I’m so tired of listening to people complain about millennials and the participation trophy.
So let’s. have. a chat.
Now I am NOT saying there are not self- entitled young people in the world today. But I find it fascinating that the laser light of that label shines directly on the backs of millennials alone when the poster child of self- entitlement now sits in the most influential political chair in the United States. (But I digress)
My point is: Self-entitlement is NOT a generation ….. it’s a mindset. It is a LEARNED trait.
May I ask, where do you think the self-entitled millennials LEARNED this behavior?
Let’s dissect the accusation that millennials ‘suck at life’ because they were given participation trophies for showing up.
Where in the fuck do you think they got awards for such things? WHO DO YOU THINK HANDED THEM PARTICIPATION TROPHIES?
In order for your argument to be concise: this would mean 20 years ago, a group of 9-year-olds decided they wanted to give themselves and the opposing team trophies for good effort.
Seriously, think about this, logically for one second. We all know No kid in the history of time ever came to the conscious decision to stop keeping score. Kids keep score. Kids are competitive. Humans are competitive. It’s COMPLETELY natural. PERIOD. THE END.
No. No, NOPE. This was an ADULT decision. This was (probably) a pissed off parent (mom) who, I’m sure did a great job of convincing the other parents of the debauchery of losers and winners. They were probably the loudest voice in the bunch and everyone played along.
Do you know what the symbology of a participation trophy is? It represents a portion of parents/ coaches/ and “adults” who Didn’t want to deal, so they gave kids shiny things to shut them up.
That’s right…. the millennial generation, ‘we’ were the “too much” kids. We were a new wave of sensitive only to learn, sensitivity was not acceptable. We weren’t mushy though in fact, we were fiery as hell. We got PISSED when we lost. We were angrier than adult men who just lost the super bowl, we didn’t just cry, we MOURNED. We FELT the collapse of worlds inside of us. We kicked, screamed, and wore it around like a badge on our chest. We let the rains of our failures dance across our skin as we hid in the dark replaying each mistake over in our minds.
But, we also clung to the hope that YOU (mom. dad. coach. teacher etc) would accept this part of our processing, and you didn’t.
Sure, we WANTED to win. and we “wanted” to (learn to) lose, but more so, we wanted to believe it was okay to feel sad about it all. Instead, you took it personally, threw your hands up and said, “Just give the kid a trophy and be done with this already!”
Instead of teaching us.
Instead of sitting with us.
Instead of leading us through our experiences.
We wanted to learn! In the “easiest” way possible through childhood athletics, games and muted ‘safe’ places that losing was a stopping point on the train of life. We wanted to learn that feeling upset was just as important as good sportsmanship.
Losing was never the problem, this was about intolerance to our perceptions.
We knew losing was supposed to suck. It wasn’t meant to be a ‘good’ feeling. Losing is a part of life. It means teaching hard work, effort, practice, sweat, blood, tears and 110% effort can sometimes mean it may amount to FAILURE in the end.
Failing is terrifying. This means putting it all on the line for something we believe in with no promise of reward. And somewhere deep down, I sort of get why some parent would want to save their kid from the never-ending emotional sting of defeat. But risk-taking is an art that must be taught.
And without failure, you’re taking away the rich reward of resilience.
My kid is 9 he still asks what the score of his soccer game is. Even though ‘they’ don’t keep track, I do. And I’m happy to tell him who is winning or losing. He’s searching for fuel, for hunger, for DRIVE. Motivation (for sensitive people) churns up from coming face to face with the external data that agrees with the sensations roaring inside of us.
I can teach my child to respect the opposing team and still have a passion for the game. I am willing to deal with loss. I am aware he’ll have his own response to it. I am not afraid of his rage, despair or his grief. He’ll learn, sometimes it’s a no and that’s brutally painful. I’ll be there to hold him through it while he learns how to process it.
That way when we fast forward to his adulthood and he loses his first real job, he’ll grieve his first rejection, and he’ll understand it may not be his last.
That way, when he puts his heart and soul into his first real project and it gets passed over, he can move through the sting of it while he simultaneously digging into his resilience.
That way when a love interest turns him down he can deal with that appropriately and learn to harbor a sense of self- worth that is not contingent on this person’s yes or no.
We must agree that each child has a different response to life experience and there is NO right or wrong in that.
But these things are TAUGHT through (self) acceptance. And if you come in contact with a person who violently rebels against rejection, that means they were never given permission to unlock their inner power and rise.
As for us [millenials],
you ‘didn’t want to deal’ with our emotional response and that is self- entitlement in its own right.
You didn’t approve of our sensitivity so you found a way not to.
We’re still trying to figure out how to appease you all the while finding the freedom to have our own thoughts, feelings, and responses to our experiences.
Instead of your leadership, we’re stuck listening to you rant about the entitled millennial.
Our limitations were somehow a reflection of you and we’re still recovering.
And we’ve had enough.
What we’re waking up to is the reality that we have to quit living to your unrealistic expectations and find a better way.
We’re the generation willing to take responsibility. We won’t be afraid. This isn’t about you or your agenda anymore. It’s about a whole NEW generation of even MORE sensitive kids than ever before.
Give them a chance to be human.
Guide them through the ups and downs of life.
Give them a fighting chance to fail.
Give them space to be emotional.
Then show them how to claim their self- worth.
It’s time to smash the illusion of the participation trophy. We must stop circulating this belief that numbness is the cure to life … because It’s not.
Stop trying to even a playing field that will NEVER be even because it’s not meant to be. Let’s start living inside the rise and fall of the human experience and rebuild the resilience of the human spirit.
It’s what we’re all truly seeking.