So again, the good thing about plane rides? There’s time to read! This month’s book club book was Generation Me by Jean Twenge. I was surprised that so many girls were interested in reading this book since it is discussing our generation and the subtitle is “Why Today’s Young American Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before”. To me, that doesn’t seem that it would catch my generations attention in mass, but apparently it did!
I really enjoyed the discussion and analysis of our generation’s upbringing and how that has impacted our young adult personalities. I had not previously recognized that our generation was the first to be brought up with the ‘self esteem’ curriculum and the result appears to be a sense of individualism, narcissism and self importance that has been unseen in past generations. We have been told to ‘love ourselves’, ‘never give up on your dreams’ and that ‘we can be anything if we put our mind to it’ and those things are simply untrue. They are lovely ideas, in theory, but detrimental when faced with the harsh realities of life (which for our generation include higher costs of necessary education, health care, child rearing, and lower job satisfactions because of the idea that a job is a calling, not a means to an end). The concept of people that ‘love themselves first’ seems to be very pervasive in our culture, but it’s sad because often those people become selfish and unreasonable partners – the very opposite outcome of the idea that loving yourself promotes. In reality, loving others makes you a more stable friend and partner.
In all honesty, the beginning of this book was hard for me to read and left me feeling depressed and sad for my fellow cohorts in my generation. I have experienced or seen a lot of what was discussed firsthand and I have seen the depression, disillusionment and dissatisfaction of coming to terms with the realities of school, jobs, money, children and relationships and reading about it further just made me sad. Thankfully, the last chapter of the book included a ‘what to do with this information’ section. In this section, she includes ways to handle the information if you are a parent of a Gen-Me’er, if you are an employer of Gen-Me, or if you are Gen-Me and want to change. A lot of what Twenge discussed as action items I agree with whole heartedly.
Ditching the self esteem movement and teaching self control and good behavior was one of her first suggestions for parents (with which she included a quote from Batman Begins, ‘It is not who you are underneath that defines you, but what you do that defines you,’ which I thought was a great way to sum that idea up) and I believe that taking the focus off of self and refocusing on others, could begin to reverse this narcissistic tendency, improving relationships. She suggests a couple other things for the generation itself, like limiting how much materialistic TV you watch (think ‘Cribs’ or ‘The Fabulous Life of . . .’), placing value on social relationships, cultivating realistic expectations in life (whether it’s your job, finances, relationships) and getting involved in your neighborhood and community. I think these suggestions are spot on for reversing the negative tendencies in our generation.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It would recommend it to members of ‘Generation Me’ as a self check on your attitude, and for non members so that they can have a better understanding of the culture that we grew up in and it’s influence on our lifestyle. 8.5/10