This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Largest-Ever Study on Perfectionist People Has Scientists "Greatly Troubled" 

It's become a deadly epidemic.

By Simon Sherry and Martin M. Smith, The Conversation

We recently conducted one of the largest-ever studies on perfectionism. We learned that perfectionism has increased substantially over the past 25 years and that it affects men and women equally.

We also learned that perfectionists become more neurotic and less conscientious as time passes.

Perfectionism involves striving for flawlessness and requiring perfection of oneself and others. Extremely negative reactions to mistakes, harsh self-criticism, nagging doubt about performance abilities, and a strong sense that others are critical and demanding also define the trait.

See also: The Pain of Being a Perfectionist No Longer Has to Last Forever

As a clinical psychologist in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University and a lecturer in research methods at York St John University, together we have extensive experience in understanding, assessing, treating, and studying perfectionism.

We are greatly troubled by what we see.

We believe there is an urgent need for prevention efforts — to reduce the harsh and controlling parenting practices and socio-cultural influences, such as unrealistic media images that contribute to perfectionism. Interventions for distressed perfectionists are also clearly needed.

Millennials Are Suffering

To gain a more complete understanding of perfectionism, we conducted a large-scale meta-analysis involving 77 studies and nearly 25,000 participants. Around two-thirds of these participants were female and many were Caucasian university students from Western nations (such as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom). Our participants ranged in age from 15 to 49.

We found today’s young people are more perfectionist than ever before. In fact, we found perfectionism has increased substantially since 1990. This means millennials struggle with perfectionism more than previous generations — a finding that mirrors past research.

The constant push to succeed can be exhausting and dangerous.

Article continues below

Beat the "Sunday Scaries" with a weekly newsletter that mixes soothing science and relatable advice to get your mind & body ready for the week ahead.

The causes of perfectionism are complex. Increases in perfectionism come, at least in part, from today’s dog-eat-dog world, where rank and performance count excessively and winning and self-interest are emphasized.

Controlling and critical parents also hover too close in raising their children, which fosters perfectionism’s development. With social media posts showcasing unrealistically “perfect” lives and glossy advertisements depicting unobtainable standards of perfection, millennials are surrounded by too many yardsticks upon which to measure their success and failure. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been harder.

This epidemic of perfectionism in modern Western societies is a serious, even deadly, problem. Perfectionism is robustly linked in the research to anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, and suicide.

As Perfectionists Age, They Unravel

We also found that, as perfectionists grow older, they appear to unravel. Their personalities become more neurotic (more prone to negative emotions like guilt, envy, and anxiety) and less conscientious (less organized, efficient, reliable, and disciplined).

Pursuing perfection — a goal that is intangible, fleeting, and rare — may result in a higher rate of failures and a lower rate of successes that leaves perfectionists more likely to neurotically stew about their imperfections and less likely to conscientiously pursue their goals.

Overall, then, our results suggest life does not get easier for perfectionists. In a challenging, messy, and imperfect world, perfectionists may burn out as they age, leaving them more unstable and less diligent.

Our findings also revealed men and women report similar levels of perfectionism.

The tendency to stew neurotically over our failures increases as we age.

This suggests modern Western societies do not involve gender-specific pressure to be perfect. Gender roles appear to allow (or to encourage) both men and women to strive for perfection.

Future research should test if men strive for perfection based more on achievement motives (such as competing for resources) and women strive for perfection based more on relationship motives (such as pleasing other people).

Unconditional Love Is an Antidote

Perfectionism is a major, deadly epidemic in modern western societies that is seriously under-recognized, with many distressed perfectionists concealing their imperfections from those who might be able to help (such as psychologists, teachers, or family doctors).

We need to respond to the perfectionism epidemic at the parental and the cultural level.

Valuing children for who they are can free them from later anxiety. 

Parents need to be less controlling, critical, and overprotective of their children — teaching their children to tolerate and to learn from their mistakes while emphasizing hard work and discipline over the unrealistic pursuit of perfection.

See also: I Have No Chill, So I Drank Recess CBD Seltzer Every Day for a Week

Unconditional love — where parents value children for more than their performance, rank, or appearance — seems as good an antidote to perfectionism as any.

Perfectionism is a myth and social media is its storyteller. We need to teach a healthy skepticism toward the suspiciously “perfect” lives promoted through social media posts and mainstream media advertisements. Unrealistic images achieved through photo-shopping, airbrushing, and filters are less compelling once you learn the game is rigged.

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Simon Sherry and Martin M. Smith. Read the original article here.

8 Supplements on Amazon to Boost Your Brain Function

Stay mentally alert with herbs, caffeine, and even protein

Many people are turning to nootropics or natural supplements that can help boost your brain function, whether you want to increase your memory capacity or just be more alert. Some of the well-known nootropics include caffeine and herbal supplements like ginkgo biloba, bacopa monnieri, and Rhodiola rosea. A variety of other substances are also touted for providing a mental boost.

Is Chernobyl Safe? It Depends How You Define "Safe"

Thirty years later, the question still persists.

On April 26, 1986, a fire from a test at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl resulted in one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history. To this day, the very name of the disaster site evokes thoughts of destruction. And on the 30th anniversary of the meltdown, the current — and future — safety of the location is still unclear.

Who’s Avoiding Sex? Psychiatrist Cites 3 Reasons

Nineteen percent of adults do not engage in sex.

By Shervin Assari

Sex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: It is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

But millions of people spend at least some of their adulthood not having sex. This sexual avoidance can result in emotional distress, shame, and low self-esteem — both for the individual who avoids sex and for the partner who is rejected.

Indoor Tanning Enthusiasts Are Showing Signs of "Addiction" in Their Genes

"Indoor tanning has the potential to become an addiction for some people."

In the cold winter months, sun-starved people may be drawn to UV tanning beds like a moth to a lamp. But some scientists are particularly concerned for those who find it impossible to quit getting fried in a coffin-like apparatus. New research in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine suggests indoor tanning may be an addiction, complete with its own genetic signatures.

Scientists Determine the Exact Amount of Time We Should Be Spending Outside

Just a brief period boosts well-being and health.

The average adult spends between three to four hours a day on their phones. Americans, per household, watch almost eight hours of television a day. If you have an iPhone, it will try to tell you exactly how much time you spent on social media per day. We’re well aware of the time we spend online. What a study released Thursday in Scientific Reports asks is how much time we spend outdoors.