Here’s Why Millennials Are More Likely To Develop Maladaptive Perfectionism

Paridhi Sehgal
·5-min read

Let’s be candid and acknowledge the fact that we, millennials, despise being average. We wish to achieve something extraordinary. We are driven by a motive of excelling in everything we do.

We are passionate and industrious individuals striving for perfectionism- never settling for mediocrity. At first, this might not seem bad at all. All high achievers are perfectionists, they give their hundred per cent to every task they perform.

However, the problem arises when our desire to become perfect starts taking a toll on our cognitive functioning and emotional health. We feel stressed and anxious as we wish to achieve an ideal mode of living.

Hence, it is important to differentiate adaptive perfectionism from maladaptive perfectionism.

Adaptive perfectionism helps us to better ourselves and maximize our potential in pursuit of excellence. However, maladaptive or neurotic perfectionism involves a constant dissatisfaction with your current scenario.

It is dysfunctional as you refuse to settle for something less than perfect and crib about your past failures for a long time. You might even refuse to take up a new project if you think you might not be perfect at it!

Is perfectionism a cultural phenomenon?

A study in a journal Psychological Bulletin suggests that millennials are more susceptible to perfectionism.

In a published paper, Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill identify and classify the varied forms of perfectionism. The three types of perfectionists are as follows:

  • Self-oriented perfectionists who have excessively high standards and never celebrate their success. They are over-critical and despise even their minuscule flaws.

  • Socially prescribed perfectionists who find their social surrounding extremely stressful and demanding. They try to perform to the best of their abilities for social approval and appreciation.

  • Other-oriented perfectionists who impose unrealistically high standards on people around them. They judge others very harshly.

The systematic compilation and analysis of data divulged that from 1989 to 2016, an average college student’s score for self-oriented perfectionism grew by 10 per cent, and socially prescribed perfectionism escalated to 32 per cent. 16 per cent increase was noted in other-oriented perfectionism.

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Perfectionism has now become a dominant Western cultural value. An increase in individualism and fierce competition among peers is blamed for the steep rise in perfectionist tendencies. Apart from this, the existing parenting methods pressurise youngsters to achieve something bigger than the majority.

Social media is also responsible for harbouring a feeling of unhappiness and discontentment amongst the present generation. Hence, they end up magnifying their defects and become harsh on themselves. They have unrealistically high educational and professional expectations for themselves. Also, they are overly-critical of their bodies.

According to Thomas Curran, “Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform, and achieve in modern life.”

He also mentioned that “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.”

Thus, fear and insecurity form the roots of perfectionism. Perfectionists believe that letting go of their constant diligence and meticulousness will decrease their worth in society. For them, being perfect is necessary for being loved and appreciated by others.

This steep increase in perfectionism is worrying psychologists all over the world as it is intertwined with other mental and social conundrums like self-loathing, procrastination, anxiety, social alienation, body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavioural patterns.

Having self-compassion in the modern race to be best

As perfectionists, we wish to maximise our potential and end up over-burdening ourselves with the workload. In this way, we never get to enjoy the work we do. In extreme cases, this results in burnout and a major depressive episode.

In such cases, having compassion towards yourself and giving yourself a break when drained out of vital energy is also important. Going out to watch a movie or eating your favourite food at a restaurant on a Sunday after working hard for six days straight is not a bad idea.

Taking a day off energises us and provides much-needed happiness. Always remember, it never reduces your productivity. Celebrating your success and accepting your flaws in the modern-day race to be the best is necessary to manage stress and anxiety.

It’s ok if you are bad at certain work. There is no need to be ashamed of it. Failure is a part and parcel of life. Accept it. Don’t treat yourself rashly because of a single defeat. Be humble towards yourself!

You need to stop comparing yourself with fictional characters of television dramas, movies and novels. Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” These comparisons will just make you feel unaccomplished and unworthy.

Thus, perfectionism is a double-edged sword. It can motivate you to work hard to achieve your goals but at the same time, it may negatively impact your emotional health and lower your productivity.

Millennials must keep all these pointers in mind and counterbalance perfectionism with self-compassion and self-love.

Image credits: Google Images

Find the blogger: @lisa_tay_ari

Sources: Medical News Today, Harvard Business Review and Wikipedia

This post is tagged under: why millennials dislike mediocrity, why millennial are perfectionists, perfectionism, the negative side of perfectionism, how to deal with perfectionism, why we become perfectionists, is perfectionism bad, self-compassion, self-love, meritocracy, societal pressures, emotional health, psychological well-being

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