Do “the twenty-somethings” care more about sex, food or getting a pat on the head? A “compliment or a good grade on a paper” is what they really want, according to a report last week in the New York Times entitled “Sex, Pizza, or Self Esteem?.” Students were polled about about their various “likes” and “wants” and the results found that “compared to other activities, the difference between enjoying and wanting the activity was lowest for activities that boosted self-esteem.” Does this mean all kids have an “inflated sense of self?” Actually, no. It’s just our generation adapting to harder times and we shouldn’t have to make any apologies for it.
The article begins with a rhetorical question: “Are young people addicted to feeling good about themselves?” This sets a largely negative tone throughout the article, meant to condemn, and mock, twenty-somethings for putting grades and self esteem before basics like food and sex.
But there are problems with this study. The results were gleaned from the University of Michigan, one of the top 30 colleges in the United States. Then it shouldn’t be surprising at all that the kids in the survey enojy self-affirmations — they’re “the smart kids.” They’ve been in all of the top classes their whole lives, enrolled in the best schools. They were brought up being congratulated and so it’s no surprise they want more of it. Especially when surrounded by a group of equal peers competing for A+’s and job recommendations.
And it’s easy to picture what would happen if the results of the study came out another way. “Stupid Twenty-Somethings Value Pizza/Porn/Sex Over Everything.” No matter what the students say they want most, it’s going to be criticized by condescending elders. As a twenty-something, I applaud my peers for choosing the narcissistic option. Maybe I’m just blinded by my “self-esteem,” but I don’t care what old people think; I support embracing the narcissism.
We want to do well — better than our peers and better than our parents (although we’re told that’s impossible). Our appreciation for praise is natural selection for our generation. People who want praise from others, along with high grades and popularity, will survive this tough time that we’ve been forced to trudge through. Others, who don’t care about those markers of success, will unfortunately flounder. But who cares? Like every good millennial, I’m just watching out for myself.