Every girl fantasizes about being a Barbie, attracted to the shimmering ball gowns that sway to the beat of the clickity-clack of the heels and the colossal crown on the head. I would be lying if I said I am not one of those girls. In fact, I worshiped my Barbie doll when my parents bought her for my fifth birthday. My Barbie did everything: she was a doctor, author, fashion designer, and track star. I admired her with my bugged out eyes at awe of the versatility of this one skinny, skimpy, blonde haired girl. If she could do all that, why couldn’t I?
My main focus for the next 13 years became to be that flawless, well-rounded Barbie. My motto was to strive for perfection and nothing less. The advantages of my aim for perfection blinded me from reality. I learned dedication, hard work, and self-confidence in order to be impeccable and it paid off. I received a great SAT score, was in advanced placement classes, and became President of Future Educators of America. I worked diligently day and night hoping that one day I would feel satisfied with my own achievements. The problem for perfectionists is, we are never satisfied.
When I got to UConn, my struggle for perfection persisted. I knew who I wanted to be: a medical practitioner. I was focused and ready to work. They say college teaches you things about life that you will never learn anywhere else. And boy, was I hit hard my first semester of college. The first few weeks of college were ones that I could survive. Soon, however, the raw truth of the beguiling lies of my perfectionist thoughts began to unravel before my eyes. I worked strenuously, attempting to achieve that A grade in every one of my courses; I promptly uncovered that the idealist mentality is defective in college. I received an A grade in one class, but a failing one in another. Time is the most valuable thing in college and I was abusing it. By the middle of the semester, I was left shattered that the one belief I’ve been vigorously advocating my entire life had misled me. The stress began to compile, stripping off my self-confidence, determination, and dedication and leading me down an ominous path of mental breakdowns and anxiety attacks.
My only escape from the constant pounding thoughts of my obnoxious and demeaning conscience was the dance team that I had joined, UConn ThundeRaas. However, as time went by, my obsession for perfection began to override my passion for the dance. I practiced the choreography over and over, drilling it in my head until I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t cope with the fact that I wasn’t perfect and wasn’t the best. With my only source of liberation snatched away from me by the satanic shadows of my own contemplations, my mental health began to crumble. I felt defeated: in school, in dance, and my future.
This idealism that I attempted to aim for 18 years of my life did indeed make be the Barbie that I’ve always wanted to be: it made me stiff and hardheaded just like her outer shell. It made me plastic. I was so immersed with the concept of perfectionism that I couldn’t open myself up to others. I masked behind this façade to show everyone that I was okay and that there could be absolutely nothing wrong with me. Except, absolutely everything was wrong.
For 18 years, I entrapped all the emotions that I felt when I was in pain, misery, or suffering. I repeatedly jammed my feelings, pocketing them away because “to be perfect was to be happy.” I told myself that exposing emotion will only distract me from my goals and show that I am weak. In high school, I had the emotional support of my parents that got me through my irrational decision of suppressing my emotions. Moving from New Jersey to Connecticut without my parents turned out to have a drastic and transforming effect.
For the first time, I ripped off that outer Barbie plastic shell and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I confided in one person that I trust with my life and told him all the emotions that I’ve been heaping on my back for years and the walls that I fabricated came plunging down. Instead of pretending like everything was okay, I told him that I wasn’t and he listened. After venting out my feelings, I felt an invigorating moment of rejuvenation but also, I felt like I had done the wrong thing because now he knew that I was human. I began to push him away because I abhorred the fact that someone had breached into the bubble I blew up around me. But after the semester ended, I realized that losing control of myself is not shameful: it’s human. I’ve learned that it’s okay to accept vulnerability. It’s okay to tell others how you feel. It’s okay if others know that you are hurting, happy, sad, or any of those emotions. Because the truth is, to be alive is to be vulnerable.
As the semester reached an end, I took a step out of the Barbie box that I had suffocated myself in and showed others who I really am. I’ve met incredible people at UConn who have helped me through thick and thin; whether it’s staying up with me until 5 am studying chemistry, talking to me for hours letting me explode my emotions onto them, telling me that everything will be okay, and soothing me to relax. I regained my self-confidence and determination and scoffed at the fact at how I ever empowered the villainy of my own conscience to doubt whether I should still apply to medical school. I couldn’t be happier that I’ve made such great acquaintances and glad that I’m not that Barbie I wished to be when I was little- instead I’m me. I’m pliable, I’m not made of plastic, and I can’t strive for perfection. So I’m moved on to a healthier goal: strive for excellence.
Perfection isn’t a thing. Perfection is a concept that we came up with in society to describe an intangible object. Perfection is not one of the characteristics of a living organism. We, humans, have created the notion of perfectionism. Look around you: in history, science, and the news. Humans are nowhere close to perfect. So how are you expected to be? Yes, we want to succeed. Yes, we want to be the best of ourselves that we can possibly be. But don’t make the mistake of beating yourself up for every miniscule thing that happens. This last semester has been the hardest, roughest times of my entire life. I attempted to show everyone around me that I am independent, successful, and the strongest person that they will ever meet. But the truth is, which a wise friend has told me, being weak and vulnerable is being strong. Your experiences and the emotions you feel are what make you unique. Attempting to show everyone that you are a perfect human being means that no one knows who you really are. I’ve made that mistake my entire life and now I am learning to not only express myself, but also accepting the fact that the real me is not Barbie.
So, who is the real me? I’m still figuring that out for myself.