Entitled Millennial Mindset Reaches the Figure Skating Arena

Outspoken figure skater Ashley Wagner was not chosen to represent the United States at the Pyeongchang Olympics next month just hours after ripping into the judges’ scores at the U.S. National Championships.

The three-time U.S. champ finished in fourth place Friday night, behind Brandie Tennell, 19, Mirai Nagasu, 24, and Karen Chen, 18. The top three finishers were chosen to the U.S. team on Saturday morning.

Hours before the team was chosen, the 26-year-old Wagner ripped into the judges for the scores she received.

“I’m furious, I am absolutely furious,” Wagner told the press after the championship. “I know when I go and I lay it down and I absolutely left one jump on the table, but for me to put out two programs that I did at this competition as solid as I skated and to get those scores, I am furious, and I think deservedly so.”

She continued: “I am a performer and that second mark is just not there. I am absolutely OK with them being strict on my rotations. That’s what I think that U.S. Figure Skating should demand of their judges but it needs to be across the board. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s been that way at this event, so we’ll see how things pan out.” 

Wagner, who won a bronze medal in Sochi, said she felt she should have been selected to the Olympic team Friday night.

“I honestly think that at the end of the day, this is how I feel, and I feel like I need to stick up for myself, and I think that I delivered when I really needed to,” Wagner said Friday night. “I think all these girls delivered when they needed to, but I want to be on that Olympic team and I’m really mad that I’m in this position again.”


And there it is: “This is how I feel”.  The operative word here is FEEL.

If you’re an Olympic-level skater, at the top of your field, and you take on the judges, you’d better have good reason. For your own sake most of all, because otherwise you’ll look like a fool in the eyes of your entire profession and the world. You’ll look like a fool for no reason at all, at least if you only go on your feelings.

Yet Ashley Wagner obviously FEELS she can count on the world to admire, trust and respect her for her feelings, and for her feelings alone. It’s the psychological atmosphere she grew up in, internalized and ultimately adopted.

You’ve read about the millennial generation feeling entitled and overtly hostile to criticism. Here’s an example. No, not all millennials are like this, but it’s arguably and often observably the general trend, and this champion figure skater—presumably more rational than most, to get where she is—illustrates the trend all too well.

To be fair, this has been a trend for a long time, and for many generations, in our culture of public schools, “psychologizing” and “diseasing” and victimizing everyone deemed worthy of it, along with being encouraged to treat every last feeling as a fact, regardless of what the facts happen to be.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s psychologists Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck discovered that a habit of treating distorted feelings as facts was the defining characteristic of mental disorder. That defining characteristic is now the normal operating procedure of our culture.

But in the millennial era it reached its climax, the dead end of the road. And it’s really sad. It’s sad for this figure skater because she still didn’t get into the Olympics, and no matter how entitled she feels to it, she’s never going to get it, at least not this time. That must be difficult, to spend all those years working at something and not getting the ultimate prize. But that’s the nature of going after something valuable. If it weren’t so difficult to attain, it wouldn’t be worth so much in the first place, would it?

Emotions and the culture that nurtures feelings as the measure of all things created the ideas in Ashley Wagner’s mind that led to her outburst. Schools, parents, media, peers, and various others operating on the subconsciously absorbed idea that “if you feel it, you can make it so” likely did their share.

The entitlement mentality goes hand-in-hand with the “emotions-always-and-emotions-first” mentality. “If I feel entitled to something, then by God it’s mine.” Hence the outburst when one doesn’t get what one wants. The entitlement mentality is not new, and neither is the false idea that feelings trump reason. What’s new is the idea that people are not embarrassed by it and feel totally comfortable ranting it to the world, like losing figure skater Ashley Wagner did.

Reality is its own avenger. Facts and reality go on doing their thing no matter what you feel. In Ashley’s own personal world it might be the case that throwing a tantrum gets her what she wants from the people around her. But tantrums will never alter the nature of reality, because even when people give in to your outbursts, they have lost all respect and good will for you, assuming they ever had any.

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