In a crowded room of female leaders, I sat at a table and processed live questions from the audience with a group of amazingly seasoned women a couple of generations older than me.
A woman who was in her 50s leading an NGO asked the panelist a question I’m hearing repeatedly:
How do I deal with this entitled generation? They are spoiled and lazy and I just don’t know how to deal with them.
As the youngest person on the panel, the moderator turned to me looking for an answer. I breathed deeply and proceeded to share a few thoughts on some Millennial myths.
By definition, I am a Millennial, but I’m literally smack dab in the middle of the gap.
Instead of feeling pulled to different sides, I feel like my age makes me a perfect bridge to dialogue from both sides of the age gap.
So instead of attacking Millennials, I want to address some myths and debunk some claims based on data and statistics (YES, I love research). Before you think I’m raising a pro-Millinnial banner of unrighteousness, slow your roll. I also want to discuss some ways we, as a generation, can mature and stop wound-licking about “bitter old people” who don’t understand us and our love of social media.
Myth #1: Millennials are narcissistic and self-absorbed.
I’ve heard the phrase “entitled generation” a million times.
But where has this stigma come from? In 2010, professor Dr. Keith Ablow went on Fox News and said, “We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists.” From that point on, the narrative has been parroted around the nation that Millennials are entitled, spoiled and narcissist.
But is this issue a generational problem or a cultural problem?
As children, part of our basic vocabulary was the word MINE. Since infancy, humanity has been plagued with selfishness; there is a tendency for us ALL to think of ourselves first. So why label a group and stereotype a generation?
If we take a look at data, Millennials are just cautious and careful with who they are allowing to enter into their lives. Trust is a big component to this generation.
From the womb, there have been competing media voices telling Millennials who they are, how they should act and what they should buy. Older generation, don’t be surprised or offended when your adult voice is just another voice yelling at them, screaming for respect.
(And for being “self-absorbed” and “thinking of only themselves,” this generation has been more generous than any other generation. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report noted that 84 percent of Millennials made a charitable donation in 2014.)
Myth #2: Millennials and flaky and non-committal.
For a vision-based, idealistic generation like Millennials, this generation is less prone to just showing up like a cog in a wheel and expecting to plug and chug.
They want their work to matter. They want to be part of the big vision.
Why? Because this generation, according to Pew Research, thinks that the best is yet to come (versus the generally pessimistic Baby Boomers who thought their parents’ generation was better than theirs).
When we talk about the non-committal Millennial generation, stop and ask why. When Pew Research asked a sample of Millennials what their priorities were, they said being a good parent, having a successful marriage and helping others in need.
Yes, they are delaying marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are non-committal like many accuse.
(Note: America saw the height of divorce from 1985-1992 when most Millennials were born. It’s NO wonder why kids who saw parents divorce or live in broken relationships have fear about marriage. As slowly as Millennials enter into marriage, they will slowly enter into long-term jobs with employers they TRUST and feel like they can FLOURISH under.)
Myth #3: Millennials are lazy.
This claim is statistically unfounded. According to the U.S. Chamber Foundation, Millennials will be the most educated generation in American history. Research varies, but 35-65 percent of this generation are entrepreneurial and more than 27 percent are self-employed (higher than the previous generation).
Millennials have knowledge and skills that the previous generations didn’t have.
They also have a fast learning curve because they were born during the tech revolution and forced to update, download and export more than their predecessors. It’s less about not wanting to work and more about working a new way.
(In fact, if you don’t utilize the skills, talents and insights of an average Millennial, they will feel undervalued and ignored because their perspective is working in a different paradigm of exploration versus experience.)
Myth #4: Millennials are addicted to technology.
Is it a generation or is it our culture? Research is now showing that 50- and 60-year-olds LOVE talking about this screen obsessed generation, but do you know who’s on social media MORE than Millennials?
You guessed it. Baby Boomers and Gen X surpassed Millennials for phone usage.
My fear for this next generation is that if we continually hear that we are narcissistic, self-absorbed, lazy and entitled, we will actually believe it.
The common narrative is, “Who are YOU to have an opinion or a dream to be amazing?” But who are we NOT to?
Our American history was one of heroism, where when someone was successful, we celebrated them. But now, when someone is successful, we question the validity or try to discredit them because of their age.
- “You haven’t sacrificed like I have!”
- “You don’t know anything because you’re so young!”
- “You don’t have a track record for me to listen to you!”
But for all the Millennials reading this, I have to keep it real: We need to improve in some areas.
When I was 25 years old, I wish I had someone tell me, “Bianca, you have a lot of potential and I see the way you lead. But I’m also seeing some ways you can improve.” I would’ve LOVED that.
So let me be the one to have an honest conversation about adulting…
Myth #1 is that we are narcissistic and self-absorbed. But I think this misnomer can be remedied by giving honor to those ahead of us. We do a poor job at thanking those who have sacrificed for our ability to be who we are.
Thank your parents, your boss, your manager, your pastor for teaching you whether directly or indirectly. We stand on the shoulder of those who have gone before us, so say it.
(Shout out to my dad for showing me how to love people well, Beyoncé for showing me age ain’t nothing but a number, Christine for raising my excellence level, Beth Moore for showing me what killer teaching is!)
We say thank you and show honor because others have pioneered and paved the road we now walk on.
Myth #2 is that we are flaky and non-committal. You can’t be upset if people are annoyed that you are chronically late. Show up on time, let your yes be yes and your no be no. Stop making excuses and wasting your life on endless episodes on Netflix and Hulu. Grow up and start running the nation. We need you to show up and be present!
Myth #3 is that Millennials are lazy. Here’s the thing. EVERY generation has lazy people!
The choice is yours. Do you want to live in your momma’s basement with her 85 cats or do you want to start making a difference? Don’t be a stereotype, be a standout!
Myth #4 states that Millennials are addicted to social media. But what social media has done has flattened the landscape of power. Technology has blurred the lines between where the Proletariat ends and the Bourgeoisie begins.
When The PRESIDENT of the United States hollers at the rapper Snoop Dogg, the lines have blurred, friends. This platform of social media can be used for good, so use it for good!
I’ve got nothing but love, hope and faith for this next generation. The best is yet to come, but we must demystify the myths of Millennials and act like the people we know God has called us to be.
This article originally appeared here.