By Shelby Wilburn

“What does this up and coming generation even have to contribute to society?”

Unfortunately, that question comes up far too often. A large portion of society assumes that the millennial generation is destined for failure. We are not just another number, dollar sign or statistic. If people stepped off their soapbox of negative stereotypes, they just might actually discover what sets us apart.

Millennials are curious, constantly aiming to discover something new. Whether it’s a spontaneous road trip or a semester studying abroad, we live for adventure. Our generation does not enjoy playing in the safe zone, which sets us apart from any other group.

We operate with a fearless passion for life. We do what we feel, regardless of what people think. From our personal style to musical tastes, we are not ashamed of who we are. We are confident and our unapologetic comfort with individuality sometimes instills fear in other generations when they think of millennials.

Millennials are not confined by the boundaries of convention. We are always searching for ways to push the envelope. Millennials embrace new ideas and continuously search for ways to improve existing ones. Creativity is a highlight of our character. Global brands observe our behavior patterns and habits to discover “the next big thing.” In 2013, Mercedes-Benz created the “Take the Wheel” Instagram challenge to promote the new $30,000 CLA model.

Why would a traditional brand take such a non-conventional approach? Because millennial’s thoughts and ideas not only influence the market, but also culture in general.

We are go-getters, running from meeting to meeting, working 30-hour weeks. Any given week, I spend more hours on campus or at work than the house I actually pay rent for. We’ve been conditioned to be involved, stay active and maintain consistent growth. Millennials are driven and always dreaming big. Our work ethic is built upon expectation. We imagine the possibilities, but put in the work to make them reality.

Our sharpness makes us insightful and aware of the environments around us. We are politically and socially adept, understanding events happening locally and nationally. More often than not, we are prepared to defend our beliefs in a moments notice.

Our quick-wit and savvy nature makes it impossible for us to miss out. Let’s be real, millennials coined the term FOMO and live-tweet better than any other generation. Our undeniable curiosity and intuition helps fuel the information circuit.

We are not apprehensive about sharing our opinions. We encourage debate and welcome important discussions. Our generation has grown up in the midst of an evolving social landscape. The millennial perspective is open-minded and accepting. We are not afraid to take stands on controversial issues.

We stand in solidarity against social injustice and inspire movements that fight against racial, sexual and gender inequality. We do not allow criticism to scare us from the defense. And that same bravery is what will revolutionize the structure of our future.

We are the game changers. Our generation is next in line to hold powerful positions within our society. Our decisions and actions will reconstruct the foundation of our country and, more importantly, the world. So, stop saying your opinion does not matter, because it does.

These are only a few selections off the laundry list of reasons why we are important. Older adults need to stop generalizing our generation. They need to stop labeling us as self-obsessed and incompetent. Sure, there are individuals out there who play into the negative stereotypes, but those qualities do not define all of us. Instead of unfairly judging us from pre-conceived notions, it’s time to recognize the value Gen-Y contributes to society every day. More importantly, it is time for you to recognize too.

Who cares if we are “young”? So what if we have a tendency to obsessively post on Instagram and binge-watch Netflix? Those habits do not encompass our entire identity. People are quick to unfairly compare this generation to ones prior, but every generation has its flaws. It’s time to stop over-highlighting our faults and begin acknowledging our strengths too. Whether you like it or not, we are the next generation of leaders and it’s time to establish our presence on the main stage.

So millennials, fill a new vision prescription for your life perspective. Stop letting negativity destroy dreams and instill fear. Do not allow oppression to make you feel inferior. We need to stop focusing on the problems and start finding solutions. We need to continue to seize new opportunities and stay engaged. We need to be brave and stop second-guessing ourselves.

Every new day is an opportunity to transform our lives. Intimidation and negative opinions from our predecessors shouldn’t break our spirits. Believe in your potential. It already exists; you just have to tap into it.

Shelby Wilburn studies journalism. She can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.