Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Self-Centered Daughter

Dear C and Dr. B:

How do I get it into my young adult daughter’s head that the world does not revolve around her? When she complains she isn’t getting hired for jobs, and I suggest that it might be her nose ring and tattoos, she won’t listen to me. Those are her “things,” she sees it as her identity and she meets every attempt at reason with an emphatic “I won’t compromise my integrity.”

Her personal rights aren’t being violated by acknowledging a realistic dress code! This is simply adjusting herself in order to meet the realities of the world and support herself. She says it’s “giving in to the Man.” I says it’s being respectful of others. 

But she expects the world to adapt to her views. Her attitude is: take me as I am or leave me.

I don’t know how she expects to get anything she wants that way. I am worried she will be underpaid, mistreated, and possibly just left behind.    

– Mom

Dr. B says:

You can’t change her attitude. All American teens and young adults in middle and upper socioeconomic classes feel the world revolves around them. Natural consequences most often iron that out over time.  

Culture is a set of ideas and customs which are mutually agreed upon by a group of people. Before the internet began influencing us all, we had a somewhat oppressive culture of uniformity that would attempt to crush outliers and misfits. But now, outliers and misfits can become quite popular in online microcultures. Ironically, they are often later punished or cancelled by the same online microcultures, then punished again by the consensus of the conformity-driven common culture. This is one reason why the suicide rates is rising in the teen to young adult population. 

Your daughter likely won’t commit suicide but if she doesn’t learn how to play the politics, she will likely be underpaid, mistreated and possibly just left behind. You can’t rebel against the common culture while at the same time expecting it to reward you. That sort of manipulation only works with parents.  

The degree to which you rescue her now will mitigate how fast she learns how to act and dress in a more appropriate manner.  

C says:

The guy who came to install my new cable router last week was covered with tattoos and wore lobe stretching earrings. My neighbor across the street, a highly educated woman who works in the administration of a prestigious private school, is also covered with tattoos and wears a nose ring. My point? It isn’t your father’s culture anymore, Mom. This really is a different culture we live in now and although it is oppressive in entirely new ways, unless your daughter is planning on working for an anal retentive law firm or running for President, her individual style of dress will be tolerated in a surprising number of career fields.

It will not be her manner of dress but her attitude which will cast the most influence on your daughter’s ability to get ahead in the world. The cable guy was extremely polite and courteous when he was here and I appreciated the skill and efficiency he showed in his work. I rated him a 10 at his company site. On the other hand, the man at my bank who wore a Brooks Brothers suit and had a stylish neat haircut screwed up my account and was such a rude asshole that I filed a complaint.

Although the internet may have expanded our range of possibilities insofar as the variations on personal identity and the ability of influencers to both create and destroy fads, one thing has not changed – someone with a good attitude, who is good at their job, can move ahead in the professional world.

If your daughter’s basic attitude is self centered and self-serving, she’s going to have a tough time of it. But the only way for her to learn is to get flattened a few times. 

– Cathren Housley 

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