In my workshops I teach the benefits of an antiperfectionist viewpoint: one that is compassionate, empathetic, nonjudgmental of yourself and others, etc.
Yesterday, a 20-something participant raised the question of whether her and her generation had been too indulged (and thus weakened and infantalized) by excessive praise and other support from parents and others. The question got me hot under the collar, and here’s what I told her:
There are people in the world who conflate kindness, compassionate, empathy, and understanding with being soft, indulgent, and weak. Many of them have authoritarian personalities, which means that they crave harshness and hierarchies and control for themselves and others. All that is their dysfunction: do not let it define your view of yourself or others.
Beyond that, we have the age-old game of, “Let’s Dump on Young People!” a perennial favorite of those whose bones are starting to creak, particularly if they are not happy with the results of their own life choices.
Finally, everyone my age (50s) and older should show a little of the vaunted wisdom and perspective that’s supposed to come with age, not to mention common decency, and shut the hell up about the supposed flaws of young people, if for no other reason than that things are so much tougher now than they were for us. Back in the eighties (when I was in my twenties), the economy was so strong we could flit in and out of jobs almost at will; and many of us worked for a few months and then casually–almost without a second thought!–quit to pursue art or travel or activism, fully secure in the knowledge we’d find a new gig when we needed to. That kind of freedom and security is currently unimaginable.
And the jobs we had back then paid more; and there wasn’t a plague of exploitative “unpaid internships” erasing real jobs and depressing salaries.
Also, tuition was much cheaper, and college loans a walk in the park compared with what they are now. My working-class parents and I financed an Ivy League education (Cornell’s agriculture college, which admittedly had more of a public school cost structure) with some savings, a part-time weekly job for me, and around $8,000 in student loans that I could pay off at an easy rate.
These days the authoritarians are pretty much all on the right polically; and here are just two examples of right wing publications trashing young people. And please notice they’re trashing young people for the crime of struggling in the terrible economy that the right itself created through a gratuitous war and irresponsible runups of the national debt.
For all of the above and so many other reasons, if you’re an American don’t forget to VOTE on Tuesday. Because the authoritarian right wing has shown an increasing “ends justifying means” propensity to steal elections by suppressing votes, it’s important to vote for Obama even if (like me) your views are more aligned with those of the Green Party. We need a strong Democratic victory with margins that will daunt the GOP vote-stealers.
PS – Also see my related blog post on Perfectionism in the Tiger Mom and The King’s Speech.