The Overachieving Generation: As Millennials Strive For Perfection, Anxiety And Depression increase

By Alison Bowen
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Alison Bowen reports, “So many millennials are suffering from the ills of perfectionism that psychologists are issuing warnings and schools are emphasizing the need to both strive and accept failure.”

Chicago Tribune

When he was in eighth grade, Benjamin Cherkasky quit the swim team.

He loved swimming. But he wasn’t winning every time, and he felt he should already be an Olympic-like talent.

“I’m not Michael Phelps at swimming, so why am I even on the team?” he remembers thinking.

A therapist who researches perfectionism at Northwestern University’s Family Institute, he realized years later what had happened. His perfectionism was creating unrealistic standards, and unable to meet them, he quit. This continued throughout college.

“My perfectionism is very high expectations, and fantasylike and not realistic expectations, that caused real suffering and real anxiety,” he said.

Cherkasky is not alone in feeling a perfectionism that can breed anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

So many millennials are suffering from the ills of perfectionism that psychologists are issuing warnings and schools are emphasizing the need to both strive and accept failure.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, Northwestern held its first event on the topic, aimed at educating students that perfectionism can be poisonous and giving tips and tactics to help.

Jessica Rohlfing Pryor, a Family Institute staff psychologist leading the event, said every generation is a sponge for messages it receives.

“I would argue that millennials more than any other generation in American society are receiving very strong explicit messages around achieving,” she said. “There’s an absence of messaging that trying your hardest is still OK.”

Chronic procrastination and elaborate to-do lists can be signs of perfectionism, and potentially darker issues.

This January, the American Psychological Association reported that recent generations of college students have reported higher levels of perfectionism than earlier generations.

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