Nod if this feels familiar: Your whole life is wrapped up in making yourself better — better at your job, a better romantic partner, a better body, a better friend, a better hobbyist, just better. All that betterment starts to stack up, and suddenly you realize you're too caught up in your stress to actually live your life. Those are some of the effects of perfectionism, and new research shows that it's really not just you.
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Psychologists in England have just released an analysis of generational changes in perfectionism. After surveying tens of thousands of British, Canadian, and American college students from the 1980s to 2016, they confirmed what you may already know in the pit of your stomach: Our perfectionism is taking more of a stranglehold on us. And the younger you are, the more caught up in it you might be.
Perfectionism is a weird beast. Of course it's good to strive and try to be your best self. But it can also create feedback loops in which you start to equate your self-worth to your output. It's a huge reason why imposter syndrome can be such a problem for people who look like they've got it all together on the outside. It can also lead straight to bad burnout, which sets you back way more than just messing up.
So this year, recalibrate your approach. Don't stop setting goals and making plans and doing your best. But also remember that not only are you more than the sum of your accomplishments, but that making mistakes is normal and human, and also often the very best way to learn and grow. Ask for help if you're struggling, whether it's with your budget, with a task at work, or in your personal life. When you defeat the perfectionism monster, you might take yourself places you never expected to go.