Perfectionism Taking a Heavy Toll on Millennials' Mental Health

Young people are obsessed with perfection… and it’s all neoliberalism’s fault – study

Oleksandr Rupeta Global Look Press

"Perfectionism is rising among millennials", Curran said.

Findings of a new study have revealed that young people today are harder on themselves and on others compared with those of previous generations.

Another possible reason for the increase in perfectionism, say Curren and Hill, is "the rise in meritocracy", the idea that "the ideal life and lifestyle - encapsulated by achievement, wealth, and social status - are available to anyone provided you try hard enough".

Researchers reviewed previous studies on perfectionism, which was broadly defined as "a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations", Yahoo News reports.

The more recent students scored higher in all three forms of perfectionism.

The other areas where today's young generation display perfectionism are the urge to earn money, pressure to acquire good education, and setting high career goals.

The researchers analyzed studies carried out between 1989 and 2016, where college and university students in Canada, Britain and the United States had completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale.

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Curran and his co-author, Andrew Hill of York St John University, point to several cultural developments as possible contributors to the rise in perfectionism. Among these, he cites the use of social media. They measured three types: self-oriented - an irrational desire to be ideal; socially prescribed - perceiving excessive expectations from others; and other- oriented - placing unrealistic standards on others. For instance, as per raw data, young adults are pressurized by the use of social media to make oneself ideal when compared with others. However, more research is needed to confirm this, they noted. In another example, Curran cited college students' drive to ideal their grades and compare them to their peers.

Curran believes these examples showcase a rise in meritocracy among millennials, especially powered by universities which encourage competition among their students to move up the social and economic ladder.

In 1976, almost 50% of high-school seniors were expected to acquire a college degree and by 2008, the number rose up to more than 80%.

"Today's young people are competing with each other in order to meet societal pressures to succeed and they feel that perfectionism is necessary in order to feel safe, socially connected and of worth".

"Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform and achieve in modern life", said Curren. However, the percentage of those actually earning a degree hasn't kept pace - the gap between high school seniors expecting to earn a degree and those with a degree doubled between 1976 and 2000 and has continued to rise since, the authors note. Other-oriented expectations - putting unrealistic expectations on others - went up 16%, and self-oriented perfectionism - our irrational desire to be flawless - increased 10%.

And, indeed, those mental health issues have been increasing among young adults in recent years. British college students are apparently the least demanding of others, reporting lower levels of other-oriented perfectionism than Canadian or American peers.

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