Down From Olympus

March 21, 2017

Coddled. Whiny. Self-Important.

This cane shaking generational critique has become something of a famous pasttime among the Baby Boomers. Millennials are the generation everyone loves to hate. The trouble with kids these days is they've been told they are special with such frequency: they actually believe it. Their overprotective parents have cleared their path of any obstacles which might derail the "chosen ones" narrative.

Or so the story goes.

It came as no surprise that this generation is wrestling with anxiety and depression at an unusually high rate. You can almost hear the glee in their tone as they report, "that's what you get when Millennials encounter reality." By this we mean they encounter the "truth" that they aren't special after all.

We worship the gods of success, those who earned billions before their 25th birthday, those who exhibit phenomenal talent at unthinkably young ages: musical prodigies, chess prodigies these nearly mythological characters are celebrated as the truly exceptional among us.

For some this is a relief. After all, if that's what greatness looks like it's quite easy to see if you don't have it. That gives us permission to be content where we are; with normal. We are mere mortals.

For the Millennials though, this is soul crushing. They too recognize they've fallen short of greatness, but there is no mark on their measuring stick for normal; just great and failure.

What? You are almost 25 and NOT a millionaire yet?

What? You only graduated from regular college? No MBA or doctorate?

Not at the top of the corporate ladder by 30?

The Millennials may be coddled. As parents, determined to ensure the "special" label sticks, notoriously and systematically remove obstacles; they rob their children of the ability to face adversity and overcome hardships. The far more insidious message though, is that failure is unacceptable.

Everyone carefully curates their social media profiles. Posting only the best, most flattering (often retouched) photos, reporting only the best news, sharing just the right sentiments about their romantic relationships and never revealing the cracks and imperfections. This is not reality. Reformed Instagram sensation, Essena O'Neill sums it up as "contrived perfection made to get attention," before swearing off social media for its addictive and destructive properties.

Anyone confronted with this massive distortion field is sure to be filled with shame and insecurity. It's as though the entire world has become a glossy magazine rack filled with impossibly perfect women and men, with exquisite style, porcelain skin, elaborate makeup, storybook romance, flawless home d├ęcor, Iron Chef level culinary skills, cherubic children with Olympic athletic potential, unlimited travel budgets, rewarding careers, they look every bit the part of the gods. Only they are not up on Mount Olympus like the celebrities and models in those magazines. They are our "friends".

Social media is contrived perfection made to get attention

Filed under: millennials, anxiety, depression, shame

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