I’m not a big fan of generalizations and especially not of stereotypes. Part of this I’m sure stems from my having a disability that’s different than what most people are used to seeing. But I also just don’t think you can ever apply ideas or characteristics to an entire group of people. Even if the majority of said group happens to have the characteristics of a generalization or a stereotype, there will still always be people who don’t fit into that mold. The “outliers” of sorts. Therefore, I think it’s completely unfair to apply something to an entire group, even if there are only one or two outliers.
The CEO at my company shared an article with us on our company social media platform today (known affectionately as Yammer) that discussed Generation Y (those born between the late 1970s and 1990s). She’s actually the one who gave me the idea for this post. It outlined three points to be true of those of us born in that generation: 1) highly ambitious, 2) delusional, and 3) taunted (as in comparing ourselves on social media, etc). I have always kind of taken issue with trying to slap labels on groups of people because then you get into those waters of stereotyping, but I understand how articles like these are just trying to make sense of groups of people as well. It’s a way to try to foster understanding. However, this particular article stereotyped the hell out of my generation and I took issue especially with the second point – delusional. The argument behind it was that we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter because we think we’re more “special” than everyone else. It also stated that we have unrealistic expectations. I think there are certainly people that fit into Gen-Y that have these characteristics (I think it goes without saying I’m sure there are members of Gen-X and the Baby Boomer generation even that probably have the same characteristics too) but I, and many people I know, absolutely do not. When I graduated college, the job market had started its steep descent from a plunging economy. I didn’t get a job for almost 6 months after I graduated and even that was pretty good. The job availability just wasn’t there. This wasn’t the case for past generations. For a lot of people, you went to college, graduated and got a job right away. That’s exactly how it went for both of my parents. It wasn’t even really questioned, it just happened. I think that really started to change with my generation and we were made painfully aware early on that that wasn’t how things were going to work for us.
I also watched my dad work hard every day at his job and my mom work hard to raise me so I knew from a young age the value of hard work. I knew that things didn’t just get handed to you in life; that you usually had to work for them. So I completely do not identify with the article’s assertion that we all just expect to be CEOs right out of the gate or expect some high paying job to just drop into our laps. I know there’s plenty of other people out there who feel the same way too.
I’ve always considered myself to be an outlier. For most of my life, I felt like it was a bad thing and it caused a lot of anguish. I probably would have wanted to be considered a classic Generation-Y just like my peers. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want to be different. But as I get older, the more I embrace the fact that I’m different. I’m an outlier in more ways than just the fact I have muscular dystrophy or don’t fit the mold for a Generation-Y member. The world needs us outliers, whether we’re from Generation L, M, N, O or P. Living outside the box (yes, living, not thinking), is what makes the world interesting. If everyone acted the same way or had the same opinion all the time, what a boring world we would live in. So waitbutwhy, I am very happy to be an outlier to your theory as many of us are I’m sure. So the next time you think of a Generation-“why”-er, maybe see them as a person first and not just as a label or a birth date.