Teen Peer Pressure Just One Stressor for Dancers

Kindergarten’s recess games and favorite colors in the crayon box may be plenty of pressure for young ones, but that is nothing compared to the teen peer pressure that your dancers maybe feeling from not just their friends – but from all sorts of angles.

Many people may not even consider dancing to be competitive. Think again. It is – especially as dancers grow into their teen years.  

Pressure originates from:

  •       Parents
  •       School work
  •       Dance instructors

And these pressures are bad enough, but when pressure starts coming from within themselves, it can be the most stressful of all.

Teens stress over many things

Classes get longer and stricter, it costs more and more money and dancers become more competitive with each other, with other classes and with other teams.

A teen’s life becomes more stressful too with body and emotional changes, parent/sibling pressures, school work and pressure to maintain grades and make honor programs and pressure to play sports with their friends. It can be very overwhelming for a teen who doesn’t even understand the feelings they’re having about themselves and the boy or girl in their class. 

Ballet is about more than dancing

Ballet is all about trying to succeed so it’s hard for kids not to try to do that – and succeed at everything else. They burn the candle at both ends and become stress freaks before they’re 14.

Even if they don’t do it themselves, it’s stressful for them to see others in their ballet class run out crying – which can frequently happen in the teen years – because of instructor pressure. Instructors want 100 percent. After all, ballet is about precision, perfection and discipline. It’s hard work.

The other adult pressure

This is far from the only adult pressure for teens. Parents account for much of the pressure because they apply pressure to do well. Some parents want their own dreams for their kids. But this doesn’t work. Something that is as grueling as ballet must be a dream that you have for yourself, not someone else.

Some parents apply pressure of the opposite kind. They don’t like the disruption inflicted on family time by the schedules of the dedicated ballet dancers and apply pressure to ‘make time’ for family.  

Doing it to themselves

The most extreme pressure on dancers – even the teens is self-pressure. It’s really the most threatening of all. Self-pressure shows dedication and helps dancers aspire to new heights but it also can be dangerous because of the issues that can be born of wanting to constantly be better. But ballet is not the only place that this happens. It’s everywhere, from Hollywood, to your local dress shop, to the next job interview and beyond.

Weight issues result from self-pressure

One example of a self-pressure point is weight. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can be a prominent effect of teen dancers putting pressure on themselves.

According to eating disorder statistics from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health website, one in 200 American women are affected by anorexia and two to three in 100 women are affected by bulimia.

Eating disorders are brought on by a number of variables, but a common one is when someone feels under an enormous amount of pressure to be a certain way. This pressure could come from a number of different directions, including parents, friends, and instructors as well as the dancers themselves. In ballet, eating disorders manifest because part of succeeding is earning respect and reward from instructors for losing weight.

Pressure for perfection is everywhere

But ballet is not the only place that this happens. It’s everywhere, Hollywood, your local dress shop, the next job interview.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, ballerinas were considered thin, but looking back, they were still healthy. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe, who wore a size 16 at one point in her career, was considered the epitome of sexiness and beauty. Compare Ms. Monroe with more recent examples such as Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston from the television show Friends, who are considered beautiful. They are size 2s.

While models and celebrities have become thinner, the average woman is heavier today. This makes the difference between the real and the idea even larger. This perception of beauty leads to much of the pressure that ballet dancers put upon themselves, and it is this pressure that can quickly escalate into an eating disorder.

Unmerciful teasing is peer pressure

Pressure from peers rears its ugly head when the one girl who is always bigger the others gets discriminated against and unmercifully teased to the point of harassment. “If I was ten pounds lighter they would like me more” is a common thought of those whose psyches are damaged by weight shaming that can exist in various forms: clothing selection available to those wearing more the mid-range clothing sizes as opposed to those offered in the X department or at a job interview where the larger person feels the change in attitude when they walk in the office.

This is not an attitude that is limited to women either. Teenage boys and men who are large, have the same issues. 

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