Since branding myself as a millennial therapist I have found that I get a lot of questions about millennials, both online (from millennials and non-millennials) and IRL spaces when I speak to other therapists and professionals. I thought this was a great indication that I should write a blog post about this as there seems to be a lot of confusion around the term, how we should feel about using the term and what it means to different people therefore I think it's important to clarify how I feel about using it and why I have chosen to work primarily with millennials.
So let's start with the basics! There's always a little discrepancy between where one generation ends and the next begins, because it's one person's interpretation vs another's, but according to the Pew Research Center millennials are born between 1981-1996, which makes them aged between 24 - 39 in the year 2020. This may come as a surprise as often people flippantly refer to all young people as millennials and yet as you can see not only are we all fully grown adults but there is obviously a wide range of diversity and difference in those at the lower age limit and upper age limit of the scale. As a millennial myself, I fall pretty much in the middle of this age range and feel as though I identify strongly with being part of this generation, and am lucky enough to have experiences that mean I can empathise with both the younger & older millennials. But, it's not an exact science! I am going to examine a few experiences that researchers say are common to millennials, but to be honest if you self identify as a millennial (or any other generation) then that's cool too, this is just a framework.
Things that define growing up as a millennial:
Many of us experienced a childhood without the the internet, mobile phones, social media and very few television channels to choose from. We can remember a simpler life from before the introduction of this technology into our lives and we can see how this has changed life & society around us. However, due to our ages when these technologies came out, most millennials were the first to embrace them and incorporate them into our everyday lives in an unprecedented way. We quickly learnt to use google and have information at the tips of our fingers, and we also excitedly began using the first social media networks to connect with others, such as MSN messenger and myspace!
We grew up in the shadow of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then we came of age just in time for the financial crisis and the bailing out of the banks. Due to the economic recession many of us have spent many years in low paid work after graduating from uni and there has been an overall lack of employment opportunities or job security especially with regards to 'zero hours contracts'. This has caused many millennials to have foreboding & fearful feelings about the future.
Unfortunately we have not experienced an increase in earnings like generations before us, and this has also contributed to the fact that many millennials will never be able to own their own homes. We are the first generation unlikely to progress to the same level as our parents in income/wealth, housing and career, and due to high renting prices there are a large portion of millennials (41%) who live at home with their parents. However, one benefit of technology has meant millennials can have more flexibility & freedom which has lead to many millennials doing things their own way, starting businesses or creating careers in ways that was never possible before (think digital nomads!).
Due to the expansion of the internet and therefore the availability of information we are more politically and socially aware than previous generations. We are more open minded, tolerant, accepting and have better understanding of mental & emotional distress and are more comfortable speaking up about these issues.
And now for some millennial stereotypes!!:
We spend ALL our money on avocados and would be able to afford to buy a house if we didn't!
We are always on our phones and obsessed with taking selfies!
We are narcissistic 'snowflakes' who can't get to grips with adulting!
We are entitled and don't know how to work hard, therefore we are difficult employees and prolific job hoppers!
We want it all, we want it now and we are overly ambitious.. we want everything handed to us on a plate!
I'm sure if you're a millennial then you can spot how rubbish these stereotypes are, and I'm sure that similar things have always been said about the younger misunderstood generation each time a new wave of youngsters reach adulthood. You only have to have a quick search online to find a whole plethora of negative stereotypes about millennials like the ones above.. and I've even heard people say these things seriously about us in workshops and meetings, which, let's be honest, is damn rude and judgemental!! But people are often judgemental about things they don't understand. I believe it's these negative connotations that has caused some millennials to resent the label and want to distance themselves from it. I understand! However I have chosen to embrace the label as a way to define our experience and I believe that by using it ourselves in a positive way is how we will change people's perception of millennials and introduce them to all the positive aspects of our generation. Labels can be damaging (that's a whole other blog post that I will write another day!) but they also help us communicate and recognise each other. That's why I have chosen to proudly identify as a millennial.
Millennials are leading the way in speaking more openly about mental health and we have begun challenging the stigma and traditional stiff upper lip that British society has held on to for so long. Not only this but millennials are more open to accessing therapy and help for mental distress (and being open about this!) which makes me absolutely over the moon. Nobody should feel ashamed for seeking help and I believe therapy is for everyone, and can enhance our lives without us having to wait until we are diagnosed mentally ill before reaching out. Social media has made us more open and willing to share and talk about our experiences and when this is applied to mental health it really opens up the conversation and empowers others to be able to seek the help and support they may need. However, despite an increase in the numbers of millennials seeking therapy, most therapists are of an older generation, they are either Baby Boomers or Gen X. A good therapist will be able to help someone of a different generation, of course, but they may unintentionally be viewing their millennial clients from their own experience and perspective and not necessarily understand the differences in the world they grew up in and the world us millennials came of age in.
Whilst studying to become a therapist I was always aware of my age as there just aren't that many millennial or younger therapists. In fact recent statistics show that less than 20% of BACP registered therapists are under the age of 45! I knew that I wanted to work with people that are of the same generation as me as I understood the experience of growing up as a millennial. I hear time and time again that people feel they are not good enough, that they feel like a failure, that they are anxious about the future or that they are burnt out and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life & social media. As I said above, I am obviously not saying that an older therapist can't help you with these things... but I get it and that's why I want to work with millennials to create a place where emotions can be worked through, processed and you can begin to feel better.
I am not perfect and more importantly I am a human too, so of course from time to time I have the same struggles as my millennial clients! But I have learnt how to effectively look after myself, to feel happy and content and to understand what is going on for me emotionally. I believe that emotions are messengers and they tell us important things about our lives, our wants, needs and desires. Learning to listen to and understand our emotions is a powerful tool, and one that will enhance your life and help you to move forwards.
I am an Integrative Therapist who works remotely online with millennials who are anxious, lost, stressed or depressed. I work collaboratively with people to support them in their emotional wellbeing, to develop skills in self-care and to foster a deeper understanding of themselves. If you would like to find out how I can help, please book a free consultation to see if we are well suited to work together.
Alternatively, please come connect with me over on Instagram - I would love to get to know you further.