Being a millennial clearly has its high points. As late '80s and '90s kids, we benefited from growing up during one of the wealthiest, most successful, and safest times in American history. As a girl, I feel lucky that I grew up during a time when not even my grandparents expected me to skip college to become a wife and mother. During our teenage years, social media began and allowed us to connect in ways we never might have imagined before (hello, AIM and MSN), and as a young adult, I've felt proud to witness societal changes in the way we talk about gender parity, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity. But there's one aspect of millennial life that sometimes makes me wish I were born in a different generation: perfectionism.
Almost every millennial is touched by perfectionism in some way. There are a lot of theories about why millennials are so much more prone to anxiety than previous generations. Some blame the internet. Some blame our current dating culture. Some blame careerism. I think it's all of the above.
There are a lot of benefits to being a millennial. But sometimes, I wish I had been born into a generation that didn't feel the need to seek out grandiosity in every aspect of life.
Let's take the internet as an example. It's no secret that thanks to social media, we're likely to compare ourselves to our peers' ubercurated social accounts — and many of us are left feeling like we're not good enough. But there's more to it than that. Even if we decide to take a social media detox, we might still feel a nagging anxiety about the fact that we're NOT posting. I've experienced this myself. I often wonder: is it going to hurt my career if I'm not active on social media? Then when I do post, I get stressed about whether or not the content I've shared is good enough to be admired and liked. It seems like most of us have little choice in the matter — we either feel anxiety about opting out, or we feel anxiety about what we've shared.
Now let's talk about dating and relationships. The good news is that millennials are (so far) getting divorced less than earlier generations. A lot of people have also applauded the fact that people are getting married later in life. But my single friends aren't always happy about being single in their early 30s. Instead, they develop anxiety about the future, wondering if they're being too picky or if they should've married their ex. While this probably isn't specific to the millennial generation, I do worry that online dating culture has given us way too many options. We're constantly thinking about whether or not we could do better — and our relationships suffer in the process.
This next point of perfectionism is difficult for me to talk about as a feminist. But the fact is that I, and a lot of my female friends, have developed anxiety around the need to find a career we love that embodies and defines us. My guy friends share similar feelings. We all seek purpose through our careers, instead of through our relationships, families, close friendships, spiritual centers, and communities, like generations before us did. While finding meaningful work is definitely important, what we DO isn't who we ARE.
As millennials, we want it all: happy families, amazing jobs, incredible experiences, far-flung travels, an Insta-worthy social life, and — despite how much time all of this takes — a regular self-care routine. Yeah, right.
There are a lot of benefits to being a millennial. But sometimes, I wish I had been born into a generation that didn't feel the need to seek out grandiosity in every aspect of life. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfect lives that we dig ourselves into an anxious hole. The only way to get out of the hole is to stop seeking perfection in at least a couple of these areas of our lives — but then, we'd have to admit that we failed.