The Know-it-all Generation | Teen Ink

The Know-it-all Generation MAG

December 14, 2009
By pochacco1014 BRONZE, Chandler, Arizona
pochacco1014 BRONZE, Chandler, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

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.”

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This article has 21 comments.

on Jan. 13 2010 at 4:05 pm
dragonbiscuits SILVER, Near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
7 articles 1 photo 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You cannot acheive peace with violence" -several people

This was really good... and I feel a little awkward about praising you for this! Your use of metaphors and language is very nice.