The illusion of perfection

The author Bret Easton Ellis puts it aptly I think, when he says we are ‘Generation Wuss’. We twenty-somethings want to achieve. We want to be the best. But how many of us are all that good at dealing with failure and criticism?

Venturing onto the internet makes it hard not to agree with Ellis. We use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as show-and-tell platforms for our important internships, glamorous summer holidays and perfect nights out surrounded by friends. Perfection has become the norm. Every aspect of our lives must be a success.

What we are never really told is this: in the real world, we don’t always achieves our goals. And that’s okay. I think there is a lot of pressure on young people today to achieve, particularly with a stalling job market. And yet we continue to allow social media to demand more and more proof of how brilliantly we are doing, all the time.

No wonder burn-outs are on the rise in our age group. The anxious ‘Generation Wuss’ is ridden mental health issues: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem at some stage. Even just last week, Cambridge student Morwenna Jones wrote in the Guardian about her struggle with an eating disorder whilst at university and her desire for perfection in all aspects of her life.

One idea for a solution comes from Jeroen van Baar, author of The Generation of Overachievers, who says the answer is the normalisation of mediocrity. We need see the prettiest, richest and most successful as the exception. If we restore average to its original place, in the middle, then perhaps we could give our confused minds some rest.

Of course we should not aim high in life. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and this should be encouraged. But young people need to remember that there is no shame in failure: it is all about picking yourself up again.

For more information on mental health issues, visit:


Loren Snel 

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