The Millennial Identity Struggle and Crisis

For my final project, I have decided to talk about the oppression of and struggle to maintain an identity that Generation Y, known as the millennial generation, faces. Too many times I have seen articles published in online journals criticizing and ridiculing millennials for something as simple as their choice to not eat cereal for breakfast. All too often I have made the decision to peruse the comments of these articles, either directly from the sites, or on third party social media platforms where the articles have been shared; and all too often have I seen people from older generations tearing into the millennials for their choices, calling them things ranging from “lazy” to “ignorant bastard”.

I have chosen to write this paper because if ever there was a time to point out to the people ragging on the millennials that what they say can be destructive to the already shaky identity of a generation born right on the cusp of a new century, then that time is now. As it stands right now, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people in the millennial age group. One of the top reasons people take their lives is because of low self-esteem. What causes someone’s self-esteem to plummet so low that death seems like the only reasonable solution to their problems? Out of many answers, among mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, are outside factors like bullying. And people of the millennial age group are some of the most publicly victimized generations yet. This paper will hopefully be one of the many stepping stones on the road to fixing the issues that millennials face when dealing with their identities.

There are a few concepts that we have discussed in class that I will be using to analyze this topic. These include, but are not limited to, the idea of a habitus, epistemologies, and boundary work. The reason I have picked these themes are because of how closely they deal with the infringement of other people’s ideas about identities. Both themes of a habitus and an epistemology deal with how people form thoughts about their own identity, as well as the identities of groups they belong to. Both a habitus and an epistemology are shaped by two major forces. The first major force is how the person perceives their own identity. The second major force is how the person feels outsiders perceive their identity. These two themes play into boundary work because of how a person reacts when their identity is seemingly threatened, or their perception of an identity does not fit with what they previously believed. All of these themes come into play with the struggle millennials face when trying to maintain or shape their own identity.

12 thoughts on “The Millennial Identity Struggle and Crisis

  1. Jason Tam

    I really enjoy the topic that you have chosen. Having suffered from getting bullied and almost committing suicide a few times I am glad that you want to change something. In addition to the theories that you talk about, I think that one theory that you left out that would help your paper is the idea of structure and agency.

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  2. Ashton MacKenzie

    This is an important example of how very deep our generation can get when it comes to collective self-examination. Inter-generational conflict is difficult to manage at the best of times, and currently we are experiencing an evolution of society and behavior that creates a divide of culture between youth and elders. I suspect there is something uniquely US about some of this divide, as in other cultures intergenerational households are far more common and conflict would necessarily get a little more resolved than in situations where parties rarely have to interact. Some of this conflict is something I address in my proposed video game about compassion, which follows the Chinese goddess Guanyin’s origin and many of her legends, as well as the stories of those who’ve had some sort of relationship with Guanyin in their life. A lot of the arguments I hear about my generation from Boomers show that they’re just really out of touch with the struggles we face economically and socially, and we could use their support and friendship more than ever. Someone who is like Guanyin and willing to listen and understand a situation fully, from either generation, goes a long way to repair the rift that has formed between us.

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  3. Emily Harnedy

    I have noticed the prominence of these millennial bashing articles as well and it does bother me as well. It’s as if the older generation has formed an identity for us as lazy and privileged before we had finishing figuring out our own identity for ourselves. However, I disagree with the notion that the millennial generation is “oppressed” by the older generation’s perception of us. I do not believe we can blame the older generation for our confused identity. I find it interesting that you believe there is a connection between the high rates of millennial suicide rates with the bullying of the older generation. While I do think that perhaps the older generation makes us feel bad about ourselves due to their perception of us as “lazy”, I do not believe they can be solely blamed for our identity crisis. I do agree however, that some millennials are more likely to put pressure on themselves to be perfect as a result of the negative views the older generation has of us.

    The concept of finding identity relates to my Irish Women & Drama class in how women often struggled within their “natural” identity as wives and mothers that was imposed upon them by the Catholic Church. The idea you raised about the forces which shape ones identity, a combination between how one perceives their own identity and how outsiders perceive that identity, is interesting to me. Like millennials are seen as lazy by the older generation and may find it harder to find their own identity as a result, women in the 1900’s were hindered in forming their own identity because the Catholic Church had already created an identity for them. During the 1900’s, priests and nuns were permitted to teach in schools and were very influential in government, so much so that contraception was made illegal in 1934. The values of the Church were so pervasive over women in Irish society that in a 1984 survey regarding the opinions of women on abortion across Europe, women in Ireland were far more disapproving of it than the women of continental Europe. For the Irish women in the 1900s who got pregnant outside of marriage, their new perception of their own identity did not fit within the ideals of perfect wife and mother the Catholic Church created for them. They could no longer perceive their identity as one that fell within the Catholic Church’s epistemology, which would cause them to struggle within their own identity. Like millennials who may develop low self-esteem as a result of pressures placed upon them by the older generation, so too did Irish women feel pressured under the Catholic Church’s influence. Those who made choices that fell outside those permitted by the Catholic Church, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, struggle with the shame that the Catholic Church tells them they should feel. For example, in the play Dancing at Lughnasa, Chris’s sister, Kate, always shames her for having a baby outside of marriage because of how the Catholic Church looked down upon women who identified as unmarried mothers.

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  4. Emily Harnedy

    I have noticed the prominence of these millennial bashing articles as well and it does bother me as well. It’s as if the older generation has formed an identity for us as lazy and privileged before we had finishing figuring out our own identity for ourselves. However, I disagree with the notion that the millennial generation is “oppressed” by the older generation’s perception of us. I do not believe we can blame the older generation for our confused identity. I find it interesting that you believe there is a connection between the high rates of millennial suicide rates with the bullying of the older generation. While I do think that perhaps the older generation makes us feel bad about ourselves due to their perception of us as “lazy”, I do not believe they can be solely blamed for our identity crisis. I do agree however, that some millennials are more likely to put pressure on themselves to be perfect as a result of the negative views the older generation has of us.

    The concept of finding identity relates to my Irish Women & Drama class in how women often struggled within their “natural” identity as wives and mothers that was imposed upon them by the Catholic Church. The idea you raised about the forces which shape ones identity, a combination between how one perceives their own identity and how outsiders perceive that identity, is interesting to me. Like millennials are seen as lazy by the older generation and may find it harder to find their own identity as a result, women in the 1900’s were hindered in forming their own identity because the Catholic Church had already created an identity for them. During the 1900’s, priests and nuns were permitted to teach in schools and were very influential in government, so much so that contraception was made illegal in 1934. The values of the Church were so pervasive over women in Irish society that in a 1984 survey regarding the opinions of women on abortion across Europe, women in Ireland were far more disapproving of it than the women of continental Europe. For the Irish women in the 1900s who got pregnant outside of marriage, their new perception of their own identity did not fit within the ideals of perfect wife and mother the Catholic Church created for them. They could no longer perceive their identity as one that fell within the Catholic Church’s epistemology, which would cause them to struggle within their own identity. Like millennials who may develop low self-esteem as a result of pressures placed upon them by the older generation, so too did Irish women feel pressured under the Catholic Church’s influence. Those who made choices that fell outside those permitted by the Catholic Church, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, struggle with the shame that the Catholic Church tells them they should feel. For example, in the play Dancing at Lughnasa, Chris’s sister, Kate, always shames her for having a baby outside of marriage because of how the Catholic Church looked down upon women who identified as unmarried mothers.

    Reply
  5. Emily Harnedy

    I have noticed the prominence of these millennial bashing articles as well and it does bother me as well. It’s as if the older generation has formed an identity for us as lazy and privileged before we had finishing figuring out our own identity for ourselves. However, I disagree with the notion that the millennial generation is “oppressed” by the older generation’s perception of us. I do not believe we can blame the older generation for our confused identity. I find it interesting that you believe there is a connection between the high rates of millennial suicide rates with the bullying of the older generation. While I do think that perhaps the older generation makes us feel bad about ourselves due to their perception of us as “lazy”, I do not believe they can be solely blamed for our identity crisis. I do agree however, that some millennials are more likely to put pressure on themselves to be perfect as a result of the negative views the older generation has of us.

    The concept of finding identity relates to my Irish Women & Drama class in how women often struggled within their “natural” identity as wives and mothers that was imposed upon them by the Catholic Church. The idea you raised about the forces which shape ones identity, a combination between how one perceives their own identity and how outsiders perceive that identity, is interesting to me. Like millennials are seen as lazy by the older generation and may find it harder to find their own identity as a result, women in the 1900’s were hindered in forming their own identity because the Catholic Church had already created an identity for them. During the 1900’s, priests and nuns were permitted to teach in schools and were very influential in government, so much so that contraception was made illegal in 1934. The values of the Church were so pervasive over women in Irish society that in a 1984 survey regarding the opinions of women on abortion across Europe, women in Ireland were far more disapproving of it than the women of continental Europe. For the Irish women in the 1900s who got pregnant outside of marriage, their new perception of their own identity did not fit within the ideals of perfect wife and mother the Catholic Church created for them. They could no longer perceive their identity as one that fell within the Catholic Church’s epistemology, which would cause them to struggle within their own identity. Like millennials who may develop low self-esteem as a result of pressures placed upon them by the older generation, so too did Irish women feel pressured under the Catholic Church’s influence. Those who made choices that fell outside those permitted by the Catholic Church, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock, struggle with the shame that the Catholic Church tells them they should feel. For example, in the play Dancing at Lughnasa, Chris’s sister, Kate, always shames her for having a baby outside of marriage because of how the Catholic Church looked down upon women who identified as unmarried mothers.

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  6. Mikaela Guarino

    I think this is a great topic. I feel like another aspect to look at is, our generation is also the generation to post every detail of our day on social media. We have Facebook, snapchat, twitter, Instagram, and so many more. All generations rag on the generation below them. Its been done since the beginning of time. It’s even done at home if you have siblings. I have three older sisters. Two of them are a solid decade plus two years older than me. So needless to say we grew up a little different. They always like to critique what I say or do. They all think they know so much more than me because they’re older. My point is, I think our generation is more publicly prosecuted because of social media. My sister grew up want beepers while we grew up wanting iPhones. There’s a huge gap between our generations and it can be difficult to accept it.

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  7. Sarah Chase

    Out of all the connections I’ve read, I felt that picking this one was something that automatically connected back to the crossroads of Central Asia class I took this semester and some main themes we analyzed in a book we read; The Monkey and the Monk which is a short telling of The Journey to the West.
    While writing a paper on it and having to dig deep and analyze some meaning behind what the author was making the characters portray and what message he was giving, I found myself always going back to the theme of identity. In the beginning, many of the characters had a different identity than they did at the end of the book. Through the adventure and journeys they encountered, the other characters that made it hard for them or the characters that helped them find who they were; I felt as though there was a connection. Between that and what you are talking about with the Millennial generation on how it’s hard to have an identity that doesn’t get criticized and questioned, is what the Monkey had a hard time finding as well. The effect people have on how we perceive our own identity, how a person feels others view them and even the struggle to maintain/ shape your identity was a theme in this book that the characters faced, especially Monkey.
    You are able to learn a lot from this subject that you decided to focus on. We were the generation that I feel has the hardest time being able to adapt and be yourself due to the pressures of not fitting in or even not knowing who you are, which is what I felt was a reoccurring theme with Monkey. It is very easy to criticize this generation because of the way the world has changed and how we have introduced so many new ideas and concepts over this short period of time.
    There is a huge gap between our generation and others, as well as so many new ideas being introduced, that it can be hard for us and additional people to accept a new look and way. It really shows how different societies make it hard to adapt and change due to the mindset that they can’t, or that is it not accepted, established, or believed.
    I personally see The Monkey and the Monk as a quest for self-transformation and finding yourself as well as your identity. Through their travels, every character learns and sees how to control and let go of certain thing they face, which connects back to what you stated and the concept that we can’t let the bad things and people we face effect who we become and our individuality. They all come to a realization that their troubles are coming from within themselves and the experiences and interactions they keep and let bother them. As quoted in the text I read, “When the mind is active, all kinds of demons come into existence, when the mind is extinguished, all kinds of demons will be extinguished.”

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  8. Feng Sun

    I have to say it is an interesting topic. You are right that the younger generations seem to get worse and worse. I have seen a lot of news that reports the stupid behavior of younger generations, which I can not understand from my point of view. In other words, I could say the younger generations are kind of stupid or weird. They are totally doing things that the older generations couldn’t imagine. And I also felt like the younger generations don’t know their identities are.
    This topic reminds me something that I learned in Shaking Spirit course, which is also about the identity. I don’t quite remember where the place is, but they are the people who practice Voodoo. Because of Voodoo, some men believe their identities are wrong. They are born to be a male, but they are supposed to be a female in their heart.
    In general, I think identity is really important for a person.

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  9. Tyler Wood

    You have impeccable timing studying the millennial generation and their collected views from the older generations. For my project, I too look at millennials (or at least the younger end of them) to try and change the public’s views against other religions, specifically that of Afro-Cuban religions. For as much slack as we get from media and older generations, we do have a lot of redeeming qualities, and the older generations too are not without their flaws. I feel most of the ‘problems’ our generation has can be attributed to projection of world issues that we don’t have any stake in. The majority of us are only now entering the work force: how can we be considered lazy? Because we have student loans? We’re not working through college? Inflation isn’t our fault. I’m sure some things are justified, but at the same time, we are not much different than any other ‘youngest’ generation.

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  10. Kristyn Stauffer

    Ever since you told me what you wanted to write about, I’ve been interested to read more. Your topic is definitely relevant in today’s society. Agree or not on whether the older generation really is oppressing us, but you can’t deny the fact that the older generation will stop at nothing to put us into their neat little boxes they have for us. We have to be independent, we have to get jobs at the drop of a hat, we have to be nice and smile all the time, and if we don’t do any of these things, we’re lazy and ungrateful. As if they have done us so many favors that we owe them. I think we as a generation are definitely going through way more hardships than the previous generation ever went through. They have yet to realize just how differently we are growing up than they are. Their advice and demands are basically obsolete at this point.

    I think this topic is really interesting to look into, and it connects to mine really well. I talked about the divide between cis and trans people, and the way I talk about it is really similar to the connections you make. In this case, cis people are the ones with the power, just as the older generation is. They want to keep that power, and attempt to taxonomize the minority group (trans people and generation Y). We don’t act in the way the older generation wants us to, so they react harshly, attempting to push us down, just as cis people do to trans people. It’s all about power structures.

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  11. Bethany Asher

    I think this is a very interesting topic. You can see this in many cultures. In Greek culture newer generations are shedding some of the old ideas. Greeks value elders so a younger generation would get harshly judge and called things like you mentions, “lazy.” Shedding old ideas is not always a terrible thing.

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  12. Silas

    This is a very interesting topic and one that I can personally relate to. Beyond this, I think identity is a part of many cultures and this can often be threatened by what outsiders think of a culture. Similarly to how millennials can be scrutinized for being different, this can happen to cultures such as the Zhuang people in China. These ideas about a culture can be harmful or they can create false concepts of what the culture is actually like. I agree with the previous post that shedding old ideas is sometimes a really necessary exercise.

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