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We are doing a series now on the fantastic book called Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

The second chp digs deeper than the first. Two points before we get going: first, this could be the most difficult of chps for iGens and, second, she could spend more time pointing to the lack of discernment and moderation by Boomers (but this could lead to another issue of iGens that she brings up later: a culture where blame is shifted too easily and too quickly). So, she zeroes in on iGens and the self-esteem culture. Her chp makes it clear: “An Army of One: Me.”

What do you think, is it fair to call the 18-35s an “army of one: me”? What are your experiences with the “self-esteem” theme of this chp?

Twenge begins with Whitney Houston’s song about the greatest love of all: learning to love ourselves. Which is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand, and Twenge thinks it has. I add this: Loving yourself can never be the greatest love of all… never.


Amazon, July 2005: 104,348 items with “self-esteem.” This came from the 1970s: Wayne Dyer and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Twenge believes the Me Generation (Boomers) opened up this approach to life but, by and large, settled back into older ways. Its commitment to the self was more abstract and more spiritualistic (ah, New Age-ish stuff).

Twenge thinks her generation, the iGens, have made the self “our hometown” (49). Because of the emphasis of the Me Generation and self-esteem in education, she observes that “we don’t need to look inward; we already know what we will find. Since we were small children, we were taught to put ourselves first. That’s just the way the world works — why dwell on it? Let’s go to the mall” (49). (Clever prose anyway.) She observes her generation further: “We simply take it for granted that we should all feel good about ourselves, we are all special, and we all deserve to follow our dreams” (49). [I wonder at times, in spite of fundamental good, what impact Mr. Rogers has had on this element of iGens.]

Prud.jpgShe finds a brilliant example of what she concludes about this trend: the Prudential ad shifted from “Get a Piece of the Rock” to “Be Your Own Rock.”

Now some data. My the mid-1990s the average iGen college male had more self-esteem than 86% of college males in 1968. The issue here is should that many have more self-esteem? A stunning 93% of students said they feel good about themselves in 1997. 91% said they were responsible, 74% physically attractive, and 79% said they were “very intelligent.” John Ortberg once said 90% of this group thought they were above average!

“The individualism that was so enthralling for teenagers and adults in the 1970s didn’t help kids.”  It was the 1980s that turned things upside down: the average kid in the mid-1990s had higher self-esteem than 73% of kids in 1979. Yowza.

She finds high correlation in the self-esteem curriculum. Which we’ll look at Monday.

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