Advertising
Advertising

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

If you were born between 1977 and 1995, well, hello there, fellow Millennial!

Otherwise know as Generation Y, Millennials make up a very large chunk of the world’s population. In the US alone we are 86 million strong. And this generation, which is larger than the Baby Boomers, is going through an existential funk. In plain terms, Gen Y is pretty unhappy.

This generation is making a name for itself as one of the most unsatisfied generations of all time. It’s so bad that stereotypes symbolizing the Gen Y kid as unhappy, mopey, and “needy” have already popped up. Frequent criticisms include: “Millennials can’t be pleased,” and “Those kids are never happy.” And to be fair, we are pretty down in the dumps.

But I’ll be the first to defend us, and with passion. We have a litany of strengths: we are tech savvy, purpose-driven, confident, and ready to learn up on almost any skill. However, we also have our quirks, the biggest of which is that we are terribly unhappy with how life turned out. We are unhappy with our jobs. We dislike how we spend our days. We are desperate for something more in life and in our careers. While we have many things to be proud of, we don’t pay attention to them, and instead focus on what we don’t have or what others are doing and that we are lacking.

How Did Gen Y Get Here?

To be unhappy you need to have unmet expectations. That gap between what is and what should be is causing despair.

As Millennials grew up, our parents and teachers encouraged us to chase our wildest dreams. They instilled a deep sense of self-confidence that made us believe in the old PSA, “You can be whatever you set your mind to.” They reminded us that we were unique in our strengths and identities.

Advertising

That’s a great mindset, but one that can also quickly deflate you if you don’t see it materializing, which is what happened. Once grown up we saw that our smarts and skills were not enough to cut it in the “real world.” We had to prove ourselves all over again–sometimes starting from square one. The honors, A+ grades, padded extra-curricular schedule, and top-tier college degree weren’t enough to get us a high-impact, challenging job with a purpose. It wasn’t enough to avoid spending years getting coffee and organizing files. Or days burned making cold calls, reading a script a 14-year-old could follow.

The salt to this wound comes in the form of our smartphones and computer screens. While we toil away at a shockingly regular life, we see our friends share the best moments of their lives via Facebook and Instagram. All those pictures of Machu Picchu. All those check-ins to four-star restaurants. All those updates letting us know about their raises, or the cool project they are working on. The Joneses are not next door, but on the other side of the Update button. “Her life is so much better than mine. What did I do wrong?

So here we are. A confident and ambitious generation, survivors of one of the most intensely competitive school and job markets, faced with the not-so-flashy real world. Whenever we chafe at this, we are called “entitled.” Our high (possibly too high) standards are making us into trouble-makers. It feels like a dire situation, and that’s because it can be. That gap between expectations and reality is causing this deep unhappiness. It feels like it was all for naught; like everyone, including ourselves, were wrong about us.

Yet, there’s hope. By being aware of our reality, and why we feel how we do, we can start getting better. It all starts with describing the darkness, for once you start doing that you can distinguish it from the light.

Below are some reasons why Gen Y is unhappy, and how they can get beyond that point and live a more fulfilling life. This generation is a tremendous one, both in size and in uniqueness, and this malaise will not define it. It’s up to us to push beyond the funk.

1. Never Stop Searching for What Feels Right

If something isn’t working out, if your job doesn’t make you feel fulfilled, if your city is not your style, if your daily habits are not making you happy, realize this truth: you’re young enough to easily try different things on.

Advertising

Change will be hard, but in the grand scheme that is your life, it’s easiest when you are young. You have fewer commitments, less biography to reconcile, and tons of time ahead to experiment.

Any major change will lead to two things: you’ll either love it or get a little bit closer, or you won’t like it but can easily make another change. If science is right and most us will live past our 70s, then you have many many decades ahead to explore and expand. Don’t stop searching; keep trying on different things and beef up your knowledge base.

2. Be Kind and Appreciate

Your job may suck because it doesn’t challenge you. You may be in a role that is boring, or your work environment may not be what you’d expect in a workplace. And you’re right, that sucks. But that’s not the whole story.

There’s always an upside. Even in the most miserable times there is an upside, which is that it can’t get any worse. But most of us don’t notice that angle. We are just looking at the situation that doesn’t meet our standards. We are unhappy because there’s that “gap” staring right at us every day.

I recommend you ignore that gap. Yep, totally dismiss it. You won’t be able to get rid of it, but you’ll be best served by focusing on other things. Force yourself to focus on the things that are going well. Think about the things you have that others don’t (a job, an apartment, your health, your youth). Think about the things you didn’t have five years ago (more skills, more friends, more confidence).

These are easy to forget because they aren’t staring you in the face. No, they are too nice for that; they are kindly waiting on the side, hoping you notice them and appreciate the hard work that went into each.

Advertising

Part of being happy is being happy with what you have. That requires appreciation for your skills, your blessings, and your opportunities. This doesn’t mean you sit on your laurels and think everything is perfect (because you’re just lying to yourself and you’ll know it), but do stop every day and say, Thank you, to yourself. You’ve earned it. It’ll also make you breathe a little bit easier.

3. Notice the Noise

Let’s not forget the gap. That gap between what should be and what is drives most of our grief. But where did that gap come from? How has it become so loud that we give into it and ignore all the good stuff?

It got there because we listened to other people.

We listened to our parents who gave us a very strict definition of “success”: “Bill’s kid is so successful. He made over $100,000 last year…”

We listened to our peers who only share the best side of themselves on social media. Think: how often do you see any of them share pictures of their dirty room or how much they’re screwing up at their job? Yet you and I know that it happens.

We listened to society who told us that by age X we should have Y, and if we are doing things “right” we should look/talk/have XYZ.

Advertising

It’s all that noise that’s causing the trouble. It drowns out what we want, what is true to us. We are paying so much attention to everybody else that we don’t even know what we think about things like success, the good life, or our personal identity. The first step is to be aware that the noise exists. This helps distinguish it from our truth. Once you do that, you’ll realize how much that ruckus has driven your life thus far–and why it’s time to tune it out.

4. Expect a Bumpy Ride

Having personal goals sets us up for success simply by sketching out what we want. That’s powerful stuff.

But the fact that we want something does not change the path we need to walk to get it. It doesn’t take obstacles out of the way, or speed up the process. Our drive has one primary purpose, and that is to keep us making progress and pick us up after our trip ups. That’s it.

If you aren’t tripping or messing up, then you’re not aiming high enough. Your drive, that fuel tank that sits right behind your heart, is not being used well.

For the really audacious goals (those you daydream of) you cannot not have friction. Obstacles will always be there. It may be personal limits that you have to break through or other people trying to get the same thing, but there will always be some bumps and bruises.

Knowing this, of course, won’t make those aches you get along the way hurt any less. But it will help you see the grander picture. It will tell you that your drive is being spent on really awesome stuff. It might be a bumpy ride, and it may take longer than you thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worth it. The best stuff is worth fighting for–sometimes it takes a lifetime to get it.

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/ via flickr.com

More by this author

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It 11 things to be happy 11 Things You Need To Drop Now To Be Happy leader How Self-Awareness Makes A Leader Successful unplug Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law? active fun Why You’re Resting All Wrong And How To Fix It

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next