Young Brisbane actor Sally White is back from London. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Young Brisbane actor Sally White is back from London. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Think you're stressed? Millennials have it worse

FORGET the midlife crisis; stressed Millennials are succumbing to the quarter-life crisis.

In a hurry to succeed, and constantly scrutinised by their peers on social media, the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000s can find the pressure of life too much before they get through their 20s.

Actor Sally White, 28, a Brissie girl living and working in London, highlighted the issue in a TEDx talk in the British capital.

"Some of that is because we challenge traditional notions of success," White said. "Finishing school, going straight to uni and climbing the corporate ladder doesn't work for everyone. I found that wasn't realistic."

Despite dropping out of QUT and UQ, she worked her way from a call centre job to climbing the corporate ladder with Virgin Australia, travelling first class, with a dream job, apartment, car and personal trainer by the age of 23.

"I was independent and going places. I had ticked all the boxes towards becoming a responsible and successful adult. I didn't realise it at the time, but that success was the beginning of my quarter-life crisis,'' she said.

"Despite having this great job with great perks, I questioned my value because I didn't have a degree. I was allowing the approval of others to define what success meant for me.

Climbing the corporate ladder is not for everyone, says Sally White.
Climbing the corporate ladder is not for everyone, says Sally White.

"And it turns out I wasn't the only one feeling this way.

"I had chronic fatigue syndrome, was stressed and wondered if this was what the rest of my life would be like."

Then she decided to follow her passion, went to London, did a masters in musical theatre and became a full-time performer.

She is part of a cabaret group known as The Girls from Oz, which performs regularly at the Australian Embassy, and is also performing in A Beautiful Noise, a musical about Neil Diamond.


She also runs her own business, Sally White Creative, and wants to help Millennials and students find "alternative pathways". "We need to address issues that Millennials are facing, such as the pressures of being perfect, that social media promotes," White said.

"We need to learn to embrace a culture where failure is acceptable and learn from it."

Associate Professor Karen Brooks, Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at UQ, said the quarter-life crisis was increasingly recognised.

"It's due to the pressures facing young people," Brooks said.

"Technology is a factor and, according to some experts, navel gazing and narcissism is another factor, although there is some contention about that. The quarter-life crisis is because there are expectations that they can't meet. In a way you could say the Baby Boomers and Gen Y have set them up for failure."

Brooks said learning resilience was the antidote. "They need to learn that it is OK to have disappointments in life."