I’ve never had much of an ego (at least not that I’ve noticed myself, but who would? You’ll have to take me at my word on this one). I think part of it was how I grew up. I was born in 1975, which means that my youth was in the 80s. That was long before all these namby-pamby parenting styles became all the rage. Hitting your kids is bad, make them feel special, etc. My Mom was seriously old school, and raised us as she had been raised. It is very similar to watching how the kids are treated on Mad Men, even though it was 20 years later. I mostly felt like we were an annoyance. This is not meant to sound self-pitying, because I think that was just a more accepted parenting style back then. The other moms were like that too. If I had to sum it up with one phrase, it would be, “Go away kid, you’re bothering me.” As a result, you don’t always end up with the most confidence or feel like people are necessarily giving a shit about you. To further compound this upbringing, my parents sent us to Catholic grammar school and junior high. Back in the 80s (maybe it’s still the case, I haven’t been paying attention), they let nuns – with no qualifying educational criteria – teach us. And by “teach” I mean, yell at and berate us. I think it was still acceptable back then to hit kids with rulers and such, because I definitely witnessed it and lived in fear of Nun Wrath.
Again, I think the result of this is that you are more prone to take yourself at face value, and not necessarily think you’re all that special. Whereas, the children of the late 80s and 90s were raised to believe that everything they did was special. Are they Generation Y? The ones who started getting trophies just for participating in something? Someone even wrote a book about it a few years ago, that this generation of kids was brought up to believe they were so special and amazing, it’s actually causing a rift in the work place among different generations. Gen Y-ers don’t understand the value of working hard, and that you have to do more than just show up to get ahead.
It used to irritate me more than it does now. I don’t think I have any of those people in my realm at this moment, so it’s not really something I think about. The only reason it occurred to me at all is because of the Interns. Years ago, I somehow got the job for my department to give the current batch of interns an overview of what our department does and how it operates (as a side note, it’s ridiculous that I am the person giving this presentation, since my group represents about 5% of the overall department, and I am only guessing as to what other people do; no one has seemed to notice yet). This is not meant to sound conceited, but I give a good presentation. I’ve always been comfortable presenting in front of large groups, and these kids are the least intimidating of all. My style is very casual, which I think they appreciate. I also start my presentation by showing a clip from the movie Spaceballs, so it generally starts everything off on a humorous note. The kids seem to enjoy it and ask lots of questions.
There are often several interns from my own department in the room. I just noticed today that they are all saying hi to me and talking to me like we are old friends. Granted, I am good with faces so I generally recognize most of them (even if I don’t know their names), but their attitudes assume a level of familiarity that I would never dare use if I was their age and in their position. These kids are too young to be Gen Y…I’m actually not sure which generation they belong to. Are they the Millenials? At any rate, to assume familiarity like that, and to also assume that I recognize you on a personal level, is just not something that would ever occur to me to do. There are about 30 interns in that room. Why would I remember them individually or which group they work for? I never assume people remember who I am, to the point where, if I see someone who I know I’ve met before, I say something almost apologetic, like, “I think we’ve actually met before, but I’m ___.” This is also because I hate when I’ve met someone and they re-introduce themselves to me, clearly not bothering to remember that I exist. So I am always careful to let people know that I remember them, while taking the humble road and assuming they don’t remember me back.
I’m not saying that this is the preferred way to go about things, but it is certainly less ego driven than assuming that people will remember you and the details of your life just because you stood up in a room of 30 people and stated your name. Maybe it has less to do with being part of a particular generation, and more to do with being so young they don’t have a certain level of self-awareness just yet. I’m not saying that people don’t care about who you are or the details of your life, but you should never assume they do. Maybe I should work that into my presentation for next semester’s interns.