“We need to challenge the negative narrative about young people and involve them in the solution.” – Ahmad Alhendawi
Millennials often get a bad rap and more often than not, we don’t question why they’re talked about negatively. Entitled, lazy, and selfish are some of the words used to describe them. This creates a social stigma surrounding Millennials, which we are quick to believe.
And yet, we also know that they’re a highly knowledgeable and skilled generation. They have the most potential to impact the world positively and still, the world puts them down more than it lifts them up. Why is this so? Isn’t it possible that Millennials are simply misunderstood? Why don’t we give them the benefit of the doubt? Let’s talk about it below.
Who are the Millennials?
Those who are part of the Millennial generation were born between 1981 and 1996. The oldest Millennial would be 39 years old this year.
Millennials are better educated compared to the generation of their grandparents. Not only is this because of the quality of education today, but it is the generation that grew up with easy access to information, primarily through the Internet. Thirty-nine percent of this generation had bachelor’s degrees when they were aged 25-37; a high number compared to only 15% of Baby Boomer degree holders at that age.(1)
As such, they are believed to be smart and skilled employees. In the U.S. alone, 35% of their workforce is composed of Millennials. According to this survey, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025. It is also this generation that helped encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace, with more Millennial women working in the U.S. workforce than ever.
Contrary to what many people think and believe, Millennials don’t sit idly by waiting for the universe to grant them their wishes. They are a generation of hardworking individuals and go-getters. They are dreamers, and they prioritise pursuing their aspirations — even holding off on marriage and raising a family to achieve their dreams.
Because Millennials are very goal-oriented, some would prefer a fulfilling career more than receiving high pay. This, in turn, makes financial freedom challenging for them and the cause of many Millennials still living with their parents.
The Misunderstood Millennial
It’s obvious how much potential this generation has, yet why do we see a lack of admiration and support for this generation? Millennials have several desirable traits that make them unique and special. However, if we don’t choose to shift perspective, we won’t be able to completely understand where they’re coming from. Let’s give it a try, shall we?
- Empowered, Not Entitled
How often do we hear people say or comment that Millennials are an entitled generation? Too often. Apart from that, they are also described as spoiled, selfish, and narcissistic, which means they only think about themselves – what they want and need – the “me” generation.
What we may fail to realise is that this is the generation who grew up with parents who work tirelessly. They’ve seen first-hand the absence of work-life balance in the previous generation and they’re saying “No, we’re not going through that. We’re going to be better.” The Internet has paved the way for Millennials to adapt to the times, and they’re using it to their advantage.
Millennials are also more in tune with themselves as they have more opportunities to voice out their thoughts and also hear what other people are saying through the Web and social media. They believe they deserve only the best, which is why it’s also the generation that is more committed to health, fitness, and wellness.
Additionally, Millennials are more self-aware in terms of mental health and well-being. Not only are they helping raise more awareness about it, they’re also very open to getting therapy if needed. Their parent’s generation is more welcoming of therapy practices, which makes Millennials more likely to seek help for self-improvement.(2)
This is not entitlement. This is empowerment. Millennials use their experiences to make life better for them because they know they deserve it. They know that their opinions matter and they believe they can make a change.
- Passionate, Not Selfish
There’s no doubt about it that Millennials are a passionate bunch. They won’t take no for an answer and quitting is not an option. Is that selfish? Not at all. Millennials pursue their passions with persistent drive and willpower. For most Millennials, it’s not about the money. It’s taking on a task or having a job that they will be happy about.
Because they are better educated, more competent, and socially engaged, they’ve grown more confident in what they can do and achieve.
- Versatile, Not Lazy
Many people describe them as lazy because while they comprise a large percentage of the workforce, they’re not exactly the ones who are keen to follow traditional workplace rules. Why wear a suit and tie every day if there won’t be meetings? Why spend eight hours in the office if they can complete their work in four and then spend the rest of the day on self-improvement?
Millennials are indeed pushing boundaries in society and the workplace and not many are happy with this. They want to be smart with their time. For Millennials, old rules and restrictions may not always apply in modern times. And in some cases, perhaps they’re right.
Millennials are brimming with ideas and most of the time, they will feel strongly about it. They’re very eco-conscious and that can also be because they’re a spirit-conscious generation. It’s more about identifying with spirituality than religion for them.(3) Apart from respecting nature, they also believe that all humans are equal and will help us fight for our rights without thinking twice.
What We Don’t Understand Scares Us
If the Millennial generation is so great, why do they have a bad reputation? The better question to ask is, if they’re so great, why don’t we support them? Simple, what we don’t understand scares us. The Millennial generation is a new one and a highly unique one at that and not many people understand the modern ways.
On paper, it seems like they have all the necessary qualities to become achievers in life. They are resourceful, tech-savvy, multi-taskers, passionate, enthusiastic, engaged, and hardworking. Not to mention, they are an optimistic generation, too, which is why they are determined to prove others wrong.
Yet in the process of achieving their dreams and trying to change the world, there are more and more Millennials who suffer from depression.(4) There are several possible causes for this. One is that Millennials weren’t able to develop conflict resolutions growing up because their parents worked so hard for them to have a comfortable life. They were protected from hardships and didn’t learn how to deal with conflicts properly. The only thing they had to worry about was focusing on their passions and goals.
It’s also a time of unprecedented changes, socially, economically and politically.
Many of them grew up in families where both parents worked, so out-of-home child-care was the norm. There were increased divorce rates and supportive family dynamics were less available. Hence, Millennials don’t feel secure and often find it difficult to engage in person to person connections compared to virtual connections.
Another reason is the work burnout, and stress they experience. Millennials are not as highly paid as the previous generation but they work longer hours.
Financial debt is also a possible reason for Millennial depression. They deal with continually increasing student loan debts and have to deal with job instability, especially during this time. Millennials are described as “generation rent.” According to research, one-third of Millennials may never afford a house and have to rent instead.
Breaking the Stigma
Millennials face hardships, just like every one of us. It is unfair for us to believe that they’re entitled when they are suffering as we do. They work hard for what they have and they don’t get enough credit. Break the stigma. Celebrate them.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling empowered, confident, and knowing what you deserve. If we understand them more and see things through their perspective, we can give them support to do bigger and greater things because they are capable of that. Pulling them down won’t do anyone any good. Let’s not just help them survive, let’s help them shine, thrive, and achieve success.