There is a narrative that young people repeatedly hear from all kinds of well-meaning adults. The collective message insists, “You can be anything you want to be.” While adults mean this to be encouraging, it may be stressing young people out.
Anything means nothing
As we have talked with young people and reflected on the “You can be anything you want to be” mantra, we’ve come to the conclusion that young people hear more what’s between the lines, emphasized by a very scary two-lettered word: “if.”
So you can be anything …
If you work hard enough … (But what if my best work isn’t good enough?)
If you make the right connections … (So I have to compete against everyone else to be noticed?)
If you don’t screw up … (You’re saying I need to be perfect?)…