Millennials have gotten a pretty bad rap. As a therapist and coach (and Generation X’er) working primarily with Millennials, my job allows me to listen to the issues and stresses of this generation. I feel lucky to be able to work with this group because they have taught me a lot about how to survive in this Facebook, Instagram, selfie, and me-centric world. I don't think this generation is inherently selfish, I think they're misunderstood and misrepresented by today's media and I would like to propose a different perspective on the millennial generation.
This generation has been accused of being self-involved, but don’t forget, Millennials are currently in their 20s and early 30s. Isn’t this the time of your life to be completely self-absorbed? Millennials are exploring what it means to be an adult and making the same kinds of mistakes you and I made when we were that age. The difference is, they're doing it in a time when technology and social media record all of their silly, self-involved moments.
Millennials grew up with technology and as “digital natives” they have a very different perspective and viewpoint on “sharing” and “liking” something. They see the moments of their lives as opportunities to be captured and share instantly. They see texting as flirting and communication.
What my 20 something clients want from their lives are the same things I wanted in my 20s; to fall in love with someone what will love me back, to find a satisfying career, and to live in a house or apartment that feels like an actual grown-up lives there. What surprises me most is everyone seems to think that this generation is somehow different or wants and expects something else from their lives.
The Millennials that I work with all have jobs. I practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and the housing market is insane right now. I could not imagine having to pay $1500-$2000/month to live with a roommate in an “OK” part of town, yet my clients are doing just that. They’re not calling mom or dad for help everyday. They feel proud that they are on their own and doing what it takes to make their own money.
Many of my clients are living 2000-3000 miles away from home for the first time and loving that San Francisco feels like “their” city. My Millennial clients show up on time, pay on time and always let me know if they have to miss a session.
In Jennifer Graham’s article, “A Generation of Idle Trophy Kids” Graham claims Millennials are “idle” because “they’re victims of their parents’ success and frustrated that they see no way to replicate it. And why should they, if they’re already livin’ the dream?” Due to the depressed economy and lack of jobs for recent college graduates, many Millennials have been retreating to their parent’s homes and some have become “idle.”
There are many young people right now living with their parents because they cannot get a job or a job that pays enough to afford rent. Is this really that different than other generations? I moved home after college and lived with my sister (who was also living rent free because she was in law school) in our mother’s rental unit. I moved home again at age 27 after deciding to give up my career and life in LA.
It seems to survive in today’s social media world you have to have an armor made of Teflon. I always say to my 20 something clients, I am so grateful I didn’t have to deal with Facebook or Instagram when I was in my 20s. I wasn’t faced with having to see what my friends were doing without me on the weekends and I didn’t have to see that the boy I liked was hanging out with some other girl on Saturday night.
My Millennial clients have taught me about being able to put yourself out there. Maybe Millennials have had to become so “me-centric” and self-involved in order to withstand the world we live in today. You need to have a very strong ego to post a picture of yourself and withstand the snarky comments that may or may not follow.
There are times that I catch myself saying things like “these kids today…” but then I reflect back on my sessions with my Millennial clients. I think about how anxious and hopeful they feel about their futures. I think about how hard it is to remain strong when you are still so young. I am lucky to work with millennials. I don't see them as selfish, self-absorbed individuals, I see them as a group of young adults striving to define themselves in a world that none of us have had to live in before, and doing it to the best of their ability.