You’re More Likely To Be A Perfectionist Than Your Parents, Researchers Say
You’ve probably heard about Type-A and Type-B personalities. In fact, you’ve likely already identified yourself as one or the other. But no matter where you fall in this categorization, you’re more likely to be a perfectionist than your parents. New research suggests that perfectionism has significantly increased among young people today as compared to young people 27 years ago.
Thomas Curran, Ph.D., of the University of Bath and Andrew Hill, Ph.D., of York St. John University analyzed survey data from 41,641 American, Canadian and British college students over the course of 27 years from 1989 to 2016. The survey asked the students situational questions related to the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, a scale that addresses the three types of perfectionism: self-oriented (the desire to be personally perfect), socially prescribed (the desire to seem perfect to others) and other-oriented (judging or placing unrealistic standards on others).
After collecting the surveys, the researchers studied what perfectionism type (and how much of it) each generation of students identified with most. Overall, the most recent generation scored higher on the perfectionism scale than the earlier generation. American students reported higher self-oriented perfectionism than Canadian and British college students, but across the board, every younger-generation student scored significantly higher in each category than students in 1989.
The average student in 2017 was 10 percent more likely to experience self-oriented perfectionism compared to the average student in 1989. The researchers speculated that the increase in this type of perfectionism could be caused by “several cultural shifts that include competitiveness, individualism, meritocracy and anxious and controlling parental practices.”
In terms of socially prescribed perfectionism, the average student in 2017 was 32 percent more likely to experience anxiety or pressure to compare themselves to others than the average 1989 student. Curran addressed possible reasons why younger generations are seeing such a spike in self-image issues when placed against their peers.
“Rising socially prescribed perfectionism dovetails with observations of rising externality of control, anxiety, and neurosis among young people, in addition to a rising sense of social disconnection,” Curran stated in the report.
Finally, the average 2017 student was 16 percent more likely to experience other-oriented perfectionism than their 1989 counterparts.
The main takeaway from this research is that young people aren’t displaying as much self-confidence as prior generations and, in turn, they’re demonstrating means of perfectionism in order to avoid social judgment.
“This finding suggests that young people are perceiving that their social context is increasingly demanding, that others judge them more harshly and that they are increasingly inclined to display perfection as a means of securing approval,” Curran said in the study.
In a “perfect” world, we would all be happy with ourselves. But that’s just not realistic. So instead, we have to work to recognize whether we’re experiencing any form of perfectionism and remember to cut ourselves some slack. Even if you feel like you have to be, no one is perfect, and if you ask us, that really shouldn’t be the goal we strive for anyway.
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