Overcoming The Millennial Stereotype

They’re entitled and just want everything handed to them.

They’d rather binge watch Netflix while glued to their iphones than face the real world.

They go to college to get a useless degree, then complain when they dig themselves into various kinds of debt because they can’t pay for anything.

If you were born roughly between 1982 and 2002, you’ve probably heard these statements questioned and debated across blogs, forums, and social media. It can feel like looking through a glass window and not being allowed to speak while everyone else goes back and forth, or attempting to shout over a cacophony of noise in a crowded town hall meeting. It’s as though young people spend more time and energy trying to defend themselves (or at least explain their perspective), and the arguments end up going in circles.

Assumptions are aggravating, but the reality is that you cannot control what people think of you, regardless of how you project yourself. There are those who will always be committed to seeing you through the eyes of a particular religion, political party, or generation and no amount of proof or explanation will change that. But rather than chasing after respect or approval from others who may not ever extend it, focus on rising above subjective opinions and statistics for the sake of your own emotional health and well-being.

I’m a sensitive person as is, but having Cerebral Palsy helped me to develop a rather tough shell, and by the time I reached adulthood it became a full-blown “screw you” attitude. Having to go through multiple transitions post-graduation only added to the bitterness, and to say the least I was not a pleasant person to be around. As I’ve examined and refined that gritty persona, I’ve noticed a common thread: my generation does not want to get hurt, and they will go out of their way to avoid pain, even if it means tricking themselves into not feeling at all. Perhaps exhausted by the unfairness of life, and perhaps it’s a way to cope with the debilitating news cycle that’s often saturated in tragedy and lack of truth. All I know for sure is that it doesn’t work, or it will only work for a while until that unfortunate bubble pops.

Rejection is brutal. Disappointment is a tough pill to swallow. No amount of sucking it up makes us immune from that, which is why there really is no such thing as developing a thick skin. You can keep the bad stuff out, but you won’t get to experience real love or intimacy either. When you allow yourself to feel and let it teach you what it’s supposed to, you then find a path to moving forward.

Part of the reason why there is such a huge dichotomy between generations is because there seems to be very little communication between one another. It’s easy to point fingers at technology and social media (or a lack of knowledge regarding to the two), but as time goes on that seems to be more of an excuse for laziness and ignorance. If you want to live a life you can be proud of, you have to be willing to learn and grow. And the best way I’ve been able to do that is through seeking out others who’ve been there and starting a conversation. The challenge is knowing what questions to ask, and to ask ones that go beyond “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, can you help me?” We all need help in getting to where we want to go, but how we ask for it determines how and whether or not we receive it.

The specifics will depend on whether you’re talking with someone on a personal or professional level. I tend to start off with “How did you get into your particular field?” and go from there, making sure to do proper research beforehand and tailoring the questions specifically to that person, if possible. Keep in mind that it might take more than one conversation with multiple people, especially if you’re trying to learn all that you can regarding what you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s intimidating at first, and you won’t get a response from everybody. Whether they admit it or not, many enjoy passing on what they’ve learned because it makes them feel valued and needed. Every aspect of the journey has a purpose, and at some point you’ll most likely be given the opportunity to help or be a mentor to someone else.

Coming from an athletic family and dabbling in sports myself, I had a front row seat to the formulas of success. Eat these foods, work out and practice x times a week, follow certain plays, and then you should know the game and know how to win. Formulas are helpful in certain situations, but not always in regards to relationships or a specific career path. Sometimes you have to be willing to take the long way, to take a risk and be open to the possibility of falling flat on your face. I’m an adventurous person by nature, having bruises and scars from various missteps and running into brick walls. It comes down to paying attention and trusting your instincts, despite the fear of missing out if you need to set boundaries in the process.

Cynicism is rampant, and on one hand I can’t fault anyone for it when they’ve gone through the same crap on a repeated basis. However, projecting it onto those who weren’t involved doesn’t always make them treat you better or give you what you want. It’s said that what you put out into the world is what you will get back; and while that’s still true, I might add that it does not always come back in the way you expect it to.

And just because one or a few people hurt you does not mean that the entire world is out to get you.

Consider the possibility that you might be part of the problem, and that you can always be part of the solution.

It’s not us versus them. We’re in this together, or at least we should be.

Having navigated the craziness for the last five years, I understand the frustration that comes with feeling like the only thing standing in between you and an amazing opportunity is someone else’s outdated way of thinking. It’s entirely fair to challenge it, but at the end of the day I can only take responsibility for my actions, just as the people around me can only take responsibility for theirs. Compassion and empathy should not just be limited to one age group, but something that we should all be practicing. If you haven’t had to deal with ageism in your twenties, you most likely will in your forties and fifties.

Take the laser focus off what you have to prove, and simply show up and show them who you are. Instead of waiting for permission from previous generations, give yourself permission to go forth with unclenched fists and shoulders, your head held high, and determination in your heart.

You’ve got this. We’ve got this.



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