As a member of the millennial generation, I was chiefly raised in the progressive era of plastic jungle gyms and social safety nets. From the time I was very young, my life has felt safely padded by society, with little room for any real or imagined danger to threaten my fragile existence. Mine was a childhood where both teams won a trophy. Mine was a childhood where there were no losers, and everyone was special. Mine was a childhood where there was never anything wrong with anyone ever.
But I’m here to tell you that there’s something wrong with all of us.
We’ve somehow come to value confidence over kindness, pride over patience, and self-esteem over self-improvement. Never are you to meant to feel that your problems may be self-inflicted, or that the cause of your woes may just be your own inadequacy. These sentiments have penetrated deep into our educational system, our government, and our entire culture. But our collectively relentless quest to ensure that anyone and everyone “feel good” about themselves has in many ways stunted the spiritual and emotional growth of an entire generation. What I’m talking about has often been referred to as “the self-esteem movement”. Starting as early as the 1960s, and gaining maximum momentum through the 80s and 90s, the modern self-esteem movement has culturally embedded itself through public policy, traditional media, and most recently, through social media. The overarching sentiment is that everyone’s beliefs, actions, and lifestyles are equally valid and respectable, and to be critical of another person for any of these is itself a pernicious evil.