A friend recently brought to my attention a study in which Millennials reported having the highest stress level of any generation.
At first, I was kind of skeptical because, on the surface, our generation seems to have things far easier than our parents ever did.
For example, I’ve heard multiple stories from older people about how they were forced to work grueling part-time jobs or live in meager accommodations just to make ends meet during college.
In contrast, most of my peers had significant financial help from their parents, and they certainly didn’t have to spend time worrying about how they’d pay their tuition next semester.
That being said, I realize Millennials are burdened by certain types of stress that weren’t even relevant to previous generations.
Almost all of my college friends have experienced some kind of existential crisis in which they questioned if they were truly passionate about what they were studying, and where it would all lead in the future.
Many of my peers even confided in me that they felt depressed and overwhelmed for months at a time due to all the decisions looming ahead of them.
The bottom line is while Millennials have more doors open to them than any other generation, this sense of “freedom” ends up being both a blessing and a curse.
Our generation is unique in that we’ve always been told we can do anything.
From an early age, we’ve been told to follow our dreams, study what interests us and pursue careers we are passionate about.
The downside is that the weight of all these choices can seem suffocating at times.
We’re led to believe we should feel uncomfortable unless we are completely in love with what we are presently doing.
However, this mindset is quite problematic and definitely responsible for Millennials' reputation for being indecisive and unable to commit to things.
I’m sure we’ve all known college friends who have switched majors multiple times. They had a bad experience in one course, and then concluded the program wasn’t the right fit for them.
The reality is we should not be deluded by idealistic visions of having a perfect job or a college schedule we absolutely love going to every day.
No matter which door one opens, there will always be challenges to overcome.
Furthermore, Millennials are slowly beginning to realize times have changed, and as a result, we want different things than our parents did.
I know that for my parents, just graduating from college was viewed as a major accomplishment and a secure path to a well-paying job in many fields.
However, nowadays, most of my peers don’t seem to have the same sense of fulfillment upon graduating from college. Continuing our education is merely something we are expected to do.
Millennials are anxious because we understand the world is more unpredictable now than it was then, and the value of a college degree is more questionable than ever before.
So, it’s no surprise most Millennials find themselves wanting more out of college and traditional nine-to-five jobs, despite the fact our parents would have relished such opportunities.
Stability was the main concern for most of our parents because they came from unstable backgrounds. Even having a steady office job to go to every day was a huge milestone.
In contrast, Millennials struggle with the fact that despite what we’ve been told, the world is not here to cater to our needs, and society views certain skills as more valuable than others.
I’m certain this conflict between doing what we enjoy and understanding what society values heavily contributes to the stress Millennials experience.
Every generation has its own challenges, distinct from those before it.
For Millennials, the main source of our stress is due to the high expectations we have placed on ourselves because of the seemingly limitless choices that surround us.
But, we need to understand the grass is not always greener.
There will always be obstacles present, no matter what decisions we make, and we should not always change paths at the first sign of difficulty.
Instead of feeling anxious about all the choices ahead of us, we should be grateful we even have this many options available.
We need to think carefully about what is truly worth pursuing.