In my last post, I described the differences between needs, which ensure your psychological and emotional survival and growth, and NEEDS!, which arise from the neuroses, pathologies, and just plain whims of your parents and the environment and culture in which you are raised and have likely caused you considerable unhappiness and dysfunction in your life.
One of the most painful aspects of NEEDS! is that you may blame yourself for not getting your needs sufficiently met as a child, thus turning them into NEEDS! You may have come to believe that you didn’t deserve having your life-affirming needs met by your parents in a healthy way: you didn’t feel that you deserved to be loved and valued, feel safe and secure, or see yourself as a competent person. These perceptions may have created in you a profound sense of inadequacy. Through your efforts to meet those NEEDS! in childhood and into adulthood, you have been attempting to prove your worth and demonstrate that you do, indeed, deserve to have your needs met.
Let me say something as emphatically as I can that I hope will lighten the load that you may have been carrying for so many years: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!!! Why your needs as a child became NEEDS! had nothing to do with you. Do you know whose fault it really was? Your parents! It was their NEEDS! that caused them to not meet your needs and that led your needs to become NEEDS! My gosh, you were just this helpless little child that only wanted to feel loved and safe and didn’t do anything to deserve such treatment.
So here is another thing I encourage you to do: BLAME YOUR PARENTS for what they did to you. Whoa, you might think, that doesn’t sound like a very healthy or mature way of dealing with your problems. You may say, “I’m an adult now and isn’t it childish to blame my parents for things that happened so many years ago?” My response to that: no and yes.
I stand by my statement that you should blame your parents. You may have carried around an immense burden of self-blame—and shame—for years and you can’t just take it off of your shoulders. Instead, you have to pass that burden onto those who rightly deserve it: your parents. They treated you in a way that you didn’t deserve and you suffered for it, that is the simple reality.
But it is not that simple. I don’t make this recommendation to be suggest that they are bad people or that they deserve your everlasting enmity. They probably didn’t treat you as they did intentionally. They likely treated you poorly because of who they were, not who you were. One thing that people often forget is that parents are human beings too and they may very well have been victims of their own parents and the environment they grew up in. Reality becomes a lot more complicated when you recognize that your parents, like most parents, passed on their NEEDS! to you—a form of heredity that isn’t genetic—because they were their NEEDS! also and they probably passed them to you without awareness or understanding.
So blame your parents for the way you are; it is their fault and you shouldn’t have to carry that burden of blame and shame. But then forgive them. The complicated reality that I just mentioned is that your parents most likely loved you and, despite appearances, wanted what was best for you. They may very well have done the best they could with what they had. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough and it put your life inertia on an unhealthy trajectory. But that was then and this is now, so don’t keep blaming them and holding them responsible for who you are now. You are an adult and continuing to hold them accountable for your life is not only childish, but it’s also counterproductive; it doesn’t change your NEEDS! back to needs and it doesn’t help you change the course of your life in a healthy direction.
You didn’t deserve to be treated the way you were and you don’t deserve it now. But it’s not your parents who are treating you badly now, it’s you! It is your life inertia—your thoughts, emotions, and actions aimed at fulfilling your NEEDS!—that continue to propel you down a bad path. So, being angry at your parents or trying to change them now isn’t going to help you (you won’t be able to change them anyway!). You have to change yourself by taking responsibility for who you are now. You must make the commitment to let go of your NEEDS! and reconnect with your needs. Lastly, you need to ensure that, though your life may not have been of your choosing as a child or on the path you have wanted up to this point in adulthood, you can alter your life inertia so that is on the course you want for the rest of your life.
It’s a stereotype you’re probably all too familiar with: the “spoiled, narcissistic Millennial.”
It’s a stereotype is one that people love to toss around — either as a way of dismissing the newer generation or as a way to shift blame for society’s problems onto a new group of people. It is a stereotype reinforced by articles such as the now-famed 2013 TIME story entitled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.”
And it is a dangerous stereotype with many holes in its structure that, when perpetuated, provides obstacles for not only this generation but for those to come.
To understand the argument surrounding this newer generation, one must first understand the Millennial identity. Though there is some dispute about the qualifying age range, there is a general consensus that anyone born after 1980 is a member of the Millennial Generation. A 2010 Pew Report characterizes Millennials as “more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults”, “on track to become the most educated generation in American history” and “technologically exceptional.”
A combination of these factors has led to some sweeping generalizations about the work ethic, mindset and values of Millennials.
In the aforementioned TIME article, author Joel Stein wastes no time in branding Millennials as overconfident, fame-obsessed narcissists. Backed by generational studies that largely fail to take into account circumstantial information, Stein asserts that this new “Me Me Me Generation” has become damaged due to an overdose of self-esteem.
“In the U.S., Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers, who are also known as the Me Generation, who then produced the Me Me Me Generation, whose selfishness technology has only exacerbated,” Stein writes. “This is a generation that would have made Walt Whitman wonder if maybe they should try singing a song of someone else.”
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The audacity to have self-esteem has been linked by critics to the generation’s dependence of technology. In fact, technology plays such a defining role with the newest generation that it is hard to find a conversation about Millennials that does not mention it in some capacity.
“Millennials are interacting all day but almost entirely through a screen. If you do this well enough on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, you can become a microcelebrity,” Stein writes in a critique of the millennial dependency on technology.
But these personality traits — which are at the center of much of the criticism surrounding Millennials — are not just surface-level generalizations. They are also largely untrue.
A January 2015 IBM report released statistics that overturn the conventional dialogue about Millennials. Specifically, the study — which surveyed 1,784 employees of different ages across 12 countries and six industries — debunked five of the most common myths about the millennial generation.
For example, Millennials cite fairness, transparency and consistency as the top three attributes they look for in a boss. Having a boss who focuses on their personal development by constantly providing them with attention (consistent with the “entitled overconfident narcissist” typecast) ranks in the bottom five listed desired attributes — on par with Generation X.
And as far as technological dependence goes, the report found that Millennials actually prefer the real world when it comes to learning, with the top three preferences listed involving face-to-face interaction as opposed to virtual learning.
It would follow, therefore, that many of the original ideas concerning the problem with Millennials are false. And even those that have truth to them, such as Stein’s finding that Millennials are more likely to live with their parents in their 20s, can be explained by problems such as economic recession, rising student debt and higher unemployment rates. These issues can be directly attributed to the choices and decisions made by the members of the older generations who have voiced their scathing opinions of Millennials.
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Perpetuating these negative stereotypes is dangerous because it creates a life-long obstacle for Millennials. University students especially may find themselves having to systematically prove these stereotypes wrong in classrooms, internships and jobs. The odds are already stacked against them before they even enter the workplace — chiefly due to the prevalence of preconceived notions that are grounded in theory rather than evidence.
Perhaps looking at the defining characteristics of Millennials another way could provide a better view.
Instead of lampooning Millennials for their digital dependence, liberal thinking and overbearing confidence, think instead of their potential for positive impact facilitated by their technological literacy, their tendency to be more tolerant and progressive than past generations and their optimism about a better future. The rhetoric changes completely.
Finally, here’s a question to be considered when addressing the problem of Millennials with their selfishly high self-esteem: Why, in an era of societal, economic and political turmoil, is it considered a bad thing to be optimistic? Would it be better to sit around, bemoaning the problems with the world instead of trying to develop change through technology? It would certainly be easier. If anything, it is a miracle that the younger generation is not incredibly jaded.
Elly Leavitt is a student at the University of Virginia and a summer 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent.
Elly Leavitt, IBM, millennial, Millennial generation, millennial stereotypes, Opinion, tech, the millennial problem, University of Virginia, USA TODAY College, OPINION