Since the late 1980s, there has been a significant increase in a passion for perfectionism among young adults.
Perfectionism is defined not only as the standards that kids set for themselves, but also for what others expect of them, as well as what they expect of others.
Compared with previous generations, millennials reported a 33 percent increase in the external burden they feel from others and a 10 percent increase in self-generated expectations, according to recent research by Thomas Curran of the University of Bath and Andrew Hill of York St. John University. The study, involving more than 40,000 college students in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, was published in the Psychological Bulletin.
Is this good or bad news?
It can be argued that setting high standards and pressuring oneself to excel are positive traits, responsible for academic achievement and personal growth. However, perfectionism is not simply striving to be better, but attempting to be perfect. It’s an unattainable goal that has some significant negative effects.
The experts view perfectionism as a “core vulnerability,” and speculate that it may help explain the rise in a variety of mental health problems. Loneliness, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicidal feelings are connected with holding unrealistically high standards.
Here are some tips for parents who want their children to develop into adults who are productive and happy, but don’t want to sacrifice the latter for the former:
1. Listen to your child
Perfectionism starts early, with elementary school kids getting upset by anything less than a perfect score on a test. Correct those misperceptions. Remember that you want to encourage effort, not just results.
2. Be careful of your language
In a desire to motivate and inspire, parents sometimes push their kids too hard academically and athletically. It’s fine to express satisfaction when your kids excel, but be careful that the drive for excellence doesn’t come at the cost of their happiness and mental health.
3. Monitor social media
Kids constantly compare themselves with others, vying for “likes” and other positive feedback. Monitor your children’s online activity and engage them in ongoing conversations about the impact of social media on their feelings about themselves.
4. Be moderate
Don’t stop setting high standards for your kids, but do try to keep things in balance.