Young people have always been aiming high, but it turns out perfectionism among them reached a peak in recent years. A recent study revealed that university students were asking a lot of themselves which, instead of being beneficial, put a huge pressure on them. This pressure can end up affecting their mental health on long-term.
Perfectionism has increased over the past 30 years
Perfectionism is characterized by unusually harsh criticism over oneself or others, and an incontrollable desire to achieve more. Sometimes, these wishes surpass one’s abilities, which can easily become damaging. Researchers assumed these traits differ from one generation to another, so they decided to look at the phenomenon across a wider group of people.
For the study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, they performed a longitudinal study on university students. From 1989 to 2016, they had 41,641 students from Canada, US, and UK answer some questionnaires which measured their perfectionism levels.
The rise of meritocracy is to blame for perfectionism
To identify this behavior, they looked for three important indicators. The first one was the unrealistic expectation to reach perfection, the second one consisted of high expectations of others, while the third one was the perceiving of others’ expectations of oneself as high. From the beginning of the study to the end, all these indicators rose from 10 to 33 percent.
As an explanation, researchers proposed some factors which might influence this damaging perfectionism. Social media is probably on the first place, as it encourages young people to constantly compare their lives with others. Then, it is the rise of meritocracy, who makes them aim higher in their career and academic achievements.
“Meritocracy places a strong need for young people to strive, perform and achieve in modern life. Young people are responding by reporting increasingly unrealistic educational and professional expectations for themselves,” explains one of the researchers, Thomas Curran.
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