“I want to do it, but I don’t trust myself to get it right”. It’s a phrase most of us have used at one time or another and one I hear on most days in one way or another. The immobility caused by a fear of failure or the desperate need to sustain success is a steely paralysis.
I recently watched an excellent interview with Simon Sinek on the plight of millennials and, having neatly contrasted and, paradoxically, reaffirmed his message reading a number of belligerent and entitled comments on a blog about the same subject, I wondered whether talking about millennials as if they face a peculiarly special kind of generational difficulty is doing more harm than good.
History suggests that if you position something as a significant issue it will be adopted as such by those who find flying its flag of some personal convenience. Telling millennials they face challenges which are unique and of a nature impossible to mitigate creates the very danger it seeks to challenge. Feeling the need to constantly live up to everyone else’s unrealistic portrayals of a perfect existence on Instagram is undoubtedly a challenge but I don’t know if it’s any worse than the trust we have lost in the world about us and in ourselves. If I’m right millennials face an issue we have always battled, but it might be getting harder.
In the years since 9/11 it feels as if so much of what we had come to trust in the world has been dismantled. We are less sure of our physical safety, of the rigour and integrity of our institutions and of our emotional safety in the relationships we build. As a child of the 1970’s even my formative years feels as if they have been rewritten as, one by one, so many of the celebrities who kept me company on my TV screens and through my radio have ended up in prison because they weren’t actually friendly and entertaining, they were abusers.
Trust feels like a precious metal after the gold rush, but it’s impossible for us to exist happily without it. What makes its worse is that the less there is the more we hanker desperately for it, forgetting that we could look in a different direction at the one person we can always be sure of.
When we lose trust in ourselves, in our own decisions, abilities, skills and instincts we serve only to make the world around us a more frightening place. If you think you are not worth much then finding you are unable to trust people who let you down or react in unpredictable ways will be harder to bear, because it will appear inevitable and, at some deeper level, reasonable.
When we lose trust in ourselves we are fearful of moving outside of our comfort zone, and so we make our lives smaller. When we experience ourselves “playing safe” we quite naturally assume that there is danger to be avoided. Far from becoming shielded from the fear which exists, we amplify it and retreat further as our belief that we can navigate the choppy waters of life pulls back like a relentless tide.
We cannot increase our levels of trust by saying that nothing will ever go wrong, that nothing will be painful or hard, that we won’t ever fail, or that others will never reject us, because all of these things will happen. We increase our trust by knowing that whatever befalls us we will have the courage and fortitude to battle through it until we reach somewhere which is in some way alright again.
If the millennials face a peculiar kind of difficulty it is perhaps that they are encouraged only to look at the part of the iceberg which is above the water line and not consider sufficiently all of the complexity which lies beneath. Social media, fake news and post truth are all built on what we can see without effort, but truth, and therefore trust, are founded on what is deep down as far as we are able to go.