The Unhappy Singapore Generation
They’re lazy, self-entitled and arrogant. These common negative stereotypes surround the Millennial generation – those born between 1980 to 2000. Whether or not these are hasty generalisations, one thing’s for sure – the Millennials are a group of unhappy people.
Unlike the generation preceding theirs, they grew up coddled in a comfortable environment, and were taught to believe they could obtain anything they wanted.
This has led to a generation that is never satisfied, always believing they deserve more – which eventually leads to unhappiness when reality sinks in. We also tend to find fault with problems that don’t exist.
In this article, we attempt to explain the reasons why young Singaporeans are unhappy today.
Introducing Generation X
What makes Millennials so different from the previous generation? To understand this, let me introduce Ah Seng.
Ah Seng was born in a time where birth rates reached an all-time high. He is a baby boomer, part of what we’d call Generation X.
Ah Seng was raised in an era that fetishises economic security. They had very simple markers of success – a practical, thriving and stable career that guaranteed financial security, and a small family.
His whole life revolved around the 5 “C”s of Singapore, namely:
Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium and Country club membership.
Ah Seng was also taught that hard work would amount to success.
Source: Remember Singapore
And so this generation slogged their way through life.
The 70s and 80s came rolling around, and they proved to be a period of unprecedented economic prosperity.
Source: Unknown – Orchard Road in the olden days (Also see 22 incredible pictures that reveal Singapore’s Transformation)
Source: fanpop – Today’s Orchard Road
Just look at Orchard Road’s transformation. Who would have expected Singapore to have such an astounding economic transformation in such a short period of time?
As a result, Ah Seng ended up with more than he’d asked for. This left him not only gratified, but also with a highly optimistic attitude towards life.
He then raised his kids, the Millennials, with the mindset that anything is possible.
Source: Seijieiga’s Sketchbook
Introducing Generation Y
The Millennials, or Gen Y, were taught not to let anything stand in the way of what they want. They were taught to believe they could achieve anything.
This is a generation of people that is fiercely ambitious.
Then the 90s came around, and the new millennium saw an increasingly flourishing economy. Food, water and sleep were no longer priorities – they became a given. And so is that 4G internet connection.
Prada! Gucci! Burberry! Louis Vuitton!
These brand names scream at you from the arms of our young we see today. These luxuries are undeniably, and almost always certainly, lavished by the overindulging parents of our generation.
This forms the basis as to why Gen Xs and Gen Ys (Millennials) have vastly different mindsets, beliefs and attitudes towards life.
Even the 5 “C”s of this generation have somewhat shifted.
This is the generation of people that struggles to find fulfilment and happiness even more so than the generations preceding them.
Why Young Singaporeans think their lives suck
1. Unrealistic Expectations
Millennials want a lot of things. In fact, they want way too much. This is a consequence of being born in a time of opulence. In addition, having grown up in the age of the internet, they are used to having their voices heard and having a community of people who share their ideals.
I mean, what else can come from being born into a society that constantly tells you you are in control of your life, and you can do anything you want?
Young Singaporeans also wish for things that are practically impossible.
They are taught to dream big. Success stories of both prominent and unknown figures have surrounded them since a young age. It may be a tale of how someone rose from rags to riches. It may be how someone was able to overcome a disability to achieve great feats. In fact, Singapore’s transformation into a First World country in such a short span of time is itself a familiar success story. This is further complicated by the media’s portrayal of Singapore as a utopian society.
They are so accustomed to the idea of being able to attain their goals as long as they work hard enough, and they truly believe so. Expectations may not be a bad thing, but they can become destructive if not kept in check.
To make things worse, they are also overwhelmed by way too many statistics that may have given them a warped perception of how their future careers would be like – right after they obtain a degree that supposedly promises them a future of boundless opportunities.
Credits: Ministry of Education, Singapore, Graduate Employment Survey
Why this leads to unhappiness:
Most young Singaporeans are familiar with the the idea of success. Whether they hope to become a CEO, the next president or a rising star, they bear the crushing weight of their personal goals and expectations.
The problem comes in here.
No one told them how much effort they had to put in to achieve their goals. No one told them the part which required years of slogging and sleepless nights. No one told them that despite all this, they may still end up completely failing.
Often, Millennials focus so much on the outcome that they fail to notice the mountain they have to conquer before attaining success.
There they are, standing at the foot of the mountain, but all they see is the peak of it. They are so engrossed with their end goal that they seem to lose sight of what they have to do to get there.
They expect so much of themselves, but the reality is that it’s impossible to get to the peak without scaling the mountain. And that’s one thing that haunts Millennials even in their sleep.
The fear of failure.
It also does not help that mainstream media tries to portray an overly positive unrealistic image to Singaporeans. Who can forget the recent story about the Taxi Driver who was said to earn 7k a month? Sure it may work in the short-run but it falsely raises hopes. It creates a bigger problem in the long run in society through mismanaged expectations and unhappiness when reality sets in.
2. Blindly Chasing Goals
Honestly, young Singaporeans are too fixated on goals they’ve set for themselves and this leads to constant worrying. Perhaps it’s the Asian values that are deeply rooted in our society, but it’s almost impossible to take a breather.
When they’re in primary school, they worry about the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). After PSLE, they worry about which secondary school to choose. When they’ve finally picked their schools, they worry about exams and grades. Then comes the big ‘O’ Level paper or for the Integrated Programme students, the ‘A’ Levels. Then university. More deadlines to meet. Less sleep. Then “wham!”, working life hits them in the face.
Why this leads to unhappiness:
When have they truly enjoyed themselves? I don’t really know.
To make things more complicated, are these goals truly important? Our society places lots of emphasis on results, achievements and practicality. Most young Singaporeans are simply following society’s ideal – are they truly chasing their dreams?
It’s been a mad dash for them to master the holy trinity of modern life – true love, a great career and satisfying sex. It has more to do with achieving these life markers of success and less to do with a sense of fulfilment – which is what most of them are missing.
The goals they’ve set for themselves, these goals they’ve deemed highly important – are they truly what they desire in life? Even after they have achieved what they’ve set out for, they may be left with an empty shell of meaningless achievements because they haven’t searched their soul and asked themselves what their true calling in life is.
It is not really a sense of self-entitlement that Millennials have, but impatience. Millennials live in a world where efficiency is at its best. Think instant messaging, internet commerce and overnight shipping. This generation’s patience is waning. Instant gratification has never been so satisfying and the absence of it never so irking.
Millennials have to understand that some things do not come instantly. They seem disoriented when told that things take time.
They readily provide short bursts of energy, but find it difficult to commit to a sustained effort. They are willing to work hard, but they have yet to grasp the concept that success is not achievable within a few days. A significant amount of time and energy is required to achieve their goals.
There is no fast track to success, money and happiness.
And when the time taken is shorter than what they asked for?
4. Bombarded with choices
Today’s younger generation has been offered autonomy and control beyond imagination. They have had an unparallelled freedom of choice in the decisions they make in this age of abundance.
Source: Saida Online Magazine
This of course, leads them to the big question they ask themselves each day:
What do I want to do with my life?
Unfortunately, they can’t seem to answer that question. This probably explains why job-hopping has become the new norm. They can’t decide, and they can afford to be indecisive.
According to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than 3 years. Previous generation employees could stay in their first company their whole life.
But it’s really more about being lost than being aimless.
Why this leads to unhappiness:
Let’s just say it’s really rare for someone to #WIN. For that rare minority, he or she must have had accumulated a lot of good karma from their previous lives.
The majority of us that ends up in anywhere else other than the red portion?
5. Inflated Online Lives of Friends
Social media is the drug of the 21st century. Having been brought up in a media-saturated world, Millennials have very successfully crafted virtual personalities of themselves online. The scary part is, they spend their spare time evaluating their triumphs with the relative noteworthiness of life markers that their friends seem to have effortlessly reached.
Sadly, no one ever shares what really goes on in their lives. Why would they? They show-off their best moments and hide the ugly realities. Its not longer about sharing your life, but showing a filtered like inducing version of it. We crave validation from the number of likes our status updates or instagram pictures get.
The nature of social media allows for immediate and excessive comparison on so many more levels than ever before. We don’t realise it but we also in turn measure ourselves up to this skewed version of the lives that our friends project. And this very often leads to one thing – depression.
In the past, comparisons were perhaps made only at family gatherings. Today, you are constantly reminded of how much lesser you are than someone else. It is terrifying and depressing, and it will only serve to lower your self-esteem.
6. Being told “You are somebody special” all our lives
Perhaps Millennials’ most defining characteristic is their craving for satisfaction and fulfilment in their lives. They believe they’re special, and they shouldn’t have to settle for just any job, any person, or any mundane path in life.
They constantly feel they deserve better jobs and keep career switching. They find fault with perfectly alright relationships because they believe they deserve a better partner. They aren’t satisfied with their life because they see their friends #yoloing on their social media channels 24/7 and they wonder why their life isn’t as fun.
But if everyone was truly somebody special, special would have lost its meaning.
If you piece all these together, you will probably get yourself the 21st Century Singaporean.
Millennials often feel like they’re having life crises. We’re living in an age where the quarter-life crisis is the new mid-life crisis. Or at least that’s how it is for me.
With such unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement rooted in us, it’s hard to obtain the fulfilment we seek. We have a much better life than our previous generations, yet its hard to be content with the life we have.
We grew up in a world saturated with options, where we’re told over and over again that we can do something amazing with our lives. More often than not, we fail. And the fact is, there will be times where things don’t turn out the way we want them to.
But really, as J.K. Rowling puts across: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.“
So to all you young Singaporeans out there. Take a deep breath, and move on. Bask in life’s simple pleasures. Stop comparing your life to inflated online versions of others. Learn to be content and happy with your lives. Give yourself a reality check from time to time.
Life is not a checklist of acquisitions and achievements to be filled, and to be honest…
Life really doesn’t suck as much as you think.
(Also read 10 Things Singaporeans need to start doing to be happy)
Inspired by the “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” article we saw on waitbutwhy.com.
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