As an adult I have had to build a lot of my own confidence, and without going into why I’ll say it’s been tough to do so. (Thank God for my older sister who has earnestly supported my goals and dreams) I will say that with every chance I get, I pump and plug the younger people around me. I encourage them to be true to themselves by dreaming bigger, striving higher, and going big.
Why? Have you seen the difference a heartfelt compliment can do for a 16-year old’s ego? It’s motivated by the way they beam with pride when you acknowledge them, and their uniqueness but more than anything else I see the ripple effects of unsung affirmation. So many young persons are just looking for acceptance and approval. Their parents can never seem to find anything good to say, so they claw, scrape, and pine for the approval of their peers. When they can’t gain the acceptance of their counterparts they get rigid, fearful and aggressive.
Yes, aggressive. Much of the aggression, angst and built up animosity presented by our generation is merely a manifestation of our unrecognized selves. I really can’t emphasize it enough. If they can’t find affirmation in your voice, they will seek it elsewhere. So whenever you have the chance – say something to encourage those that are traveling behind you. It’s another case study all together, but I would dare say that, this concept is likely to be unfamiliar to those older than 35. I say that primarily due to that generation’s own issues with warped self-esteem and unrealized dreams.
This makes this doubly important. Do we really need another dysfunctional generation to emerge? Honestly the world is filled with too many negative and competing messages. The identities of millennials have been warped and mismanaged by a careless and heartless media. This is only made worse by a culture that has demanded that they remain invisible and invalidated.
What they need above all else is a foundation of what is true. This goes hand in hand with reframing the discourse around their potential roles in our future. Of course the task is daunting, but it is necessary. We have to do it, and we can.
For every word of encouragement, they will encounter negative representations/images, that are counter to their intrinsic identity (having worth, and possessing potential). This creates a precarious distrust, which will demand total and honest sincerity. In fact a shameless and consistent genuineness. If not, they will quickly grow disillusioned. This balance must be a priority so that no matter how often they’ve heard it, it will always bring new hope.
The truth is, they will always treasure your affirmation. No matter how old they get, they’ll appreciate the sentimentality of “Nice job.” You can make a world of difference by taking the time to speak to their creativity, beauty, and charm. So stop, and speak life into the nerdy tomboy, and rejoice over the shy but musically talented young man. Stop and make sure they know how much they mean to you.
Your approval will always be pure gold. Hard to come by, and priceless.