Millennials: How Do You Make Peace With How You Were Raised?

As someone raised in a nominally Protestant Christian/mostly secular household, talent and success were considered the paramount of human worth. Although my family was lower middle class, I was raised in an affluent community and an environment where every kid was treated as though they had great potential to “be anything”/”do anything” etc. Parents put their kids into expensive lessons and activities because they were supposed to grow up, get admitted to ivy league schools, get “good”/”real” jobs, make a lot of money, get married, buy big houses, and prove that multigenerational upward mobility really is a thing in America. This did not manifest for much of the millennial generation…and it is quite likely that it never will.

The idea that human worth=achievement and those who are talented/successful/beautiful/etc. are the only ones deserving of love has been deeply engrained in my conscious…and I suspect the conscious of many others. It’s extremely hurtful when older generations claim that millennials feel as though they have to have everything handed to them…I believe that part of this is because of these wounds…we’ve been told for so long that we have to be the superstar to be worthy of love that we become desperate to claim the outward signs (admission to that top school, that top job, that “amazing” spouse, etc.) and fall into despair if we are not able. Converting to the Faith has made it clear that human worth does not equal talent and success and that such things come from God and should be used according to His purpose…but we all still live in the world…

I’m the only convert in my immediate family. For a long time, I struggled with feelings of worthlessness and guilt over not really having any “great” talent or achieving anything “big” so that others’ sacrifices would be “worth it”. I even wrote about it here in my very early posts that I made when I was converting (circa 2009). Although my worldview is slowly shifting (and I have prayed for God to help me every step of the way), I know that I will never be able to interact with my family without them thrusting these old patterns in my direction. Even if I do achieve something, it will never be good enough, or it will immediately be compared to others’ greater successes. This really only comes from my mother, and I do not know why she treats me like this. At the same time, I know that it is very unlikely to change.

Millennials (and, of course, anyone who can relate to a familial or societal atmosphere like the one above): how do you make peace with how you were raised? How do you keep strong in the face of such lies? From where do you draw your strength?

From what you describe, I grew up in a very similar environment.

My answer, and I’m not being glib, is lots of therapy, living 2500 miles away from my parents, clinging to Jesus, and finding something to do that really matters, whether or not it’s ever going to impress anyone (i.e. find your vocation and live it).

I pick up my cross and carry it! Not sure who said this but a man asked a priest how he could know God loved him and the priest asked how much do you suffer?

St Terese of Liseax - the patron saint of “Do nothing”

Yes, one of our Doctors of the Church, spelled horribly, wrote a book and lead us to know that we do not need to do anything to be loved by God. It’s a beautiful way to bring us all out of this falsehood (pride in achievement ) leading to the culture of death.

Additionally, St Teresa of Avil also showed us that life does not merit any action to be a saint when she was sick and let Gods Glory flow through to to the other nuns.

I only recently realized one truth about my childhood/past. I was being called do something. I ignored those callings for years because it wasn’t what I was “supposed” to do. My family pushed me to be an Engineer for years. It took me getting married and having a child to finally be truthful with myself that it wasn’t what I wanted.

After 5 years of trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with myself, I finally got the call again. I am now going to school to be a Family Support Specialist. I won’t make a lot of money, but I’ll be working directly with the poor and those in crisis.

All I can do at this point, is work towards that degree in the hope that I am able to help others and to make sure my own children step forward in life listening for God’s call.

My faith helped me with understanding my true worth comes from God and not just in being talented or accomplishing a lot. It’s still difficult from time to time, especially when I meet new people and tell them about my experiences or accomplishments… or lack thereof, and have them give me a raised eyebrow. It’s particularly difficult when I admire that person.

Although my family environment was different from yours, I can relate to the struggle of having certain expectations pushed on you. Rather than expect me to succeed, my family -subconciously- caused me to feel like I shouldn’t expect to accomplish too much. I had feelings of guilt when I did well. I felt like when I did well, I was flaunting it in my family’s face. Not having serious problems or drama in my personal life = unfair and ignoring my siblings’ misery. Even now, I struggle to “leave them behind” or “abandon” them in order to move on with my life.

I’m in therapy, still trying to figure out how to be able to move forward without telling myself I’ve failed to truly love people by not suffering with them or fixing all their problems. It’s hard setting boundaries, without feeling guilty, but overall, it’s necessary.

My faith has helped me a lot. Though at times my feelings become unbearable, nurturing my personal relationship with God has been greatly necessary for me to continue to face these issues.

I had the good fortune of not having a lot of friends, indeed of being teased and bullied by a lot of my peers. I developed my own personality, my own interests, my own sense of what good and evil are, apart from the culture. My parents never let me watch popular TV. We watched Disney, Cartoon Network, public TV, and family-friendly movies that were kinda fun.

So by the time I became an adult, I had long been my own man with my own opinions, without anyone else influencing them but myself. I do still feel kind of bad about not having a job and being poor - but it’s not because I think being rich is what it’s all about. It’s because work is a good thing for the soul and the body, I’m convinced.

They raised me with few expectations. The only thing I remember Dad wanting of me was to be a “good Christian man”. That’s all. (Well, he did mention a few times a dream he had one night, that his son would be a bishop someday. But he certainly didn’t push me.)

Even if I end up a beggar on the street, I think my parents did a pretty damn good job raising me. They, especially my father, gave me the strength to stand up and SHOUT in triumph over this culture.

I am not a millennial, but I can tell you it’s hard to feel good about yourself sometimes.

I often wondered what that meant…feel good about yourself.

I only feel good when I can stop cruelty in some way. I never amounted to much, in the world’s eyes, but I took care of a sick husband for years. I also took in my elderly aunt because she could’t live alone. This stopped me in a way from concentrating on a good job because it was hard to take care of them and work full time as well.

Now, with them gone, (they both died) I am alone. Somehow I began to paint pictures. I don’t know if they are really any good, but I enjoy doing it. I also take care of my dog and birds.

To others, I am unremarkable, but I have somehow pulled it all together even though it’s been lonely and hard. I think God is teaching me to paint because I never did it when my husband was alive since I did not have time.

Success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Great post! I can relate so much to what you are saying. I’ve had much the same experience as you. This gives me some hope in our generation, that maybe more will see the empty promises that were made and the materialistic values hoisted on us were not the route to true peace. I feel a greater attachment to my grandparents’ generation than my parents. My grandparents were poor but had great faith and love. They stood for something, lived it out, spoke the truth plainly, and departed this world for Heaven above. I feel that many in my parents’ generation (though I want to be careful not to implicate everyone here) had a false idea that the best way to raise their children was not to impose any morality on them at all, and it has left so many rudderless and confused. A good parent is not one that abandons their children to this world, but raises them up and gives them the strength to go forth with confidence and inner strength. I have two kids now and that’s the kind of parent I want to be.

Like the previous poster, I also had much therapy (having had an anxiety disorder and depression). The world gives no inner strength, which is why I think so many of our generation are prone to anxiety and depression. When something goes wrong we just don’t know how to cope, because we haven’t valued what’s inside, but only outward trappings. Thanks be to God in my desolate state I was given strong signs regarding His presence and given the grace to believe and pursue faith. I haven’t felt this peaceful and unbreakable since then.

Only way

Trully forgive and understand their ignorance, they may have thought they were helping you!

Thank God for everything GOOD in your past.
Thank God for ever GOOD lesson you learned from the bad.

Let go. Think positive. Look forward. Bless your present and future! Be excited about your present and future. So many opportunities and possibilities! Make a list of everything big and small you would like to do!

Follow your dreams. Use your talents. Do what you love. Enjoy the duties and people God.has asked you to help.
Be content and blessed where you are.

Great point. The Lord works in mysterious ways. “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20). It is possible that there are cycles of desolation and consolation, and if we listen to the Holy Spirit, even greater consolation will emerge from a desolate state.

I don’t really have a problem with the way I was raised. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, it wasn’t a “you must be x, y, or z” I have goals I am still working on and they aren’t for anyone, except for me, and I don’t think it should be handed to me and I know hard work pays off. I was fortunate enough to to grow up around amazing adults, teachers, and coaches. My coaches in school made it clear that parents weren’t going to whine so their daughter was on the top of the pyramid or the ace pitcher. We were their kids during the practice or heck even the season. My softball coach didn’t allow dating during the season. If “boyfriends” showed up to games or traveled to tourneys our booties were running polls. Parents didn’t get a say in sports in my town and if you want your child to play, you better shut up because my coaches would bench people for spite. (Don’t worry we had enough back up and made it to the state tourney every year) Teachers didn’t baby us and we had to earn our grade. There wasn’t parents coming up to the school yelling at teachers for their baby’s failing. Mama is coming up there with a belt because you don’t act a fool in school.
Also, where I come from doing blue collar jobs aren’t embarrassing. The mentality around here is “So what if Tyler works on the farm, at least he’s got a job and taking care of his family.” I’m only 26 but is seems like growing up in rural Alabama has it’s benefits.

In my family, I am the only practicing Catholic. Catholicism is something that I came to on my own which in many ways has made my beliefs stronger and more sincere. I know I believe what I believe simply because I believe it and not because I was told to believe it. With that being said, my family – non-practicing Catholics – is more secular and driven by the worldly, not unusual in our contemporary society.

As a senior in high school this year, the idea that “human worth=achievement” is one that has been drilled into my mind but I have fought to resist. Nearing the end of the year, I see that as a battle I have won. However, I know quite well the importance of being well-rounded. It is important to me to maintain a high GPA and participate in many extracurriculars. This is not “to be worthy of love” because I know I am worthy in the eyes of the Lord and quite frankly, that is all that matters. It is my personality to aim for high achievements, giving all glory to God. My actions are not done for recognition or acclaim, but it is my hope that through my actions, others can come to know God.

I denied admission to some top schools, and I am always being questioned as to why. I chose the school that I know I will be happy at and where I feel called to fulfill God’s will for me. To me, it’s not about being the best in the eyes of the world but the best in the eyes of your Lord. God has a plan for everyone. For some, that plan is to be at those top schools. Though many called me crazy, I know that is not God’s plan for me. I will still be attending a wonderful university, and I will be happy to live out my calling there.

Being brought up in such a secular society undoubtedly poses many challenges; however, those challenges are minuscule with a strong faith. It is imperative to know your motives: why are you doing something? Are you studying like crazy just so people think you are smart? Just so you will get into that college? Or are you doing because you have a genuine thirst for knowledge? Are you joining all of these clubs because they will look good on a resumé? Or are you joining because you have a passion for the interest? We must continually ask ourselves these questions to know our own motives and adjust ourselves accordingly. If our actions stem from an intent of righteously pleasing God, then all is in harmony. It’s not about doing good; it’s about doing good for the right reasons.

The Faith is applicable to our modern world. We millennials have a beautiful calling to live our lives in such a way that our actions preach the Word of God!

Pax et bonum,

As a millennial, I was spoiled like any other child from a wealthy family. However, I dont feel as if that has had a huge impact on who I have become in my late twenties. I am more concerned about the culture of getting married later in life. I make a good salary and am not hurting for money so I can afford to spend a lot on myself. I mean I have nobody else to spend money on. I have no wife and no children so once the essentials of living are taken care of, I have a lot of money left over to have fun with. I am by no means someone that splurges and wastes money but I am used to the freedom of spending my money how I see fit and living my life on my own terms. On my days off I can travel anywhere, I can do pretty much anything I want. I fear the longer I am single and living alone, the harder marriage will be because I will be too used to the comforts of single life. I wont be able to call my friends and go to dinner or get on a plane and fly to Hawaii on a whim. I will need to learn how to share things and to live with someone else. The older you get, the more difficult it can be to adjust to a whole different way of living.

Some pretty grown up wisdom from a senior in high school! Good for you! :thumbsup:

This is definitely something I’ve struggled with. For me is was exacerbated by some pretty significant health problems - for a time I wasn’t able to work at all and had to rely on charity and welfare to meet my needs. It really hit my self-esteem pretty hard; I felt like a moocher who didn’t deserve to exist, because I wasn’t able to meet my needs on my own.

What really helped me, honestly, was people pointing out how much Christianity commands us to care for the poor. Surely if value was measured in success, we wouldn’t be given so many commands to help those who are less fortunate? But we are commanded to give to the poor and to show no preference to those who are rich.

A good way to practice the financial charity that will be required when you have a family might be to do some charitable giving right now. Perhaps you can give to your local parish or look up your diocese’s bishop’s appeal. The bishop’s appeal usually has lots of entities you can give to that will suit your interest. For example, I think priests are just incredible gifts from God to us, so I give a little to the seminaries each month (not trying to boast, I’m hardly a paragon of charity like others I know, just to give an example). This could help you find out how wonderful it is to use your blessings to support something you care about and guard against selfishness.

Great post.

I’m at the very beginning of the millennial generation. I was raised in a lower middle class family that wanted more their kids, of course…but my parents never pushed me to do anything.
I pushed myself to be the best. The best student and the best ballet dancer. My mother was a ballet dancer, a darn good one too…who was well known for her teaching and choreography experience throughout the region.

Because of my mother’s reputation…virtually everyone I knew expected me to follow in her footsteps.
I tried to go to the best fine arts college I could get accepted into and major in ballet. It was a huge mistake and I could barely finish my second semester. I dropped out and felt like a huge failure.

It took a long time to realize that I didn’t have to achieve everything in life in order to feel like I was worth something.

Two things happened that changed my life forever. I met my husband and I discovered Jesus.

I have gone back to school…but not for my own desire of worthiness and achieving something great (although, I’m guilty of dreaming big sometimes) but to get my degree and start working to help provide a stable life for my family.

My husband has been working hard too. We’ve had a lot of hiccups in our short marriage that have tested our patience and faith (job loss and prolonged unemployment, unplanned pregnancies and family trouble) but we keep plugging along.
Some good things have happened. Some things have led to more stress…but we have hope.

I want to make sure that my girls understand that their crutch is Jesus and they are worth so much more then their career or their talent.

It doesn’t stop me from wanting the best for them. I think it’s every parent’s desire to see their children achieve more then they did. To be happy and comfortable. It’s an outward appearance of success as a parent. But it also gives a parent a sense of security. That their children and taking care of themselves.

OP, I am sorry for your struggle, but I am thankful that you have shared it because I can greatly understand how you feel :o

I’m very slowly learning how to accept my life for what it is, how to internalize that my worth is decided by God and not by how many “amazing” things I do in this life. I feel quite insecure when I compare myself to the people I graduated high school with. Many of my peers have bachelor’s degrees (some even have a Master’s now) plus stable families and what not. I am a single mom, with a “measly” associate’s degree, sick (cancer) and living at home with my parents. Certainly being ill isn’t my fault nor is it something I can just zap away but I nonetheless feel like a societal “reject.”

One of the things I am trying not to do is compare myself to others. We are all on our own paths which were intended to be unique according to our Loving Lord. :wink:

This quote from Blessed Mother Teresa gives me strength: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” (Faithful, not successful )

These precious words remind me that through my weaknesses, Christ is made strong and as long as I continue to have faith I will be successful through God’s grace and in God’s eyes and that’s all that matters.

I suppose in the meantime it’s just going to take lots of prayer and time before people like you and I can recover from feeling like failures simply because we aren’t like “that guy” or “that girl.” You’ll be in my prayers :heart:

Its more than just financial. Its a whole lifestyle. Ive never had to share anything or live with someone else. I am used to living a carefree lifestyle and living on my own schedule. I clean when I want, do laundry when I want and I have never had to live with another person. When you get married, you need to share a bed, share responsibilities, arrange life around kids and live responsibly. You cant easily go to the bar for drinks every night or tell your wife you are going to dinner with your best friend as she cares for kids.

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