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The Know-it-all Generation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I rolled my eyes as I watched a mom help her five-year-old daughter out of the pool: “Honey, you're amazing. You'll be the next Olympian!”

In reality, she swam more like a flailing pigeon than an elegant swan, but the daughter beamed with confidence. This example epitomizes the problem with our know-it-all generation. We're programmed to devour compliments, and our gears break down when we encounter a new type of software: criticism.

Praise can be necessary for boosting confidence. However, my generation is offered it to the point of overkill. The gold stars on papers with mediocre scores and the unspoken promise of ice cream after any “accomplishment” ­solidify a craving for meaningless compliments. Elders essentially ­worship children until we become ­condescending jerks; then students run home complaining about teachers who don't dole out sweet words, and their parents ­become verbal punching bags. It has ­become a vicious cycle.

Aside from the rush of adrenaline and reverberating feeling of satisfaction, this insatiable addiction invites pom­pousness. The teenage attitude – the eye-rolling, attention-craving mindset – is a product of this cycle. Protected by flattery, children create an aura of specious perfection around themselves, and while we consciously understand we can't be perfect, this idea somehow never reaches the subconscious.

Instead, deep down, we envision ourselves as a medley of superheroes: ­invincible. As social ­Batmen, our cunning strategies never fail. As ­intelligent Flashes, answers come naturally. Most importantly, as indestructible Violet Parrs we're immune to anything and everything. The first encounter we have with the real world is almost like hitting the motherlode of Kryptonite, uncovering the truth and shattering the image we have of ourselves.

The first time a fellow student ­criticized me, it was hard to get past the initial shock. I was actually being criticized. Not just a minor scalding, but a broiling. Sitting there, I came to the brutal realization that even I ­romanticize myself to a point beyond recognition. We are nothing close to perfect, but a tiny inkling of us thinks we have a close resemblance. It is society that forces us to literally look in the mirror and realize that our reflection is far from divine.

We're so self-involved that we don't believe criticism has a place in our lives. Even “constructive criticism” is often a code word for praise. It is vital that we become ­comfortable with the harsh comments others throw at us and take them at their face value. They aren't invisible weapons, but rather small doses of ­reality to help us better ourselves.

Raised in a culture gorged on constant praise, it is hard not to yield to the ­inflated sense of self-worth. It is important to realize that self-esteem is dramatically different from ego. Psychologist Jean Twenge recommends humility, self-evaluation, mindfulness, and thinking of others as a cure for this sense of entitlement. ­Cutting ourselves off from the constant praise will drastically change the way we perceive ourselves and those around us – an important step to ­reversing this epidemic.

Before we can set goals for solving poverty, establishing peace, or eliminating any worldly troubles, we must first address the critical faults within ourselves. We are nothing close to the flawlessness we believe we represent, and we must embrace criticism. My generation is wearing horse blinders. Unless we reverse this vicious cycle, our world will still retain its false ­“perfection.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 20 comments. Post your own!

ashrocks10 said...
Jan. 31 at 2:36 pm:
This article was written amazingly. However, I would have to diagree with you, in that many teens actually look down, rather than up, on their image and self.  I would say that it does apply to some people, but most of the time, not. Great post, however!
 
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TerraCotta said...
Oct. 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm:
Very nice perspective. Good use of devices to enchance your writing. Keep up the good work!
 
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Nelu96 said...
Aug. 17, 2012 at 11:02 am:
I would give you a high-five if  I could. I feel exactly the same. People actually prevent us from reaching our full potential because the make us think we are perfect. I understand that of we sometimes need to recognise the accomplishments of others. But only  criticism opens doors for improvement. We are not perfect!  
 
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Aspiringauhor said...
May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm:
I agree with Lindsey31 completely. Although I definitely can see where the author is coming from, I also feel that there are slight generalizations in this piece. The author makes it seem as though all people of this generation fall into this "know it all" category. However, as I have personally observed, there are far fewer "know-it-all's" than the author makes the number out to be. It's my humble opinion, but I just wanted to point out that slight generalization I noticed.
 
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Lindsey31 said...
Apr. 8, 2012 at 10:33 am:
I think the Know-It-All Generation might be there for some teens, but for the others, it is not there. I'm not sure there is enough people that deveour these compliments to collectively call them a "generation," but that's just my opinion. I like the words you use in this!  
 
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Balletgirl6 said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 7:28 am:
I completely agree with you! Children are practically worshipped by their parents because their children are "the perfect children" and their children can "do no wrong." Parents are unintentionally making their children big-headed spoiled brats who aren't ready for the real world. We all need to realize that no one's perfect- a perfect person is a complete illusion.
 
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ZeenatRogate said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 7:27 am:
I agree but i think that we need both in moderation.
 
NighttimeVesper replied...
Feb. 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm :
I 2nd that! :)
 
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storywritinggirl said...
Sept. 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm:
While I agree with the fact that people tend to take criticism too harshly, I don't think you can safely say that we all think we're close to perfect. Actually, some of us think oppositely and have to be convinced otherwise. I think it's a well written article but we don't all expect praise for every little thing like 'good job! you took out the trash!' I think credit should be given where it's due and more sides thought of than one.
 
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xAllegria said...
Oct. 4, 2010 at 7:04 am:
This is full of generalizations. There are many other factors: whether the kid is an only child (yes, because if they are they will get all the praise and are less likely to be in conflict for attention with anyone), how they socialize and other things. Kids tend to be more self-involved, it's a fact, and they do need to be encouraged although over-doing it as you said won't work. They can't take criticism because it's harder for them to understand different viewpoints. This comes with time and ... (more »)
 
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daughter_of_athena This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm:
There's a book I read that talks about the same things you address in this piece, the over-praising and such (very well written by the way). The book is called Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. 
 
Hawthorn replied...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm :
Well personally I thought there were far to many generalizations. I don't know wether I am the exception or the rule but I know my weaknesses and though I do roll my eyes a lot (Might have something to do with my dads Jokes) I am far from attention craving. I don't know about the rest of humanity but thats how I see it. 
 
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Skeezics said...
May 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm:
I also agree with this article to an extent. But "goddess_of_the_moon_123" i  agree with alot of what you are saying. one part of this persons article gets my goat however the part when the writer says "the eye-rolling, attention-craving mindset" not all teenagers are like that at all. There are alot of us who are not like that at all and i think it is very steriotypical for you to say something like that. there are alot of people under the age of 18 that are not at all in that mind set. An... (more »)
 
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E.Hartell said...
May 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm:

I'm in agreement with your point of view, but also what [Goddess of the Moon] said about generalizing.

Another thing: when constructive criticism is given correctly, it's not praise. It' can be difficult to find people who do it correctly though. It's not "Gee, you work is awful," but "here's what you could do to improve."

 
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Caitlin S. said...
May 6, 2010 at 11:51 am:
I completely agree. Adults critises us and we crumble we seem to have a very delicate but huge ego that once it is lightly tapped with a negative word and they deflate making us quivering wrecks. As a generation we are to self-involved and can only deal with the nice things in life, the moment we move out and face the real world. Well who knows what will happen to us?
 
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goddess_of_the_moon_123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm:

 My one issue with this (well written) piece is this:

Most of your points were generalizations. Not all teens are pompous jerks by the time they enter their twenties. In fact, most of the ones I associate with a very well mannered and get along well with their parents. So, while I think there is definitely some truth behind your opinion, I think there are some other points on which you may want to touch to make this piece as effective as possible.

 
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Clairepoetry said...
May 5, 2010 at 10:14 am:
You really put all your thought into this and this is very well written this is true people who havent even reached their 20's act like 'we' know it all when at times we really dont and i think you got that message across.
 
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serena said...
May 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm:
It's an interesting perspective and I agree, but you have to hit a happy medium. You shouldn't praise or reward too much, but obviously you can't just put down everything. But then, everything has that tricky medium. :)
 
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DorkyDory said...
May 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm:
I hate to say it because of how well written this is and how much you back yourself up, but I disagree. I think teens are absolutly sulking in theirselves. It always seems as though they're not good enough. I can't really say any of my peers think overly high of themselves. Maby an ego is better than being emo. Don't you think.
 
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dragonbiscuits This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm:
This was really good... and I feel a little awkward about praising you for this! Your use of metaphors and language is very nice.
 
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