notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Low-Self-Esteem Generation

For years I have been reading and hearing about how Generation Y-ers have overdosed on self-esteem. Born in the 80s to the early 2000s, these young people are also sometimes called Millennials. And there have been increasing complaints in the workplace that this generation has an undue sense of entitlement.

Is it true?  Maybe.

Research certainly seems to point that way. In 1982, one third of the students taking the Narcissist Personal Inventory scored above average. In 2006, that number was 65%.

This is the generation where every kid got a trophy, no one ever failed, and no answer was ever wrong… just a “good try.”

At work, these Millennials require constant praise. Some companies have gone from an “Employee of the Month” program to  ‘Employee of the Week’ awards – dozens of them every week.

I’ve seen evidence of this myself. Several years ago, when I was still working for a major corporation, I interviewed college juniors for our internship program. They were, shall we kindly say, enormously self-assured. One young person particularly stood out. When I asked him what he saw himself doing, he said, “I’d like to be involved in the strategic decision-making for the company.” I couldn’t help but reply, “Would you really want to work for a company that let YOU make strategic decisions?”

But here’s the thing: These self-important, spoiled, egomaniacs may be on to something. Maybe they don’t worry so much about what other people think, because they know they are just AWESOME.

You see, I am from the Low-Self-Esteem Generation.

I’m luckier than some of my peers. My parents didn’t discourage me or call me a dumbbell on a daily basis. They were just honest about my shortcomings while supportive of my efforts. They never stroked my ego, but they didn’t damage it too much either.

My husband wasn’t so lucky. His parents didn’t offer encouragement. He told me about trying to learn to play drums as a kid. His mother ridiculed his poor performance from the very start.”You are just awful,” she said. “You have no talent.” I can see the result today. He is very stressed trying something new. I always have confidence that he will succeed in whatever he does – he’s proven it to me over and over again. But he doesn’t believe it. He’s afraid of failure.

And I’ve worked with a woman so fearful of criticism, she would cry over the tiniest insignificant mistakes. “Don’t fire me,” she pleaded when she needed surgery. What the hell had her childhood been like? I only know that she once mentioned that she grew up in her grandfather’s house, and that he did not allow children to step on his lawn – or make any noise.

Some of our parents had the best of intentions. One of my friends had protective parents. They didn’t want her to be disappointed. They didn’t want her hurt by failure. So they didn’t want her to try. She was plucky enough to defy her parents and take chances anyway. But her tendency now is to get her back up when anyone tries to give her advice. She will do exactly the opposite. Even when the advice is good.

And for us in the Low-Self-Esteem Generation, a lot of our insecurities revolve around our looks. I don’t know a single woman my age who didn’t grow up thinking she was ugly.

I’m one of those. I always hated the way I looked. And my sweet but honest parents didn’t lie to me nearly enough. I hardly ever heard them say that I was pretty. It didn’t help that I developed scoliosis at puberty. My crooked spine was an enormous source of shame to me.

On the positive side, I consider myself the very latest of Late Bloomers. I’m now sixty-five and I feel rather beautiful. Better late than never, I guess.

But it’s tenuous.

This weekend we went to a local theater for a musical review called “The Taffetas” – four women singing songs from the 50s. They were terrific singers.

It’s a small theater and we had good seats. I could see that these young woman were nice-looking but not stunning beauties. What I would call attractive and approachable. Nice.

And at one point in the production, they all turned their backs to the audience at the dramatic ending to the song.

And all I could see were four young straight backs.

And I fell apart just a little bit.

Oh well.

I’ll try to feel beautiful again tomorrow.

taffetas2

 

 

28 Comments

  1. iamsallyrose

    I think we all have our insecurities. I had a father similar to your husband’s mom. Nothing was ever good enough. I was afraid to try things because I’d been told that I’d fail. I’m making up for lost time now. 😉

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    • No one’s parents were perfect, but I think most were doing the best they could. And now we do the best we can to feel okay about ourselves.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have something in the middle?

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  3. Not a single point to argue here. Well said!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

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  5. I grew up in my sister’s shadow, though I know my parents loved me, These days, I’m not bothered as I can see how different we are. Hubby says people like me for the person I am, and i think that alone is the best compliment anyone could give me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right – a very nice compliment – that you are just fine the way you are.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We do all have our insecurities. While my Mother was alive she worked very hard as a single mom to keep us on par with the kids we went to school with. We never went without but you could see the cost to her. We were taught respect and we were well loved. She taught us by example. She worked hard for everything, we all work hard. Our friends were always welcome and loved. I never realized any of my friends were different from me because no one ever told me. They were just my friends we cared about. At the age of twelve I lost my Mother and went into foster care. That’s where I learned my one friend was black and I wasn’t allowed to play with them anymore. That’s where I learned my friend Jeannie was retarded and I wasn’t allowed to play with her anymore. That’s where I learned that I was not good enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough, etc. There was less than low self esteem. I worked hard to be like my Mother and not like my keepers. As a result I feel very strongly about this generation that I call the “Generation Entitled”. There is no respect in that generation. However, recently I have found a couple (or more) young kids that have not yet hit their teens. They have respect. They don’t act entitled and they are a joy to spend time with. I don’t how they are like that or what their parents did right but they are my “Generation Hope.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You hit the nail on the head. I wore glasses from puberty on (until I could afford contact lenses) and felt so ugly (and this was the days of the damn cats-eye frames that made kids look awful). We all have the gift of taking that one thing and making it so much larger than it is. I have no idea how the millennials got their self esteem except that their parents were so intend on not repeating their childhood they went over the edge. Learning failure early on is really a great lesson in perseverance. Just look at us now!

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    • I think that’s true… our generation, with our really low self-esteem, tried much too hard to make our kids feel good. Now our kids have no realistic image of themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Some great points made here. I would challenge that even those raised in a loving & supportive environment can develop insecurities as they progress through life, I suppose it is what makes us human. I think it’s important to find a balance, both in parenting & in self recognition. I guess aging to some degree, does that for us!

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    • True enough. Some parents do everything right, and the kids find a way to feel bad about themselves anyway.

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  9. Postwar poverty and British stiff upper lip–wow, it’s taken me most of my 70 years to finally get over my upbringing and feel I’m good enough, reasonably attractive and all that. Still, better late than never.

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    • That’s my motto. I may have been a homely 30 year old. But I’m a pretty 65 year old – and I’m enjoying it.

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  10. Excellent post! These young people are very self-confident and seem to feel that they deserve everything. I too came from the low self-esteem generation but at 71 I feel quite confident!

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    • We are lucky to have finally found a measure of self-assurance.

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  11. My parents were never into praise. When I was growing up, playing clarinet in the band my dad asked me not to practice when he was home. So he was stunned when I had a long solo in a concert my junior year of high school. His loss I guess. Still…I was shy and uncertain and in huge fear of rejection. Still working on all of that…and I turn 60 this weekend.

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    • It was definitely your father’s loss. But at least he learned that you were good. Like you, I am still learning that I am good enough.

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  12. Ray G

    I was going to submit a long comment here, then changed my mind in favor of the conclusion: I have never looked at you and seen anything wrong with your back. I didn’t even know about it until I was told by others. Those who know you don’t notice, either. And everyone else should/does ignore what you cannot change, period.

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    • Thanks Ray. I know that there are many who are so much worse off than myself, and yet it is the one thing I would change about myself in a minute, if I could.

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  13. Dana

    Being early 40s, I was at the beginning of the self esteem push. However, being morbidly obese, and constantly reminded, by other kids, teachers and my parents, totally counteracted any self esteem I might have gotten. So I never believed anything nice anyone said to me. Nice comments were usually a build up to a slam, anyway. As in: “(supposedly) nice thing about me”, and then ” if only you would lose some weight”. I could tell within the first few words, and think to myself “whatever, liar”.

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    • I’ve heard that said … “You would be so pretty if only you could lose weight.” That is so sad and so wrong. As if you are not beautiful the way you are. As if there aren’t a hundred things that matter more.

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  14. Pam

    Enjoyed your post, Nancy! Just so you know, I never notice whether anyone’s spine is straight or not. It’s not something I look for; I never check to see if anyone has a straight back. And I really don’t care. I can’t name even one person I know who has a “crooked” spine. Just wanted to make the point that scoliosis is not as noticeable as you might think. 🙂

    I am also from the Low Self Esteem Generation. I have been told that I am a meek person – not exactly a compliment. There has to be a happy medium out there that we should strive for in raising the next generation.

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  15. Reblogged this on "But I Play One on TV".

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  16. Great post. Thank you for sharing!

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