The Unattainable Perfectionism of Millennials

Those who know nothing of grace, God’s love, or Christ’s redemption are thrown back upon themselves and their own resources to attain enough “merit” to perfect themselves.

“Broadly speaking, perfectionism is an irrational desire for flawlessness, combined with harsh self-criticism. But on a deeper level, what sets a perfectionist apart from someone who is simply diligent or hard-working is a single-minded need to correct their own imperfections. Perfectionists need to be told that they have achieved the best possible outcomes, whether that’s through scores and metrics, or other peoples’ approval. When this need is not met, they experience psychological turmoil, because they equate mistakes and failure to inner weakness and unworthiness.”

 

The young adults of the Millennial generation are showing a higher rate of mental problems than previous generations.  A study says that the problem is perfectionism and their inability to attain it.

As Rachel Genevieve Chia reports, “A study on the topic shows this phenomenon is unique to millennials, who are under immense pressure from always being ‘sifted, sorted and ranked’– in exams, job performance assessments, or on social media, where they feel compelled to curate a perfect life.”

As a result, they are subject to depression, anxiety, anorexia, and suicide.  And I would add “cutting” and other kinds of self-harm, including self-destructive behavior.

Researchers Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill discuss their findings in The rise of perfectionism is negatively affecting young people, World Economic Forum.  Here is a link to their study , which looks at young adults not just in the United States but also in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Here is their definition of perfectionism:

Broadly speaking, perfectionism is an irrational desire for flawlessness, combined with harsh self-criticism. But on a deeper level, what sets a perfectionist apart from someone who is simply diligent or hard-working is a single-minded need to correct their own imperfections.

Perfectionists need to be told that they have achieved the best possible outcomes, whether that’s through scores and metrics, or other peoples’ approval. When this need is not met, they experience psychological turmoil, because they equate mistakes and failure to inner weakness and unworthiness.

Curran and Hill, rather absurdly in my opinion, speculate that “neoliberalism” is to blame–that is, the free market capitalism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher–which supposedly created such a sense of competition that those who fail in the market place assume that something is wrong with them.

A much better explanation, I would argue, is the eclipse of Christianity in this demographic.  Those who know nothing of grace, God’s love, or Christ’s redemption are thrown back upon themselves and their own resources to attain enough “merit” to perfect themselves.