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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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