This is a topic I never thought I’d actually touch. We hear about how people think they’re so special, typically using the words special snowflake and typically from the older generations (read: 50+). Typically these low slung insults have the right idea, though the angle at which these statements are being lobbed is all wrong.
I’m talking about Chapter 3 in Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck. In particular, there’s a couple passages that I want to highlight before I take the anti-special-snowflake generation to task.
…beginning in…the 1970s, self-esteem practices began to be taught to parents, emphasized by therapists, politicians, and teachers… Kids were given inanne homework assignments, like writing down all the reasons why they thought they were special…seminars [told us everyone] can be exceptional and massively successful.
That sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?
Today, we have a group of individuals, thought not technically wrong, chanting about how kids are being taught participation trophy this and safe space that. No one seems to have stopped and thought where all this came from…
It came from the generation of people complaining about it right now, and the generation before them. When the shoe is on the other foot, it’s amazing how much the narrative changes.
On the flipside:
…a generation later and the data is in: we’re not all exceptional. It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself.
Hmm. Mark’s taking the side of the grumps, as the millenials would probably call those of us trying to spoil the fun (I suppose, I have no idea; saying things in jest is what makes the Internet great, right?).
The difference here is how this information is shared. Right now we’re faced with old people telling young people you’re wrong and you should feel bad which as history clearly shows, works absolutely zero percent of the time. You’d think the old people in the scenario would know better, given they were young once. Oh well.
In order for this information to sink it, it needs to be discovered by those needing it the most… once they’re adults. The huge caveat to all this is: trying to teach a child that life sucks and to grow a pair always turns out wonderfully (not). Having grandpa tell your six-year-old about how his life was such shit that said six-year-old should nut up and stop feeling bad about not winning something somewhere is a fantastic idea (not).
There’s a threshold after which an individual can understand this concept. As a child, said individual is not at or past such a point.
So what do we do? We raise our kids to be kids and as they get older, enstill them with the tools they need to discover life on their own and at their own pace. If we raise our children to be entitled, then we’ll have entitled adults. If we raise our childen to be walking satirical assholes and finding the doom and gloom and life is hard, suck it up comes out of their depressive face holes every moment of the day (cough, nihilism), then we’ll have a new generation of nihilistic sad sacks that end up bitter in their old age.
There’s a balance in the middle, but I don’t believe it’s found to be valuable by any other means but through experience. The short version of all this is: life is hard but don’t be an ass in teaching children that. Let them figure it out and guide them.
Perhaps one day we’ll no longer have a generation of sad sacks complaining about snowflakes.
Also published on Medium.