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I’ve been thinking about ‘Karen’

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

I think she just wants to be seen, noticed, be heard.

Hear me out. A ‘Karen‘ is generally a white woman of a certain age (mostly Gen X) that feels her opinion or advice is the best out there and will tell you as loudly and rudely as possible. Here's the Urban Dictionary definition.

Now consider this. As a youth in the 70s and early 80s, Karen was likely a latch-key kid. This means the child who spent part of the day alone and unsupervised while the parents were at work or absent from the home, especially after school. She may have had to supervise younger siblings and in some cases prepare meals for the family. Who listened to her needs? As the first generation to experience this lifestyle en-mass, the kinks in the 'both parents working' system hadn't even begun to be finely tuned (it's still not great, let's face it), but the kids seemed to be doing OK, so it will work out fine. What was the point of saying 'Actually Mum, I'm really struggling here', because who valued the opinion of the kid?

From anecdotes and personal experience, this can leave a child feeling they need to grow up quickly and be a supporter of others, idleness and laziness were the enemy. When this behaviour is learned in formative years, it can lead to sense of responsibility for others above the self. This can manifest itself later in life as a drive to provide for others, always being 'on the go', and the development of a simmering resentment that ‘I’m not considered’ or 'no one listens to my needs' because who's doing it for me?

A child who was particularly young (5 - 10) when they started being self-reliant, they may have developed an avoidant attachment style (sometimes called ambivalent or disorganised) which can mean that they might be dismissive of relationships, reactive, or fearful of rejection and/or intimacy. This can mean there may be a lack of empathy for how they are perceived by others or how their behaviour can impact others, especially when it comes to giving help, it's my way or the highway, because that how it always was.

Remarkably, we can learn to live with and change our attachment styles. Of course, as with all things, there is a choice. We can choose to behave with or without consequence.

Another factor that may be considered is the gender differences. It's not until quite recently that women have started standing up and shouting from the roof tops about #metoo. Many women of this age group that I speak with have been on the receiving end of inappropriate attention in their younger years from men and people in positions of power. I clearly remember when I was 18, being in a pub and having a guy shoving his hand up my skirt, and everyone (except me) finding it highly amusing, raucous laughter at my humiliation and shocked reaction. I was so embarrassed, I never told anyone, including my Muv. I was also so angry, I broke two fingers thumping the fence outside the pub (where no one could witness the ugliness). This goosing wasn't a singular sexual assault event over the next five years. Now these women are positions of power... even if it's just as a customer...

They can ask to speak to the manager nicely, politely and with respect, or

They can demand to speak with the manager in angry tones, be condescending, and rude.

Which do you think is more likely to have a favourable outcome?

We can let our experiences across our lifespan, month, week and day have a lasting impact on us (and those around us) or was can consciously process it* and choose whether to allow it power.

The key is wanting to make change and acknowledging that adversity can help or hinder us. No doubt, growing up latch-key has had a devastating impact on some, but others have thrived.

The need to be considered, acknowledged, and regarded, and respected is a driving factor in the undesirable behaviours attributed to a Karen.

I know a few literal and figurative Karens. Some have chosen to move away from their childhoods of self-sufficiency and independence and are moving into gracefully asking and receiving help. With that they have found deeper happiness within themselves, an understanding that permission come from inside, better communication with those around them, and that empathy is easily accessible. Some are choosing to stick with the old ways, after all, they feel entitled to… why should they change just to make others happy?

And that OK. It’s their choice.


If you would like to start creating change in your life and learning how to understand the things you can and can't control, please contact your mental health professional. *I have, no sympathy required.

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