According to a new study published in the Psychological Bulletin, Perfection has officially become unattractive. Children are now more obsessed with perfection than many previous generations, and this obsession is associated with an increase in depression and anxiety.
The authors of the study examined earlier research on perfectionism, which they generally define as “a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-assessments.” They also carried out their own study of 41,641 American, Canadian and British students between 1989 and 2016. They found that perfectionism increased over time. And it’s worse in the United States.
This cultural phenomenon has several dimensions, as it says in the study, including self-directed perfectionism in which the print becomes perfect; The socially prescribed perfectionism, the pressure that society perceives as perfect and the perfectionism that is directed towards the others, the pressure you put on others to be perfect.
Research reveals three reasons for this change: the emergence of Neoliberalism, increasingly concerned and controlled parents, and the growing power of meritocracy.
“Liberalism and its doctrine of meritocracy have come together to form a culture in which everyone should perfect and perfect themselves to achieve unrealistic performance standards,” he says. the study. “For the parents, this new culture is an additional burden, in addition to their own obligation to succeed, they are also responsible for the successes and failures of their children.”
Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in family and relationship issues, points to another important factor: social networks. “These people have grown up and are constantly rated in social networks,” she says.
So, what’s up with the quest for perfection? This can lead to increased depression and anxiety. “Research among students and young people has found, for example, that self-directed perfectionism is positively associated with clinical depression, anorexia nervosa, and premature death,” note the authors of the study. “It is also associated with greater physiological reactivity (e.g., high blood pressure) and discomfort (e.g., negative affect) in response to stress and loss of life.” They even identified a connection with suicidal thoughts.
It’s not just self-inflicted perfectionism that causes problems. “Socially prescribed perfectionism predicts an increase in depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts over time, but to a greater extent,” says the study. Another analysis found that socially mandated perfectionism was positively associated with a variety of psychological disorders and symptoms of disorders, including social phobia, body dissatisfaction, bulimia, and suicidal thoughts, and had the highest rate among other dimensions of perfectionism and depression and anxiety.
“Of course, if you’re under a literal and figurative microscope, with the microscope being social networking, you’ll be more self-confident,” Dr. Greenberg. “When self-esteem and perfectionism increase, anxiety and depression also increase, they go together,” she says and supports the study. Recently, there has been pressure for celebrities and influencers to appear less than perfect and identifiable in their publications. But it will take a while before it is understood.
“The things that kids post on Instagram and Snapchat are moments of celebration,” says Dr. Greenberg. “They post moments when they’re having fun or when they look good, they could take hundreds of selfies before posting on Instagram. They do not release moments when they fight, learn or when their friends drop them. They post pictures of themselves happy at a party with friends or when they look good on vacation. People look at it and say, “Oh, wow, their life is so beautiful!”. Dr. Greenberg sees this misrepresentation as problematic.
There are two pages of each story, right? Wrong Dr. Greenberg sees no benefit in perfectionism. “This is a problematic concept in itself,” she says. “I think that when young people are motivated it’s a wonderful thing, but motivation and perfectionism are not interchangeable, they are two very different and disconnected concepts.” She says she has never seen anything positive. “All I’ve experienced in this situation is fear and depression, perfectionism is full of fear, you’re looking for something very elusive, and of course it’s a problem because nobody can be perfect and nobody has to be perfect.
Of course, it is much easier said than done to accept ourselves as we are, but the discouraging conclusion is that so-called perfection is not as good as it looks.