The Importance of an Unhappy Adolescence

Being unhappy is never wholly to be recommended,
but if there is any period of life in which if the mood may be justified and in certain
ways important, then it is roughly between the ages of 13 and 20. It is hard to imagine
going on to have a successful or even somewhat contented next six decades if one has not
been the beneficiary of a good deal of agonising introspection and intense dislocation in this
span. At the root of adolescent sorrow and rage is the recognition that life is hugely
harder, more absurd and less fulfilling than one could ever hitherto have suspected – or
had been led to suppose by kindly representatives of the adult world. The sentimental protection
of childhood falls away – and a range of searingly malevolent but profoundly important
realisations strike. For a start, one recognises that no one understands. That isn’t quite
true, but of course, the more complicated any human being is, the less likely they are
to be easily and immediately understood. Therefore, as a child develops into an adult, the chances
of those around them exactly sympathising with and swiftly grasping their inner condition
necessarily decreases sharply. The first response of the teenager is to think themselves uniquely
cursed. But the better eventual insight is that true connection with another person is
possible yet astonishingly rare. This leads one to a number of important moves. Firstly,
to a heightened and more appropriate gratitude towards anyone who does understand. Secondly,
to greater efforts to make oneself understood. The sullen grunts of early adolescence can
give way to the enormous eloquence of the poetry, diaries and songs of later teenagehood.
The most beautiful pieces of communication humanity has ever produced have largely been
the work of people who couldn’t find anyone in the vicinity they could talk to. And lastly,
the sense that one is different from other people, though it may be searingly problematic
at the time, represents a critical moment when a new generation starts to probe at and
selectively improve upon the existing order. To be 16 and find everything perfect as it
is would be a terrifyingly sterile position to adopt. A refusal to accept the folly, error and evil
of the world is a precondition of later achievement. There really seems no alternative but to be
miserable in mid-adolescence if one is to stand any chance of making a go of the rest
of one’s life. Another key realisation of adolescence is that one hates one’s parents.
Yet it is truly an enormous tribute to the love and care of parents if their teenage
children turn around and tell them at the top of their voice that they loathe them.
It isn’t a sign that something has gone wrong, it’s evidence that the child knows
they are loved. The really worrying teenagers aren’t those who misbehave around their
parents and take out their random misery upon them, it’s those who are so worried about
not being loved, they can’t afford to put a foot wrong. To develop proper trust in other
human beings, it can be deeply important to be able to test a few examples, to tell them
the very worst things one can think of, and then watch them stick around and forgive one.
You have to have few gos at breaking love to believe it can be solid. And, of course,
one’s parents really are rather annoying in many ways. But that too is an important
realisation. We would never leave home and become parents ourselves if we weren’t at
some level compensating for the problems, mistakes and vices we had first identified
in our own parents at fourteen and a half. Another source of teenage sorrow is how many
big questions suddenly fill one’s mind, not least: what is the point of it all? This
questioning too is vital. The sort of questions that adolescents raise tend to get a bad name,
but that is more to do with how they answer them than with the questions themselves. What
is the meaning of life? Why is there suffering? Why does capitalism not reward people more
fairly? Adolescents are natural philosophers. The true end-point of adolescence is not,
as it’s sometimes suggested, that one stops asking huge questions and gets on with the
day to day. It’s that one acquires the resources and intelligence to build an entire life around
the sort of big questions that first obsessed one at seventeen. Lastly, and most poignantly,
teenagers tend to hate themselves. They hate the way they look, how they speak, the way
they come across. It feels like the opposite of being loved, but in fact, these isolated,
self-hating moments are the start of love. These feelings are what will, one day, be
at the bedrock of the ecstasy we’ll feel in the presence of that rare partner who can
accept and desire us back. Tenderness will mean nothing to us unless we first spent many
nights alone crying ourselves to sleep. Nature appears to have so arranged things that we
really can’t get to certain insights without suffering. The real distinction is between
suffering with a purpose and suffering in vain. For all the horrors of adolescence,
one of its glories is that the suffering it inflicts is largely securely rooted in some
of the most crucial developments and realisations of adulthood. These fascinatingly miserable
few years should be celebrated for offering us suffering at its best. Thank you for watching, liking and subscribing. If you want more, why not visit us in person and attend a class? Or take a look at our shop at the link on your screen now?

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57 Responses

  1. The School of Life says:

    What wisdom have you learned in later life that you wish you could go back and tell your younger self? If you want to watch our videos and communicate with like-minded people you can now download our app:

  2. dead inside says:

    I was always sad. I started being sad since i was 8

  3. Malichi Medina says:

    Ever since the age of fifteen I've always wanted everyone around me to suffer more. Not because I hated everyone around me because of how stupid they were. But so that they could learn. I always knew (not always, but since 14) that suffering had meaning behind it. Because I had reasoned that everything happens for a reason. If a thing had no reason to be, then it wouldn't exist. I assumed suffering was the same way. It wasn't until I had gone through a series of hurts and harms and betrayals to realize that the unltimate purpose of suffering is to become better. It's to learn and grow in wisdom. To be wise is to be happy. And to suffer is to be wise.

  4. Romeo pineda says:

    This is fucking me right now. Thanks for recommendations.

  5. Erik Antonič Babnik says:

    Is it weird that im 17 and im perfectly happy and grateful for all i have, i stopped smoking weed and cigs on my own 2 years ago-cold turkey(started in the 7th grade), i told my parents 1 year later and they were very proud of me…..anyways my life is imperfectly perfect/perfectly imperfect

  6. Ibrahim Ismail says:

    Im 19 about to go to college and pretty miserable because im battling impotence. I dont like the way my family lives and how they react when I wanna change certain things in my personal life.

  7. bean curry says:

    adulthood means suffering. i m still looking for a better way to get away form the miserable life

  8. Sophia Winter says:

    this made me feel so not alone

  9. Abdel says:

    I started to feel like this at 19 and now I am 22 and still feel like that lol am I late or something

  10. Abbie Johnstone says:

    Oh my god, I literally relate to everything he just said and I feel so much better now that I know it’s all normal! Ahhh 😅
    I really needed this video :’)

  11. fouzi Birouk says:

    But I used to have a good life and a good self esteem while I was a teenager

  12. Jana Elizabeth Sekelski says:

    I know it well…

  13. Hasse Mees says:

    I don't think this suffering is gonna benefit me in adulthood if it makes me kill myself before I get there lmao

  14. NightMime says:

    I started crying 2 minutes in

  15. Justa Peasant says:

    The only point that I agree with here is "it's concerning when the adolescent is so scared to be unloved that they can't afford saying "I hate you" (paraphrased). The rest just sounds extremely dismissive of emotions. An excuse for parents to ignore their kid and say "eh,". Bad emotions can grow bad people. Struggling can lead to success but it can also lead to bad choices.

  16. Sun Tzu says:

    At first sight, I was happy because I recognised myself, until I understood something : I only recognise myself. What you describe is probably what people watching this channel think, but it’s definitely not the way of thinking of many other people. Sure you can’t know what people really think and sometimes they hide stuff. However I can assure you that most of them don’t care about introspection, philosophy, being alone. And they generally discover it later. I’m even surprised by the number of people who regret to not have been more carefree during their teenage years, considering how carefree they were to my mind. And most of them enjoyed so much their teenage years and seem to regret their adult years. It’s astonishing to see the number of people who consider their teenage years as the funniest one and see the adult years as boring (husband/wife, children, job, …). Even my mother was surprised when I said that being a teenager is the most horrible period and nobody would wants to go back to this period. She was looking at me like I said the most surprising thing she could have ever heard. Because to her mind, it was cool (despite the fact that she spend entire night complaining about her family). Thus I really have the impression that what you describe isn’t the reality of the majority. However maybe I’m wrong. I would really like to hear others’ opinion

  17. Daniel Martin says:

    edgy teens have entered the chat

  18. Center Stage Ads says:

    I don't think the makers of this video were talking about extremes as some have commented critically. However, as one that has had more than a few hard times through my life (42 years), I can now look back and have a strange sense of great fulness for some of my hardships. If it wasn't for the bullies in middle school and early high school maybe I wouldn't have been strong enough to endure my now ex in my teens and early 20's that gave me my 4 kids. If it wasnt for the bullies and my ex maybe I wouldn't have been strong enough to bare being a single parent on my own for all those years and if it wasn't for all of those difficult times put together, maybe I would have just given up when my son died a few months ago. I needed those difficult times to be able to get me through today! 😢

    Our experiences can bring us down or they can lift us up! It just depends on how we want to look at it.

  19. Fritz Jackson says:

    I was perfectly happy until I was 19. Time for my latent adolescent crisis…

  20. Rayyan Cunningham says:

    3:27 that shit hit me.

  21. Georgian Matei says:

    so beeing depressed and suicidal is good ?

  22. M Paul says:

    I was diagnosed with depression when I was 11 and attempted suicide at 15. I've had a fairly "normal"/healthy childhood and my parents never really got why I had depression. I can't really explain why I have depression but it's so drowning sometimes.

  23. ThatOneGinger says:

    2 years in boys

  24. OlliOtter1004 says:

    Half expected the Ted-Ed noise to pop up at the end

  25. At2Lined says:

    Man wtf thats fucking fake

  26. not a BTS fan says:

    "Tenderness will mean nothing to us unless we first spent many nights alone crying ourselves to sleep."

  27. Keke X says:


  28. RoPl says:

    Unfortunetly for many of us, the things we feel as teenagers never go away and only become worse with time, except we can't really tell anyone because by the age of 30 you're supposed to have overcome your self-hatred, inability to connect to others, lack of confidence, etc.

  29. World Domination Headquarters says:

    The question is not that no one understands you, but do you understand yourself?

  30. S M says:

    What a luxury to indulge in melancholy, self-pity, and feeling misunderstood. I was too busy trying to actually survive having two emotionally and financially unstable parents to feel miserable. As soon as I could be I was out volunteering at the hospital, joining a sports team, then working while going to school and going 10-12 hours without a meal every day because my folks couldn't afford to give me lunch. After high school I was working to get my own apartment, then working in an executive position while putting myself through B-school. Never had time to worry or feel sorry for myself.

  31. time traveler says:

    bro im 13, wtf this is so not fair 😭😭😭😭doesnt help im a nihilist too. im so lonely, i have nobody, im on my own own yeah, so lonely, (so lonely). i have seen too much, with the help of the internet and my own life. my world isnt blue, its black and white, except the color schemes are inverted.

  32. Joel Formica says:

    I do not hate my parents at all. I’m thirteen. Am I unhealthy?

  33. Joel Formica says:

    I don’t understand how self-hatred is always seen as a problem. Isn’t it possible that I am in fact as pathetic as I believe?, because in that case self-love would just be delusional. Are we supposed to think it is completely impossible for a person to be as horrible as we think we are or is it that we should think it’s too unlikely to consider it?

  34. Gwen says:

    Honestly saying I was 16 and I found things perfect around me…

  35. NBAKIDD says:

    i love u for telling me that :‘(

  36. Drago Yordanov says:

    I'm surprised of how many of the characteristics I recognized myself

  37. Suhas Prasad says:

    Brilliant, brilliant.

  38. John Uher says:

    This video nails it! We all suffer from something that happened "TO US" and not as a result of something we did. The trials we are made to endure in this life aid us in our spiritual growth and are absolutely necessary for our spiritual development. Put the blame where the blame belongs (usually with your patents) and stop blaming yourself for the wrongs committed against you as a child… IT WASN'T YOUR FAULT! And there's nothing you could have done to change things. Just know, your suffering is absolutely essential for your spiritual growth. The road home can be rocky in spots.

  39. Mark Daniel says:

    Teen years were easy compared to the 20's. I loved being a teenager actually…

  40. Tim Travasos says:

    All very true.

  41. Rafael C. says:

    Não entendo o que esse homem fala pelo amor de Deus

  42. Klea says:

    This is literally perfect

  43. Klea says:

    to develop proper trust in other human beings it can be deeply important to be able to test a few examples to tell them the very worst things one can think of and then watch them stick around and forgive one you have to have a few goes at breaking love to believe it can be solid

  44. Loli Raviolli says:

    so the fact that i have had a horrible adolescence and literally gave up on life,am unemployable and would rather die than try anything in my life that requires a minimun amount of effortis a good thing


  45. Irock Luculent says:

    How refreshingly honest!

  46. tshred666 says:

    The title implies that suffering, especially during your teenage years, is a prerequisite for wisdom. In my experience most people who were unhappy as teenagers ended up becoming drug addicts and alcoholics trapped in second rate jobs and crippling debt. There’s no value or lesson in that. It’s just sad.

  47. Marin says:

    Mature adults like this video.
    Adolescents and immature adults dislike it.

  48. Rey Pizza says:

    My parents stopped treating me like a kid when I was 9, now I'm 16 and I'm terrified about turning 18. Will everyone stop having pity for me because I'll be an adult? I don't want to keep growing up, everyone stops loving you to focus on other children because "you're grown up, you must start working, nobody will care about your emotions anymore because you're grown up, you have to solve your problems yourself"
    Adolescence is the only time I have to say "Idk, I'm just a kid don't ask me lol" when I turn 18 I'll have to get serious and I don't think I can handle it. Help

  49. Jaan Gokce says:

    You do not understand how accurate this is.

  50. Dobs89 says:

    I have a feeling that this period for me lasted till my late 20's. Yayks.

  51. Cathildis says:

    Idk why this vid is in my recommendations now, but I’m really glad it was. All things considered on the surface I have a really good life. My dad is paying for my college and I’m getting good grades. When I want something, all I need to do is ask. But when I was around thirteen I realized that I didn’t really want all the things I had been asking for, I just wanted to spend time with my dad. My absentee dad who always at work and when he gets home doesn’t want to spend time with me. Whenever I disagree with him on something he says I hate him. When I want to talk to him he just tells me to go away. I knew he loved me, still does, but I eventually decided to just be quiet since he always didn’t want to talk to me. Then he asked me why I was ignoring him. So eventually I packed up most of my stuff and started living with my mother who could give me the attention I wanted so badly and started visiting my dad on weekends.
    It’s funny actually. I got every material thing I wanted as a kid, but at the end of the day I just wanted to be told no.

  52. Or xat says:

    And what about being miserable in late 30s? lol

  53. Alexander Franco says:

    Awesome animations

  54. Celeste Schoenke says:

    just turned 18 and i’m so scared of being an adult

  55. John Doe says:

    I love this one’s animation; it’s so cute!

  56. Hrihthik Surya says:

    This video is cool and all, but whats wih the pictures tho?

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