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To Play Pretend: is Perfection Toxic?

Op-ed

It's Ironic

It’s ironic: the one thing that brings me comfort also makes me hate myself. I was taught to like pressure. My teachers expect the ideal student; my friends expect a bubbly personality; my coaches expect perfection. And boys, well, I'm still not sure what they want. But they want something from me. Everyone does. So I curl my hair and adjust my school uniform to be as short as the other girls. I turn myself into the perfect girl because I am taught that I have to be something. I squeeze my stomach and master the illusions of makeup because that is what “they” want. I trade sleep for a few more hours at gymnastics and a perfect grade. But that’s okay. Well, in the mindset of the Perfect Fake Girl anyway. But for most girls, it’s purgatory.

Perfect Fake Girls feel the need to adapt to this alternative persona because they want a feeling of safety and comfort, a definite place within society. We enjoy the benefits as long as they outweigh the negatives. We know it’s a form of self harm. But we don’t care, because that's what it takes. Well, the Perfect Fake Girl doesn’t mind.

The perfect fake girl is always wanted, always cared for, and is what everyone wants to be. She allows you to be the “it” girl, to separate yourself from the consequences. The perfect fake girl is a delusion, one that adults fall accustomed to. The Perfect Fake Girl is an adapter; it's what they do. They analyze what people want and give it to them. The same Fake Perfect Girl that is too sweet to get in trouble, does not think about the consequences because she doesn't face them. The girl who the Perfect Fake Girl goes Prom dress shopping with, is the girl whose date she will steal. The Perfect Fake Girl plays pretend. They play the “it” girl, the non-burnt out gifted kid.

Play Pretend

Perfect Fake Girls must act like their life is not divided into sections and that their anxiety has magically gone away. There is comfort in pretending to be someone else, because who wants to be their imperfect self? Perfect Fake Girls dislike themselves. Every imperfection. But in the end, when the Perfect Fake Girl is alone, she is her true self. This is terrifying.

They put kids on anxiety meds to make this feeling go away. But it doesn’t. Well not truly at least. Everyone pretends it does, but reminders are everywhere. When the Perfect Fake Girls tries to be herself, she disappoints the people she thought unconditionally cared for her true self. But they don’t. They care only about the Perfect Fake Girl. Medicine can dull the pain, but never get rid of the mindset. It is impossible. To get rid of the Perfect Fake Girl, then her true self has to want “her” to be gone for the meds to be effective. But most Perfect Fake Girls are too afraid to want that because they will lose their reputation for being the best.

Adults try to point out that this mindset is unhealthy. But that same mindset is the one that they expect. Once we become ourselves, they want to know what happened to “that” kid. They seperate our true selves from the Perfect Fake Girl, and they prefer the latter. Adults create the conditions in which girls feel like they have to be the Perfect Fake. While parents and teachers will say that having this persona is mentally unhealthy, they are the ones that created it. Children learn, perhaps all too easily, that adults don’t actually want their authentic self, they want the person who achieves everything, does everything, and looks perfect.

Everyone prefers the Perfect Fake Girl, whether they admit it or not. Adults paint people with disorders as stupid. They preach that the girl who stopped eating didn’t know what she was doing. But she did, and she was doing it for you. To fit your version of perfection, to fit your version of presentable, to fit your version of likable. And if no one likes that girl, she breaks down and tries harder. Slowly killing herself more and more. But that’s okay. Well, society says it is at least. But none of the Perfect Fake Girls are truly happy. We are just really good at make-believe.

Victoria Fitlin
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Victoria Fitlin is sophomore in the 2021-2022 school year. She has attended multiple schools, both in America and Europe, where she focuses her studies on STEM and literature. She enjoys learning new languages, traveling, and competitive gymnastics, which she has participated in throughout her childhood.