The younger generation, colloquially known as Generation Z (Gen-Z) and the millennials, includes those born 1997 onwards and those born between 1981-1996, respectively. According to scientists, hypersensitivity refers to being triggered by feedback and reacting negatively to criticism. This phenomenon seems to be more prevalent in the younger generation. “Life has become too fast-paced, in this day and age. With immense pressure to succeed in life, parents push their children to strive for better. This can occur at the expense of the child’s mental health. Parents are also over involved in their children’s lives, attempting to control and shield them from what they deem necessary,” says Dr. Suprakash Chaudhury, Professor and HOD, Dept. of Psychiatry, Dr D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Pimpri, Pune.
When children are attempting to develop new skills, even the smallest comment might seem demoralizing. Imagine telling a young child, “This is not how you do it,” while they attempt to complete a task. However, the youngster just hears, “You’re not good at this.” A child may become more sensitive to criticism if a parent has high expectations of them or shields them from disappointment or criticism.
“The younger generation at present is being brought up by a generation of parents who themselves are struggling with internal fears and insecurities which they infuse in their kids through daily interactions. Constant alarms, call outs, exhibition of fear are some of the very common things that parents do. The cause for the same can be the diverse range of threats which the present time offers and the limited time which the parents have to address the same. No matter the cause, as a whole we are building a less resilient generation,” says Seema Rekha, Managing Director, Antarmanh Management Consultancy.
The child or the adolescent ends up fearing failure and constantly seeks parental validation, which is in short supply. This in turn leads to self-esteem issues and mistrust in one’s abilities. Hence, when a negative aspect is pointed out amongst them, it is met with a disproportionate reaction.
Validating emotions in early childhood, facilitating independence, self-reliance and decision-making capabilities, helps this generation be receptive to constructive criticism in the long run. Taking criticism requires inherent courage and resilience. These act as the foundation on which a strong empowered character is built who is always open to growth and change. Fragility of self-esteem which is the main reason for the sensitivity reduces openness to criticism or even feedback.
“When something doesn’t work out the first time, encourage the child to try it again and not abandon that task. Praise them for trying, regardless of the outcome. Foster self-compassion as it enables the child to cope with any setback. In turn, this enables individuals to get beyond challenging events,” opines Rekha.
Another issue is the rising use of technology. Social media has become a bane as is often categorized as an addiction. This generation relies heavily on social media as their source of external validation, the proof lying in the rising number of influencers and bloggers. “When the validation does not live up to their expectations, they are faced with disappointments and poor means to cope with the same. A strong internal locus of validation is to be inculcated in this generation via parents, authority figures, teachers etc. When that is in place, younger people will be able to handle emotions better and take criticism in stride,” signs off Dr Chaudhury.