If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard some conflicting descriptors of Millennials. Some will say how creative, relational, and connected they are. Others will marvel at the emphasis they put on the meaning of their work, and not just the work itself. Millennials ask themselves: Is what I’m doing purposeful? How is it making a difference? What am I passionate about? Great stuff!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, you’ll hear educators, mentors, employers, and other leaders talk about Millennials’ apparent fear of what others think. Many people in this age group do not raise their hand in class, be the first to answer a question, or speak up when they have a differing opinion about something. There seems to be an irrational fear of being ridiculed, getting an answer wrong, or looking dumb. Or, increasingly, saying something that’s not PC!
Related, we hear many stories about how Millennials crave feedback. But, only if it’s positive! Even gently given constructive feedback is difficult for them to take. Generalizations, for sure, but we hear this constantly.
Also, many are struggling to land (and keep) jobs. Fresh out of college, they’re picky and finicky when it comes to finding work. I’ve heard too many stories of young adults choosing to live in their parents’ basements rather than taking a job that’s beneath them or imperfect in other ways.
What it all comes down to is risk aversion. Many young people today are simply unwilling to take risks with uncertain outcomes. Why so? Are they afraid of failing? Afraid of looking silly in front of their friends? Is there such an expectation of perfection in appearance and performance that didn’t used to exist? Is political correctness and hypersensitivity causing them to hesitate?
Elements of risk aversion and fear of failure can be witnessed in all areas of life. Here are some examples:
- We focus too much on what others might think in our quest for belonging. This doesn’t lead to a good quality of life, as living in other people’s heads will make us anxious, hesitant, hypersensitive, and exhausted.
- We fear “messing up” our resume. When we’re unemployed, taking a job that may not align with our college major or desired career goals will not look bad on our resume. Having a long gap in employment history WILL. It’s okay to start at the bottom (EVEN WITH A COLLEGE DEGREE) and work your way up. We all did it.
- We’re insecure. This applies not only to appearance, but also about strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and more. Those lacking in self confidence often struggle to accept themselves for who they really are. We must learn to love and appreciate ourselves and our uniqueness before we can truly become successful.
- We let pride get in the way by always needing to be right. People with this mindset generally need high odds of success before they will participate in anything. This is what I call “perfectionist syndrome” and it leads to prideful, resentful, hesitant, and generally unsuccessful outcomes. Not surprisingly, these people tend to struggle in team settings.
- We may be raised by helicoptering, performance-driven, or abusive parents. These forms of parenting inhibit children from trying new things and thinking for themselves.
As young people embark on life as an adult, the risks may seem extraordinarily high. However, so are the stakes. That’s why they need to learn to overcome their fears, hesitation, and insecurity, and simply go for it.
Next week, we’ll offer some ideas on how to overcome our fears and DO THIS!