The Biggest Psychological Crisis of Our Generation. ~ Kasia Budzen

Via elephant journal
on May 13, 2013
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It’s the archetypical scene of every typical frat party: groups of girls dancing in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by boys eyeing them out.

Sometimes, the guys make their move but most of the time they stand huddled around the edges of a big circle with their buddies. I’ve been to my fair share of frat parties and I can confess I never saw a girl reject any guy who has gone up to her and asked if she wanted to dance (politely, including a name-exchange, body contact (in moderation) and a direct eye-fuck).

For some reason though, a lot of the boys who are more hesitant about approaching girls at parties are the ones who are cute and genuine and would not have an issue with finding someone even just for the night if they tried.

Yet, they don’t get anyone for one simple reason: they don’t even try.

When was the last time you said,

“I’m awesome! I deserve to be treated like the great person I am,” or

“I should go and at try everything I can do to land that job because I know they would be lucky to have someone like me”?

I’d like to venture a guess: not during the last week…or year.

We all hear the buzz about climate change, global warming and specie extinctions. Without a doubt, these are huge problems that our policymakers and legislators need to try to solve.

But I believe there is a greater problem that is overlooked in the media, which directly impacts our generation in an overwhelming way: low self-esteem.

Ridiculous, right? How could not believing in yourself be a bigger problem than global warming?

Not accepting oneself doesn’t only mean that you are less likely to go and try to grind on that girl because you think she’ll reject you. Or that you won’t wear that revealing outfit because you think you won’t look good in it so you hide yourself under layers of needless clothing.

It also means that you are less likely to go ahead and try to do things that could have a glorious impact on the world.

You might not apply for that job where you could find the cure for cancer (that may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point) or get going on that start-up that could save lives because you don’t think you can do it.

It is a great loss not only for you, it is a loss for our whole humanity. I deeply hope that we all realize what great and unlimited potential we possess. All of us are all intrinsically born unique and we cannot be scared to live up to the tools nature has provided us with.

Don’t be scared of victory; it may appear to be an overwhelming beast but it becomes your greatest asset once you tame it by acceptance.

Don’t live in fear of failure—live in fear of not living up to your name.

And your name is: greatness.


 Kasia BudzenKasia Budzen is a Polish (though she’d describe herself as European) native navigating her way through higher education in Boulder. She enjoys distilling college into a larger life perspective. She enjoys photography, reading, yoga,cooking delicious vegan food as well as taking in the many beautiful scenes that Colorado has to offer from up high. She always enjoys a pleasant surprise over a well-brewed cup of coffee, laughing and being around inspirational people.


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20 Responses to “The Biggest Psychological Crisis of Our Generation. ~ Kasia Budzen”

  1. Deborah Massey says:

    OR … maybe the girl doesn't feel she needs to wear revealing clothes "to look good" and just maybe she actually prefers to dress in "needless" layers … OR (more radical still) … she'd rather her potential dance partner saw through the chicanery, right to her essence and it's that which appeals to him/her. And maybe, just maybe, the "cute and genuine" guys are actually looking for a spark of reality and willing to take a little more time in observation than receive an instant, gratuitous "eye fuck." Since when did "putting out" equal "good self esteem?" Really?? Not in my reality. We should be honoring these people, their self respect, self restraint and self-esteem is not reliant on the smoking mirror. Watch and learn.

  2. Judy says:

    It's wonderful that you recognize that you and your fellow recent adults have tremendous power and energy for positive change in the world. And you are well on your way, having the confidence to write and inspire others! Your generation (my daughter's generation) face so many problems, and I'm glad you want to give your friends support to go out and conquer them. And I agree with Deborah above that one of your next steps might be to emphasize even more that value of being genuine that you mentioned (for all those who really, sincerely don't want to "flaunt it") . I don't really think you meant to say that "putting out" equals good self-esteem — I think you just wanted to encourage everyone who felt like dancing and letting loose to feel the freedom to do that in a fun way. But you could probably think about how to express that even more clearly. As you note, there are "huge problems" our policymakers need to solve — and you guys will BE the policy makers. I'm always glad to see people my daughter's age who are willing to devote themselves to meeting the nearly overwhelming task of having a "glorious impact on the world!" So thank you for writing! I hope you will keep up the good work as you grow and learn even more! Love your positivity!

  3. Kasia Budzen says:

    I understand your point Deborah. Maybe the notion of self-respect is also something I should consider writing about but I do think that people's self-respect is hard to surmise from the way they dress. What I wanted to be taken from this article is that people need to believe in themselves and make use of the opportunities they have been given. In this world, it's a privilege to be in college, not a right. It would be great if we all appreciated that and felt the responsibility to make use of our degrees, if only in memory of the people who aren't as lucky…

  4. Kasia Budzen says:

    Thank you for the kind words Judy! And that positivity is exactly what I wanted to get across.

  5. oz_ says:

    Honestly, let's be clear about something:

    Species extinction and climate disruption can make a plausible case that human beings are and have been engaging in wildly destructive behaviors that may drive the human species, as well as tens of not hundreds of thousands of other species, extinct, and in the not too distant future.

    Thus, your claim that low self esteem (especially factoring in that your views seem highly American-centric) is a "greater problem" is – to put it gently – hard to take seriously.

    I appreciate a little hyperbole, but in this instance, it's in flat out bad taste, and I think it only undermines your argument.

    For example, I wonder if the orangutans in Borneo, currently being slaughtered and driven to extinction – in part as a result of our desire for 'green' biofuels – could be made to understand how much more 'serious' a problem it is that many "cute and genuine" frat boys are having trouble 'finding someone even just for the night'. Seriously?

    When I consider this and other similar questions, I gotta say, this essay seems egregiously anthropocentric and shockingly myopic. So please, leave out the comparisons to these unfolding and tragic eco-catastrophes….

  6. Sherri says:

    "I appreciate a little hyperbole, but in this instance, it's in flat out bad taste, and I think it only undermines your argument. "

    YES, this.

    I think this essay is pretty shallow.

  7. elizabeth says:

    this is just an insult to all the people who have spends years working for environmental and social change. In order to face these challenges we need a hell of a lot more than thinking we are wonderful, what is called for is courage, humility, creative thinking and hope. People blindly believing that they are good and right without any honest self reflection is what has got us into this mess in the first place.

  8. Kasia Budzen says:

    I disagree and that's why I wrote my article from that particular standpoint. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
    I believe the case of animals driven to extinction is not an example of feeling too comfortable in your skin or putting your own needs above anyone else's but separating yourself from the animal world. That's why no-one says that they eat pig but they call it bacon. We don't see ourselves as animals anymore but as "humans", as if that makes us somehow different. If we identified with the animals this wouldn't be an issue.
    I would also like to point out that out of my whole article only one paragraph addresses ecological destruction. I did not intend that particular part to overshadow the rest.

  9. Kasia Budzen says:

    I am sorry you view this as an insult, Elizabeth. Please refer to the comment I made above, I hope one paragraph does not override the message I am trying to get across that has nothing to do with minimizing the role of great environmental and social leaders whom I deeply respect.

  10. oz_ says:

    As the late great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was wont to say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is NOT entitled to their own facts. This includes me, and it assuredly includes you.

    Saying that low self esteem among frat boys is a "greater problem" than looming and plausible global biospheric destruction is well beyond ludicrous – and this is not opinion, this is a fact. It's as though you said 'while it's true that Hiroshima had a nuke dropped on it, a far more serious problem is tooth decay due to a failure to floss among American high school students.' I mean, seriously. I'm appalled that this isn't immediately apparent to anyone not a blind adherent of the Tea Party.

    As problems go, these are not even in the same universe. In fact, complexity theory would posit that low self esteem is a problem, whereas these other conditions you chose to name are not problems at all – they are predicaments, which are far more serious than mere problems by definition.

    What is an *opinion* is your explanation of why you think animals (and all other life forms) are being driven to extinction at something like 1000 times the background rate. What is a FACT is that ongoing extinction event. I would debate you on your opinion, but what I'm not willing to debate is the other salient fact – that human actions are causing that extinction event and the other converging ecological crises, and that these are vastly more serious, stupendously more serious, enormously more serious 'problems' than low levels of self esteem among frat boys, or Americans in general even.

    I understand that you did not intend for that one paragraph to overshadow the rest – but it did, because of the glaringly absurd comparison you chose to make, a comparison that cannot withstand even a moment's serious scrutiny, and which had the effect of rendering your essay almost surreal.

    As a writer, you need to understand that you can absolutely overshadow your entire essay with ill chosen words. Find the greatest essay in the world and insert this simple sentence: 'Hitler was right' and you just managed that trick. It's pretty easy, you see? Please bear in mind that it is not OUR job as readers to disallow your ill chosen words from overshadwing the rest – it's YOUR job!

    This is what I'd hoped to bring to your attention. Sadly, it seems I failed. I don't really know what else to say. I am sorry if you feel I'm being hard on you, which I guess I am. But if you're going to write, then please take responsibility for what you write.

  11. Mel says:

    I actually rather liked the piece. I get some of the negative comments, but…. you're speaking from your experience and your surroundings. The specific examples you use are beside the point (and of course, yes, I doubt many of us really care about the mating habits of frat boys, but again BESIDE THE POINT). The point is the lack of bravery, the inability of so many of us to put ourselves out there or make big changes when we need to.

    I would highly recommend you look up Brene Brown, if you haven't already. Very provoking work–her TED Talks are wonderful.

  12. Kasia Budzen says:

    Thanks Mel. My target audience are people my age and (although I don't want to assume anything) I feel that the negative comments are from people who find it hard to identify with the younger audience for whom the piece was written. Nevertheless, I am glad it's generating a discussion. I feel that it reveals the gap about how we view ourselves versus how our elders do, which is a valuable point in itself.
    I will definitely look her up, thank you for your suggestion!

  13. Kasia Budzen says:

    oz- I do take responsibility for what I write. That is why my article is signed by me and I chose to not remain anonymous.

    I also believe in taking a stance and sticking with it. The point I am making in this article is that a lack of bravery amongst people my age will cause detrimental harm and as long as things don't change, our future looks pretty bleak. That is all.

    I don't agree those were "ill chosen words". My ideal audience includes people my age who identify with the scenario pictured above. If I would have wanted to attract an older population I would have included a situation more identifiable to them, for example a wine or jazz bar. However, I believe the best writers know what they are writing about and that is why I chose this subject.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to write the responses. I don't know you but you seem to be a wise human being.

  14. Revo Luzione says:


    As an European, and an Eastern one at that, perhaps you didn't grow up with the endemic "overparenting" culture that your same-aged American peers did.

    A generation ago, the Baby Boomer generation, led by some quacked-out psychologists, tried to convince a generation that everyone is equal in ability to everyone else, everyone deserves a trophy for participating, that failure is to be avoided, all in the name of self-esteem.

    The result is that your same-aged peers have often not had to do much for themselves. They've had the world and an iPhone handed to them on a silver plattter, all in the name of self esteem. They've had all manner of speech branded as "harassment," especially for the boys. Boys are taught to be afraid of their own sexuality, because "all men are rapists."

    The net result has been sadly predictable. Removing the hormetic (beneficial) stresses of effort and adversity, and the organism becomes weak. We have a generation of slacker milquetoasts who are afraid of their own shadow and unwilling to make a move towards a better job or a shot at a relationship with an attractive woman.

    All this is the RESULT of too much emphasis on self esteem. True self esteem cannot be conjured out of nothing, it cannot be bestowed with unearned trophies or empty platitudes, but it must be *earned*, won by effort, toil, energy, and thought. It must be purchased with making mistakes. It's built on a mountain of failure, one's own personal experimental failure, which in some sense are not truly failures, but experiments that yielded results other than those that were expected or desired, and which simply give feedback towards a more efficient and effective execution of effort.

    Your message is laudable, and I think what you were trying to say that the other critical commenters above might have missed, and maybe you missed too–if we are to reverse the loss of habitat, if we are to save species that are otherwise headed for extinction, if we are adapt to global warming & climate change (it's too late to reverse it), then we need people who are willing to do as you suggest–to go for it, to go after big, hairy, audacious goals, goals that may just start with approaching a pretty girl at a party. Social success is built on momentum. May we build that momentum towards creating a better world.

  15. Yesenia says:

    Kasia. Thank you so much for writing this piece. I immediately connected and completely understood your intentions for this piece. It wasn't until reading the discussion and the negative comments–perplexed and astonished as to how they were misinterpreted in what [to me] seemed like straightforward message—that I realized how differently we interpret the world by our experiences. I know I do.

    As I was reading your piece, I felt as I was watching from above the scene of the frat party. Jeez, I've been at those frat parties. I get where you are coming from. If our generation struggles with something as simple as having interaction with the opposite sex, how are we going to handle ourselves, our real world problems. We are toast!

    Low self-esteem is huge issue. From the discussions I hear from peers and college scene, there is so much lack of belief in oneself. We [our generation] expresses ourselves with such negativity and the feeling of "being lost", but because of the fear that stems from low self-esteem we do nothing about it.

    In my opinion fear is awful–it's debilitating with the horrific effect of allowing ourselves to let precious time and wonderful opportunities pass us by.
    I know this first hand–I'm dealing with its consequences and working on being the best me I can be.
    Pharmaceuticals know this too. Watch TV, how many depression medication commercials do you see?
    Suicide rates reflect it. And why are the ages of the victims getting younger?

    "Ridiculous, right? How could not believing in yourself be a bigger problem than global warming?"
    I get it, a whole generation in fear and this is what future generations have as leaders? Frightening.

    We need a solution…."honest self-reflection" (as reader Elizabeth said) is a key factor, but if in our moment of fear/pain/low self-esteem we allowed ourselves to forgive, accept, and be honest with ourselves we would open the door to self-reflection. True honest self-reflection where we let go of the fear.

    We ARE all born with intrinsically unique tools….but believing in ourselves is only the beginning, this guides us to build substance only if we dedicate ourselves with hard work, effort, passion and desire to master those skills to become great world changing leaders.

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your mind with us. Please contact me–I would love to discuss more about what we can do to help our generation!

  16. Deborah Massey says:

    Thank you for your input Yesenia. You explain the ethos from the perceptive of a younger [than me!] person and expand on the points addressed by Kasia in a manner that is more easily understood by different generations and cultures. Personal fear is a burden and I believe that the fear of individual failure is the underlying message here.

    The debates here are valuable and serve to highlight the focus of individual attention – for some, this is mass collective and is concerned with global even planetary concerns, for others it is collective towards certain sub-sections of humanity and others still focus on individual responsibilities and concerns.

    It is speculated that the epidemic levels of anxiety and depression are the results of suppressed emotions and withheld knowledge.

    Let us be clear, a suppressed and de-motivated individual is less likely to be able to fulfill his or her true potential. Potential that may, under the right conditions, have resulted in a significant contribution to humanity. The problem is how do we motivate every individual? And how are individual progress and success measured? For me, this is where the initial story caused concern: Kasia seemed to imply that, at least initially, this success was measured via the mating/dating game and maybe, in that particular age group/culture it is. When I was that age, it was securing a career – or at least a job. The point being, that there is always an IT, a marker of success or potential success – an external measure of one's worth; be that slaying an animal for food, fitting into size 0, securing a partner/job or owning the "in" gadget.

    Let us also be clear, we – the older generations, created these markers. Whether that was the result of "quacked out psychologists," mass media images, patriarchy, controls by governments, pharmas or the ideals of different religions or cultures. We are all responsible and moving the markers is not easy. Finding ones own feet in an environment of competing demands, viewpoints and ideals is a difficult task, which goes some way to understanding why so many of us feel lost/ trapped/ frightened/ despairing, [delete as appropriate].

    The golden light for me is understanding that the human race is turning inward for solutions at a much younger age and at a greater rate than ever before. The answers lie within and the sooner we tap into these resources, the greater the numbers and the earlier in life we begin, the more productive/understanding/tolerant and solution orientated we will become. We're not doomed. We're growing and learning and whilst this seems to every generation as an uphill struggle, we ARE getting better.

  17. Judy says:

    Hi Kasia! Me again. I came back to check on you this morning, as I kind of feared you might be in for it! And once again, I am really proud of you and how you are handling things! You are being so gracious with your critics, and that is so difficult. I would never have been able to stand such things at your age, and even now am not very good at it. So I really admire you for that.

    Also, I would point out that there is an undeniable logic to the following, as far as I'm concerned: "A bigger problem than even the most horrible problem is that we feel powerless/helpless to do anything about the problem." Obviously, there has to be a first step to solving a problem — and if people feel passive and have no sense of their own agency and creativity — there will be no first step. This is what Revo said near the end, I think.

    Perhaps a new topic for some future article, coming from this discussion, could be the difference between a shallow, everybody-gets-a-trophy self-esteem, and genuine I-am-a-force-in-the-world self-esteem. You might be interested to explore things done in the name of increasing self-esteem and how horribly they backfire when people feel the hollowness behind them. I hope you continue to do your work of waking your peers up to their own agency! There are forces in the world that prefer a passive population — a population of consumers, and watchers, and cogs for machines — and there are so many problems to attack in that regard. Children medicated into obedient desk-sitting, or girls told their appearance is all, or any number of ways children are discouraged. And, yes, there are a lot of American youth who seem spoiled–(hating on "frat boys" is a fair temptation)–but there are equally many who feel lost, coming of age in a world they did not create, with problems that invite despair at every turn. That's why voices like yours are so important. I hope you will continue to learn and write and I hope you get in touch with Yesenia and support each other in your goals!

  18. oz_ says:

    I believe in changing one's stance when new info comes in rather than doggedly sticking to a stance that has been shown to be non-credible, but perhaps that's the difference between us.

    The audience to which you are writing has nothing to do with your assertion that the 6th great global extinction event is a lesser problem than self-esteem among a small sub-population of American humans. It's a ludicrous assertion that nobody of any generation who thought about if for more than a second or two could take seriously.

    I'm sorry that you seem unable to face this basic fact, and that instead you feel the need to engage in all sorts of irrelevant evasions intended to avoiding admitting that your initial premise is silly, even after it's been shown to be false and insupportable. That's the problem with allowing yourself to get locked into one position, which probably has a lot more to do with ego more than any of the superfluous issues you raise.

    [BTW, all of this this would have remained true if you had included a wine and jazz bar rather than a frat party.]

    My suggestion to you is that you immediately pick up a copy of 'Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts' by Tavris and Aronson (and perhaps consider enrolling in a serious social psychology course). If you do, you will see that the attitude you have chosen to take here – taking a stance and sticking to it even if it's shown to be insupportable and non-credible – actually has done incredible amounts of "detrimental harm" in our society.

    If you want to address psychologically-based issues that do great harm, you might consider two that are wreaking far more such than self-esteem across all generations on our culture: narcissism and cognitive dissonance.

    At this point, as you have consistently failed to grasp some of the basic points I've tried to make, and proven impervious to logic on others, I think we're done here. Best of luck to you.

  19. Lindsey Bishop says:

    It was beautifully written Kasia! Well done!

  20. Frances says:

    Interesting points all 'round. The issues in the natural world are quite serious and deserve great attention, as do changing the total economic system, and caring for animals, and addressing issues of social justice and oh perhaps getting a grip on this issue of mental health, which might have self-esteem is an indicator, at least it seems that way in the American, UK, et al worlds of scientific materialisism and psychological(ism) that seems to find pathologies in need of fixing behind every door. What about self loathing, the sense of never being good enough that stems from some traditional beliefs and is supported through everything in our Western culture?

    Perhaps its not self esteem at all, since we have done some very weird things with that idea with the result being that we have kids thinking they're better than everyone else while paradoxically having no sense of value. Perhaps helping kids see that they have intrinsic value and worth as a human being, of having reminders that we are in the world of community and interconnectedness and interdependency — rather than this odd notion of self-esteem. And…a reminder that dances are a special form of adolescent hell that psychology has yet to figure out.

    While there is much to be done about climate change, and a host of all the other world ills, I am not convinced that pushing self esteem will do the trick to help people engage in their world in big and small ways.