The Participation Trophy Generation

When did it become the standard to do just enough mediocre work to get through the day?

A recent outing, away from the protective bubble I call home, reinforced a belief I’ve held for a while. An entire generation of helicopter parenting and participation trophies started a crack in the very fabric of our society. If Hipsters weren’t annoying enough, now we have created a new social phenomenon marked with the selfie photos and instant gratification. They’re called Selfsters.

image from post memes via flickr creative commons

image from post memes via flickr creative commons

A Selfster, as the moniker states is a self-centered individual whose focus in life is the lemming-like pursuit of personal glorification at the expense of everyone in their blast radius.

Waiting in line does not apply to this demographic. There is always reason they need admittance before the rest of us common folk. And he/she will do so with a cell phone glued to their ear, loud talking about how lame this place is.

I'm so special image by david namachuka via flicker creative commons

I’m so special
image by david namachuka via flicker creative commons

A lifetime of happy face stickers for showing up and a pat on the back for zipping your fly after you pee, sets up unattainable expectations in the real world.

Unless the Selfster has a trust fund, they need to find a means of support. Having a total self focus, as they do, creates a dilemma. How do they “work” for someone else, who does not share their belief that the universe revolves around them? Do they demand a gold star everyday they show up for the job? A work world where employers have to treat everyone the same, must feel like Purgatory.

Selfsters do not adapt well to customer service jobs. The heavy sigh you give me before you put your cell phone down and help me, is bad enough, but you don’t need to give me the eye roll to know that this job is so beneath you. We obviously don’t appreciate what you have to offer, but that could be because we only see your Instagram selfie catalog skills. The same photo, the same duck lipped, head tipped pose. Yes, you are so complex and talented.

The need for constant positive reinforcement is no different than a Labrador Retriever. Pet me, love me pay attention to me and only me.

image by jack bents via flickr creative commons

image by jack bents via flickr creative commons

The Selfster does only what they have to do, the bare minimum, not because they’re last, its because they don’t care.

A law enforcement agency recently announced their annual awards program. The Selfster generation has permeated the ranks and apparently, feelings are hurt when everyone doesn’t get recognized for something. So, the officer who excels, or exhibits valor shouldn’t be acknowledged because others don’t get their pat on the back for meeting minimum expectations. This law enforcement agency is actually proving everyone with some recognition, showing up on time, not using excessive amounts of sick leave, dressing appropriately for the workplace most of the time, and a reduction in the f-bombs dropped in public.


We have participation trophies to blame.


  1. I want to set fire to participation trophies. 25 years ago, in youth soccer, I didn’t get a trophy. So I practiced until I lost a big toenail and came back the next season. Got a big fat “best goalie in league” trophy. I took a massive kick to the ribs resulting in my being beyond bruised, but the ball was right where it should be…far away from the net. Participation trophies would have guaranteed some other assclown without the separated ribs would have gotten the same award.

    1. Amen Heather! The proliferation of participation trophies is an awful message for kids. You don’t need to work hard. And the part that kills me is the parents who whine that it’s not fair when their kid doesn’t get recognized.

      1. I’m betting those are the parents who never worked their ass off to get a trophy when they were younger.

      2. I’m not taking that bet. You’re absolutely right.

  2. I don’t think getting a participation reward is really a big deal when it comes to little kids – police officers?

    1. Yep, somewhere we forgot to ween folks off of the constant need for participation trophies. The law enforcement agencies giving them out is a bit worrisome.

  3. So true, James! I saw this happening in education when I was teaching several years ago and it seems it’s still out there. Meanwhile we have tests showing that our college kids are more narcissistic than ever because of this trend—it’s not helping anyone. Thank heavens for the parents who still believe in helping their kids actually earn those gold stars.

    1. Stars! Stars for everyone! It’s only fair… geeze.

  4. […] of increasing political correctness and participation trophies has made us hypersensitive to every single encounter with another person. When I come out on the […]

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