99 Problems and being “Gen-Y” is one

I recently read that article about the unhappiness of ‘Generation Y’ – the group that were born between the 1970s and mid 1990s. There’s quite a big age-gap between those 1970s babies and the 1990s kids, and while our tastes and interests may vary, the Gen-Y trait of inadequacy is a secret thread that pulls almost all of us all together.

So many of the objects and themes our lives revolve around today became popularised after we were born, as part of the Information Age (from 1970 until around now, as we move into the Imagination Age). There’s no doubt that it’s an interesting and exciting time to be alive. But for many of us in the Gen-Y group, there’s an overwhelming sense of disappointment in ourselves. Tim Urban’s witty and accurate article in Huffington Post is a smart theory on why we’ve ended up like this. He explains, it’s a mixture of the inherited expectations from our parents and grandparents, and our own expectations based on social perceptions.

In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, there was a lower expectation from education and jobs – a stable career was a big success. They held smaller social circles and the upward curve in the economy meant that many expectations were exceeded. On the whole, they were satisfied. Meanwhile, the Gen-Y babies experienced a more global view of the world, more holidays and films and TV – giving us greater expectation and more ambition. To put it bluntly: we grew up thinking we’ve got something special. Add to that our insatiable appetite to compare ourselves to the polished profiles of our friends and heroes on social media – and it’s easy to see why we feel inadequate.

The Gen-Y feeling of being ‘special’ can be a hole in the boat for creativity. Many of us dream about starting a different blog or side-project or endeavour every week. We feel desperate to make a difference and do something worthwhile – something fulfilling. It’s confusing and off-putting. And the worst case scenario is that it stops us doing our creative work with quiet, humble focus.

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How to deal with it: five steps to kill your Gen-Y inadequacy

1. Do the thing you love.

There’s no argument to it. Follow the one thing you love. Do it without thinking what people want or what anyone will think. It’s your experience of doing the thing that matters, not the outcome at the end – that’s just the bonus. Paint! Dance! Make ironic mugs! Whatever is that thing – go do that thing

The smart ones are the ones that go: ‘Ok, what do I have? What do I have, what do I want to do, what am I going to be up until 1o’clock in the morning going “this is awesome!”’

–  James Victore, ‘Don’t Hate The Game

2. Quit watching everyone else.

Sometimes Instagram and YouTube and all those other things can be a great source of inspiration – I get that. But sometimes it’s a time and energy black hole. Go through your feeds – weed out the crap and only allow yourself on those channels rarely.

3. Eat some real stuff.

Go outside and hike. Take your children to an art gallery. Go see a play. Do the things you don’t usually do and fill your creative well. But here’s the new bit: consciously check up on yourself that you’re humbly eating the culture and amazingness of the world without getting jealous. Jealousy is not a real emotion so don’t let it be. Everyone is just doing their thing and there are enough things for everyone. Try to say thank you for the inspiration instead.

4. Don’t get mad, get even.

If you don’t like your job, or you feel like you really could be doing something more meaningful – go do it! Start by brainstorming your ideas, and start small as hell. Go to the smallest degree of what you can do today to make yourself feel like you’re doing your important work. Take evening classes. Start a workshop or a Meetup group. Whatever it is – if you’ve got the burn to make the change, use that fire!

5. Don’t worry

Don’t worry that you aren’t making miracles every second of every day. To turn up and be in the process of making something you love is all you can ask yourself to do. Like I said – everything else is a bonus.

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