting the secret to reaching your ambitions. The pressure to succeed has never been greater, and with it comes the tendency to overemphasize what success looks like.

The figures present a grim picture: in Pakistan alone, suicide rates among young people were dangerously high in 2019, with 8.9 suicides per 100,000 people. The pressure to achieve academically, combined with growing living costs and a continual onslaught of unreasonable expectations, is having a negative impact on young people’s mental health.

But why do young people fall into the temptation of fantasy? Perhaps it’s the perception that success is merely a pipedream, driven by a culture that celebrates overnight success and fast pleasure. Perhaps it’s the fear of losing out on the glossy lives represented on social media that motivates young people to pursue unachievable goals.

In the big theater of life, where the drama of desire and accomplishment never ends, the youthful generation is thrown onto the stage, overwhelmed with the glaring glare of expectations and the loud applause of cultural conventions. But beyond the sparkling facade of prospects lurks a deadly truth: the pressure to start a job from birth is more than simply a demanding endeavour; it’s a relentless beast nibbling away at our youth’s mental health.

Consider this scenario: a classroom full of eager minds, not thirsty for education, but ravenous for grades. In this bizarre world, the pursuit of education has deteriorated into a high-stakes game in which success is evaluated not by depth of learning, but by the letters on a report card. The young scholars, chained by performance measures, are drowning under the weight of expectations. As if that weren’t enough, the coming cost-of-living problem adds another layer of dread to our youth’s already heavy burdens. While adults deal with growing pricing and economic volatility, the younger generation is forced to navigate a world where even essentials are too expensive. Imagine being a youngster and worried about putting food on the table instead of playing in the sun.

But wait — there’s more! In the age of quick gratification and social media glitz, the appeal of success has evolved. Our kids are no longer satisfied with the slow burn of hard labour and persistence; instead, they are enticed by the promise of instant success and luxurious lives. Europe travels and luxury living become the holy grail, with education reduced to a simple stepping stone, a means to an end rather than an enlightening journey.

Enter the realm of financial capitalism, where everything, from cigarette sales to unpaid parking fees, is up for investment. The formerly honourable goal of accumulating riches has devolved into a frantic game of risk-taking and speculating. The younger generation is left to forge forth unguided on this perilous terrain, where fortunes can be built or lost in the blink of an eye. So let’s cast off the chains of expectation and adopt a fresh definition of success that prioritises the welfare of our children above all else. Let’s be passionate and resilient. It’s time to change the course of events and establish a society in which pursuing happiness comes before pursuing wealth. The spotlight is yours, and the stage is set. Will you take advantage of this opportunity to redefine success for future generations?

It’s time to escape the fantasy land and adopt a more grounded strategy for success. Young people’s mindsets are greatly influenced by their schools, parents and peers, who also give them the support and direction they need to face the challenges of adulthood. Education is essential for instilling in young people the values of tenacity, resilience and hard effort outside of the classroom. We may assist young people in developing the skills necessary to thrive in the real world by educating them to focus on the process rather than the result and instilling in them a sense of realistic expectations.

Young people’s mental health can also be greatly aided by parents and peers, who can offer a judgment-free, safe space for them to share their worries and anxieties. Young people can feel less overwhelmed by the demands of success by supporting a good work-life balance and encouraging open communication. But hope exists despite the mayhem and disarray. We may start to map out a course of action by identifying the underlying causes of the issue. Together, friends, parents and schools must redefine success and place a higher priority on mental health than financial gain. Learning should be a process of self-discovery rather than a competition for excellence.

It’s time to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for success and that true success requires perseverance, hardwork and dedication. Together, let’s cultivate a mindset that prioritises progress over perfection and places equal weight on the process and the result. We can equip our youth to flourish in a world that is becoming more complex by supporting and assisting them in the development of a positive mindset.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2024.

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