To most, this title doesn’t make sense. Generation Y, also known as millennials, are regarded as the “me” generation, a generation made up of folks who are mostly concerned about taking care of themselves and pursuing their own interests. This is my generation. A generation that saw its people choose education and career over family. A generation of people who choose to travel and see the world rather than set down roots in one spot and stay there. These are the darers and dreamers. The people who have lived through two economic recessions within 15 years. The people who struggled finding a job and securing economic freedom by 30, bound by the chains of debt and student loans. And yet, we dare to reach for more, to do more, to be more.
So why the title then?
My generation nurtured the wave of social media and smart technology, ultimately making it the mammoth it is today. We use these mediums to mostly talk up ourselves. To make announcements of all kinds, celebrate achievements, promote businesses and hobbies, connect with others, and contemplate the daily agenda. We depend of feedback as a reassurance that we are doing okay, that our choices and feelings are valid. We use it as a platform to speak up and against things we don’t agree with and to praise things with which we do agree.
In short, we are full of ourselves. We know it and we broadcast it.
In my twenties, I used social media as a platform for airing my grievances and frustrations to anyone who would hear me as readily as one gets up and gets int he shower in the morning. I had no filter when things were difficult or challenging in my life. But somehow I struggled with promoting myself. I had no idea how to effectively celebrate my achievements, such as having children, graduating from grad school, and gaining employment. I barely talked about buying our first home. And I’ve struggled with promoting my writing and blogs. I’ve always felt that by doing so, I’d quickly become annoying to others. I became afraid of the disappointment I’d feel if people didn’t respond the way I’d hoped. I’d avoid looking at the comments or the reactions, opting instead to put something small online and leave it alone. I never mentioned my birthday. I hated the idea that no one would wish me a happy day so I never check to see if they do. I’d never advocate for what I’d like for Christmas or if I wanted to do something or go somewhere that maybe someone else didn’t want to do. I was so focused on the perceived reactions of other people, that I became withdrawn for a while, opting to keep things to myself, to stay to myself, rather than risk being disappointed or hurt by people thought as friends. My anxiety went from going in super hard on my friendships to not wanting to have friends at all. I didn’t want to self-destruct, and I felt that doing the confidence thing would be the end of me.
It sounds crazy, to be a modest millennial, but my anxiety made me just that. I didn’t want to go in on myself because I didn’t think I was worth it really. It was hard taking care of children and playing second fiddle to my partner’s career. I wasn’t able to sustain one of my own and suddenly saw myself as being a perceived failure as compared to the kind of student I was. I was supposed to be more than this. And I had a hard comprehending that I could be. I believed that in being modest, I wouldn’t be encouraged to ask for more or expect more. I could just be content with what I had. I was blessed enough I thought. For more people than me have less. And that was what i felt i was called to do. Just be content and thankful for the blessings that I had. There was no shame in being modest. In fact, it was more shameful to brag and ask for things that one feels is due to them. Why on Earth be an egotistical monster when I could just be me? And to me, at the time, those were the only two ways I could be.
That’s how anxiety affected me. I worked on a plane consisting of two extremes, with no way of figuring out how attain and maintain balance in the middle. And it has taken me 34 years to figure out that there is a way one can maintain modesty while celebrating oneself at the same time. At the end of the day, the only person that’s going to be there for me is me, and because of that, I have got to be my own cheerleader. It’s about not focusing solely on the perceived reception from others, but rather on my own journey. I can celebrate myself and promote my interests and projects without feeling that someone owes me something for my efforts. And while disappointment will always be there, it is what I choose to do with it that makes all the difference. I still struggle with the fear of not being accepted or not being truly appreciated or liked. But it doesn’t mean that I deserve to think less of myself. What I think of myself will be what I project to the universe and it will ultimately attract the kind of people that I need in my life, not the ones that I think I should have based on some kind of notion that to have this many friends to be happy or successful.
Having an ego has been thought to be a bad thing. But for me, ego is simply the way I choose to present myself in the moment. Sometimes, it’s good to go over the top and celebrate the many ways that God and life has blessed us. And sometimes it’s good to keep certain things to oneself. But as a Black woman especially, it is important to hail my own praises, to shout out my own achievements because they give truth to my story. When I speak out loud the things that I’m proud about, I’m advocating for myself. I put forth a confidence that isn’t overwhelming but does enough to promote self-love.
At this point in my life, to be braggadocious is almost necessary to live soundly with anxiety. I have to be bold in what I know is true about me, in celebrating the things that I have accomplished and the exceptional talents that I have to share with the world. And I know now that that doesn’t mean uplifting myself to the point of shaming others. My ego doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I can deploy it to do what it was created to do; making sound decisions and choices that are empowering… and also keeps my anxiety in line. Here’s to me!