I just had a very interesting conversation with my mom about the “needs” of my generation. Last night, I told her that I finally knitted a pair of socks, and despite random holes, they were fantastic. “Aren’t you proud?” I said with a sense of satisfaction.
She said, “Not really.”
Dead silence. What?! I made socks! That’s an accomplishment!
“I haven’t seen them yet.” Click. OK, I didn’t really hang up the phone, but I felt a strong urge. I was tearfully miffed about our encounter. I feverishly worked on a sock pattern all weekend making a couple of mutant socks that I tried to pass off as wrist warmers. I also tried to make wrist warmers, one of which became a knitted collar of sorts for the dog. For me, figuring out the pattern, completing five socks, and managing to snuff my way out of a cloud of depression to do so was an accomplishment…and I was proud. I thought my mother would recognize that.
However, my mother only heard that the socks were a bit obscure and not perfect. Therefore, she decided to withhold her appreciation telling me that “my generation” was raised on praise and now we think we should be adored for each and every little thing that we do. I told her that wasn’t fair and we agreed to disagree. I also told her that it wasn’t my generation’s fault for her generation’s faulty parenting.
As a representative of my generation, I am here to inform the older generations that we don’t need your praise and we need it so badly that it hurts. Herein lies the rub–you need praise, too. I don’t think my generation is alone in wanting to know that we’re doing a good job; everyone needs encouragement once in a while and everyone needs to feel appreciated. The sad part is that what we do seems to equal value and in turn elicits praise. The more successful we are, the more praise we acquire, while the unsung heroes remain unsung. Our whole system is seriously out of whack.
Some people use praise as a way to hide backhanded criticism. It’s like a sucker punch because you don’t see it coming and it’s an unfair blow. Other times, people are insincere in their flattery, which makes me skeptical of all flattery. I often stop and ponder, is this person telling me the truth? Or are they telling me what I want to hear?
Therefore, I have made it a personal mission to compliment and encourage people–not because my generation “expects” it, but because we expect the very opposite. The world can be a mean and cruel place that cuts to the core of our very beings. We are insulted, violated, and treated unjustly every single day, some more so than others. I believe that everyone could use a smile, a random compliment (“I like your scarf” or “Oh, those are great shoes!”), an encouraging message (texting, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter–new technology gives us better ways to stay in touch), or even a personal phone call. Perhaps some people think I’m *too* encouraging, but I would rather shower praise on others than withhold it any day.
While we may not NEED praise, we want it. We want to know that we matter and that our lives and our work make a difference in this planet we currently call home. Sadly, even though my generation was force fed praise, we’re still so very sad. Maybe we really don’t need superficial words, but we want to know that we are loved.
Despite our shortcomings as a people, my generation is more concerned about the poor, social justice, and volunteering than many others. We are starting to move and shake this world in a thousand ways every day. We are making a difference, whether anyone else recognizes it or not. We don’t need your praise, and we don’t demand it, because we will change this world with or without it.
One knitted sock at a time.