Not Good Enough: New Study Reveals Young People More Likely To Be Perfectionists

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A new study by comparing unhealthy tendencies toward perfectionism reveals that younger generations are more likely to worry about making mistakes, failing, and being anything less than perfect.

Are we expected too much of the younger generations?

Young people feel more pressure to be “perfect”.

Being a perfectionist is not a strength.

Babies have an innate insight that everything they do and everything about them is wondrous. The process of falling when learning to walk is just that - a process. In some cases, however, children learn to associate success with perfection and failure with imperfection. If their skills, grades, accomplishments or body don’t fit into what is communicated to them as the ideal, they start developing the belief that they are irreparably flawed. They begin to form the impression that in order to be loved and to gain approval, they have to fit into that idealized image. If they don’t, they get punished; if they do and then obtain approval for doing so, it reinforces the idea that being perfect is necessary, and the threat of losing approval becomes even more painful. Thus, young people get caught in a vicious cycle of perfectionism. There is an upside, however: Research from reveals that perfectionist tendencies may decrease with age…and wisdom.

Researchers at PsychTests analyzed data from 1,324 people who took their Perfectionism Test. They divided the sample by generation, and then assessed the degree to which subjects felt pressured from family, employers, society, or themselves to be perfect.

When assessing the degree to which they put pressure on themselves to be perfect, here’s how each generation scored: (Note: Scores on the higher end indicate a tendency toward more extreme and unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies)

  • Generation Z/Centennials (born from 1996 to present): 56
  • Generation Y/Millennials (born from 1977 to 1995): 58
  • Generation X (born from 1965 to 1976): 54
  • Baby Boomers (born from 1945 to 1964): 50

When assessing the degree to which they feel pressured from their family to be perfect, each generation scored as follows:

  • Generation Z/Centennials: 52
  • Generation Y/Millennials: 52
  • Generation X: 47
  • Baby Boomers: 37

When assessing the degree to which they feel pressured at work or at school to be perfect, the scores are as follows:

  • Generation Z/Centennials: 59
  • Generation Y/Millennials: 59
  • Generation X: 55
  • Baby Boomers: 49

When assessing the degree to which they feel societal pressure to be perfect, each generation scored in the following way:

  • Generation Z/Centennials: 56
  • Generation Y/Millennials: 56
  • Generation X: 51
  • Baby Boomers: 46

When PsychTests’ researchers probed into how each group’s perfectionistic tendencies played out in their everyday life (e.g. their attitudes, feelings, and behaviors), they uncovered distinct differences between younger and older cohorts. For example:

  • 59% of Centennials, 56% of Millennials, 59% of Generation Xers, and 47% of Baby Boomers said they would hate the idea of being labeled as "average" in anything.
  • 67% of Centennials, 75% of Millennials, 68% of Generation Xers, and 64% of Baby Boomers are only satisfied with a task or assignment when it is done perfectly.
  • 46% of Centennials, 41% of Millennials, 32% of Generation Xers, and 25% of Baby Boomers are only proud of an accomplishment if it receives praise from other people.
  • 59% of Centennials, 67% of Millennials, 56% of Generation Xers, and 53% of Baby Boomers constantly worry about making mistakes.
  • 62% of Centennials, 62% of Millennials, 56% of Generation Xers, and 47% of Baby Boomers constantly worry about what other people think of them.
  • 23% of Centennials, 23% of Millennials, 16% of Generation Xers, and 11% of Baby Boomers won’t talk about their weaknesses for fear of being ridiculed or rejected.
  • 51% of Centennials, 42% of Millennials, 35% of Generation Xers, and 17% of Baby Boomers are afraid their family will criticize them if they are not perfect.
  • 44% of Centennials, 50% of Millennials, 40% of Generation Xers, and 33% of Baby Boomers generalize failure, believing failing an assignment makes them a failure as a person.
  • 20% of Centennials, 26% of Millennials, 28% of Generation Xers, and 14% of Baby Boomers said that when they look back on their life, all they can see is how many times they messed up or failed.
  • 36% of Centennials, 38% of Millennials, 30% of Generation Xers, and 33% of Baby Boomers believe if they are perfect, they won’t be rejected by a partner.
  • 29% of Centennials, 28% of Millennials, 17% of Generation Xers, and 11% of Baby Boomers think if they are not perfect, their partner will consider them inferior and therefore, not “good enough.”
  • 49% of Centennials, 46% of Millennials, 37% of Generation Xers, and 31% of Baby Boomers believe they must have a flawless body in order to be considered attractive.
  • 23% of Centennials, 25% of Millennials, 12% of Generation Xers, and 14% of Baby Boomers believe in order to be respected, they must be wealthy.

“Centennials and Millennials have developed the belief that love, respect, and acceptance are contingent upon how close they are to perfection in every way,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “This pressure to be perfect that young people feel, although often self-imposed, could originate from pressure from parents, teachers, peers, or the media, especially social media. Many younger people are inundated with the message that they are hopelessly flawed if they don’t look or dress in a specific way, possess certain luxuries, get good grades, get into a good school, make a lot of money, get married, etc.

“Those who feel they are not good enough or not close enough to this ideal, believe they are flawed. Once this belief is internalized, it results in self-esteem issues, self-image problems, the tendency to set impossible standards, and harsh self-criticism when these standards are not met. This in turn could lead to mental health issues, or compel the person to adopt extreme methods to reach these impossible standards, like starving themselves in order to achieve a ‘perfect’ body. Research has also shown that in some cases, extreme perfectionism can lead to self-harm. We need to make it clear to younger generations that doing their best is good enough, and making mistakes leads to growth, not ridicule. Being a perfectionist is NOT a strength.”

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About PsychTests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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Ilona Jerabek
PsychTests AIM Inc.
+1 514-745-3189 Ext: 112
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