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of today’s young people born between the years of 1982 and 2004 (Strauss and Howe). Like all generations, the Millennial Generation was influenced by history and society and developed characteristic traits and a unique personality as a result of these influences. Historical events and cultural eras experienced at the same stage of life lead to the development of common beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes among people of a generation. Members of the Millennial Generation grew up during a period of relative peace compared to the political, social, and economic upheaval faced by the youths of many other generations of Americans. The economy was strong and life in the United States was fairly comfortable during the Millennial Generation’s childhood years. New parenting styles that encouraged praise in order to build self-esteem gained popularity. As the years went on and childhood was left behind, social issues like gay marriage, abortion, and equality of all people became close to the hearts of many Millennials. Technology evolved and became a major part of everyday life. The number of people seeking higher education increased. As the years passed, the previously strong economy took a turn for the worse and suddenly, the United States was not as peaceful and comfortable as it had been during their childhood. Now, as members of this generation reach adulthood, its characteristics are being revealed. The popular parenting styles that toted praise and attention as the key to good self-esteem produced narcissistic, over-confident children with an aversion to criticism. The widespread use of technology, especially social media, led
to self-absorption and self-centeredness. Millennials developed unrealistic expectations of themselves, others, and their surroundings. They also developed a warped perception of success and failure as the result of a childhood in which they were constantly praised, given attention, and rewarded for mediocrity. The Millennial Generation has major flaws caused and exacerbated by societal changes, childhood development, and self-perception that will hinder personal growth and have the potential to be detrimental to societal development as a whole. Millennials have a distorted self-perception as a result of childhood development, educational changes, and the influence of technology. Overindulgent parenting styles led the Millennial Generation to be overconfident, over-coddled, and oversensitive. The Millennial Generation is primarily made up of the children of the Boomer Generation, born between the years of 1943 and 1960, and the children of older members of Generation X, born between the years of 1961 and 1981 (Strauss and Howe). Members of these two generations were generally parented strictly and were often made to feel as if they could not do anything right (Elias). As a response to their upbringing, Boomers and Gen Xers chose to raise their own children in a drastically different style. In the 1980s, a new parenting philosophy that preached boosting self-esteem as the best way to ensure children’s success gained widespread popularity (Spinney). Boomers and Gen Xers raised Millennials with a never-ending praise and encouragement. Millennials developed overconfidence as a result of having been brought up with the belief that everything that they did was exceptional. In an attempt to shield their children from criticisms like the ones that filled their own childhoods, Boomers and
Gen Xers rendered Millennials incapable of recognizing their own flaws and accepting criticism in a constructive way. Technological advances created and continue to foster self-absorption and narcissism. Cell phones and texting make friends accessible at all times and enable Millennials to stay in their own worlds. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter serve as an outlet for people to share even the most trivial aspects of their days. Millennials flock to these websites to share even the most minor events with the world. They are drawn to the idea of accumulating online “followers” and “friends” based on others’ appreciation of their posts, which augments their allusion that all of their posts, and consequently all of their actions, are important. Studies have shown that the more a person posts, the more important they believe their posts to be (Narcissistic, but in a Good Way). Millennials were “taught to indulge and unpack every psychic injury online and to expect that endorsement for their own experiences is just a few clicks away”(Bennet). Social networking and cell phone use feed the Millennials’ need for constant validation and sense of self-importance. Changes in educational practices and recreational activities have further cultivated the Millennial Generation’s need for praise and validation. The value of an “A” has been greatly depreciated. According to a study done by Teacher’s College Record, 43% of all letter grades among college students are “A’s,” which is more than double the percentage in 1960 (Healy and Rojstaczer). Children are protected from criticism in recreational by the invention of the participation trophy, which is given to everyone as a reward for simply taking part in an activity. If everyone is made to feel like a winner all the time, they will develop false perceptions of their
abilities (Spinney). By praising mediocrity, parents, coaches, and other adults raise mediocrity to the same level as excellence, thus making it difficult for Millennials to distinguish the difference between the two. The warped self-perception among Millennials caused by childhood development, technology, and changes in the education system is characterized by unrealistic expectations, overinflated egos, inability to recognize flaws, desire for perfection, and aversion to criticism. Millennials develop unrealistic expectations of themselves, others, and their surroundings as a result of overconfidence and ignorance of their own flaws. According to a report by Jean Twenge, Millennials are more likely to see themselves as “great people, destined for maximum success”(Elias) than their parents are. The same study also concluded that Millennials have great confidence in their abilities as future employees, spouses, and parents (Elias). They have high expectations of others because they hold them to the same impossibly high standards they set for themselves. They have unrealistic expectations of their surroundings or live in general because they are raised with a sense of entitlement and the belief that they deserve the best. Overinflated egos, inability to recognize flaws, and aversion to criticism all stem from a childhood of Millennials being showered with praise and led to believe that they could do no wrong. Millennials also often feel the pressure of perfection. They are raised without any concept of or consequences for their mistakes, which often leads to the misguided impression that mistakes haven’t been made. Millennials’ inability to see themselves accurately clouds their understanding of some aspects of life and fosters the development of character flaws.
The Millennial Generation is extremely narcissistic. Narcissism, which is defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself” (dictionary.reference.com), is caused in Millennials by a combination of self-perception, self-confidence, and selfcenteredness. Like Millennial warped self-perception, narcissism is caused by a combination of childhood coddling and technological advances. The constant attention and praise from indulgent parenting instills in Millennials the belief that they are interesting and worthy of attention. The invention of the Internet and proliferation of social media outlets provide Millennials with the ideal place to share their thoughts and prove to the rest of the world how incredibly fascinating they are. In amassing of online supporters, Millennials find validation of their thoughts and confirmation of their importance. Millennials have a greater predisposition towards narcissism based on the way they were raised and the society in which they live. According to the article “Narcissistic, But in a Good Way,” the Millennial Generation is the most narcissistic generation in history. Within a generation, narcissism in college students has doubled (Spinney). In a study led by Brad Bushman at Ohio State University determined, based on a survey, that most college students value a self-esteem boost over the other situations given as options, which included eating a favorite food, having a sexual encounter, drinking alcohol, seeing a good friend, and getting paid (Spinney). One sign of addiction is wanting something more than liking it, in each situation, the survey revealed that students liked the outcome more than they wanted it. However, in the case of the self-esteem boost the difference between wanting it and liking it was the smallest.
Members of the Millennial Generation lack an understanding of success and failure do to their warped self-perception. It is not possible to fully understand what a situation is without experiencing it. Having been sheltered from it for the entirety of their childhood, Millennials were never put into a situation in which they had failed. They were raised with assurance and praise, so even failures were masked beyond recognition. Without any understanding of failure, it is not possible to truly have a complete understanding of success. The Millennial understanding of success is also clouded by the praise of mediocrity. The Millennial Generation was praised for mediocrity, for nothing more than non-failure. In rewarding mediocrity, excellence is depreciated. In treating a non-failure like a success, success becomes difficult to recognize. The Millennial perception of success and failure is distorted by having been raised without true experience or appreciation of either. Although the Boomers and Gen Xers had good intentions with their choices of parenting methods, the result of excessive indulgence in the formative years of Millennials has left them ill-equipped to succeed in adulthood. The shielding of emotions throughout childhood and beyond left the Millennial Generation fragile. In a study conducted at Florida State University in 2003, it was found that while people with high self-esteem were happy in general, they became more depressed and unstable during stressful times. The same study found that people of moderate to low self-esteem were stronger and more stable when faced with stressful times (Spinney). Narcissists and people with exceedingly high self-esteem also risk depression and instability when encountered with disappointment caused by unexpected, unfavorable outcomes and failure.
The Millennial Generation’s narcissism has negative implications far beyond the initial disproportionate self-obsession. Studies show that narcissists are intolerant of criticism and have violent tendencies (Spinney). Self-absorption also leads to negative characteristics. Narcissists are overly concerned with their appearance, seek fame, and place a great deal of importance on material things (Spinney). Furthermore, narcissism could lead to depression when life falls short of expectations (Elias). Unrealistically high expectations of themselves and their lives will inevitably bring Millennials serious disappointment. Depression will likely be caused by the inability to achieve goals and live up to self-imposed expectations (Spinney). Failure will be harder to face and overcome in adulthood with insufficient or nonexistent exposure in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, Millennials today are frequently under-employed and overeducated. According to a report in the Atlantic, 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or are employed somewhere that does not require the higher level of education earned by the graduate(Weissmann). One factor in graduates’ inability to find work is in the increasing number of young people with college degrees. Since 2000, the number of Americans under the age of 25 with a college degree has increased 38%. With a larger pool of applicants and a limited number of jobs, it is logical that a more people will be left without the job they had hoped for. Another factor is rooted in the Millennial Generation’s desire to find “identity-based” work (Bennet). There are a large number of young people seeking creative work, but the Generation’s demand for jobs in these creative fields exceeds the job opportunity
(Bennet). It is therefore unsurprising that graduates with degrees in the sciences and technical fields are more likely to find employment than those with degrees in the humanities and arts (Weissmann). Under employment and unemployment rates among Millennials has led to the continued involvement support of their parents (Bennet). Millennials complain about their inability to find jobs in their fields, and place the blame upon the bad economy. They turn to social media for sympathy from other Millennials facing the same problems instead of turning to an outlet that would be a better use of the creativity that they are so desperate to utilize. Laura Bennet, author of the article “Woe is Twee,” laments this wasted talent saying, “They would be better off living outside of their own heads for a while.” In coming years, members of the Millennial Generation will step up to fill the shoes of the law makers, doctors, CEOs, philanthropists, educators, and work force of the United States of America. However, as it currently stands, the Millennial Generation as a whole is not ready to take on these roles or the responsibilities that accompany them. The Millennial Generation has flaws that would hinder the development of society if left unresolved. The inability to accept criticism prevents the growth and development of individuals and ideas. Narcissism and self-absorption cloud perspectives and prevent Millennials from seeing beyond their own world. Overconfidence and inflated egos cause conflicts, which are left unresolved because the desire to be right serves as a roadblock to compromise and collaboration. Unrealistic expectations almost always lead to failure and disappointment. Similarly, striving for perfection is fruitless and impossible, the only results will be
unnecessary stress and disappointment. In its current state, the Millennial Generation is too fragile to control the United States. Lax parenting styles, widespread use of technology, and educational changes influenced the development of Millennial Generation. The combination of these factors yielded a group of young people with high self-esteem, warped views, and a number of incapacities. These flaws have rendered Millennials largely unprepared for adulthood and the Millennial Generation unprepared for its upcoming role as the work force of America.
Additional Sources: 1. “53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed-How?” by Jordan Weissmann of The Atlantic April 23, 2012 2. dictionary.reference.com 3. “Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009” by Stuart Rojstaczer & Christopher Healy of Teacher’s College Record 2012 4. The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe
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