One of the most challenging situations I faced throughout middle school and high school was that I was too hard on myself. I’m usually very critical of myself on my appearance, my dancing, how my art turned out, etc, but school and my grades was an aspect of my life that I wanted everything to be perfect.
My parents escaped the tragedies of Vietnam War, lived in poverty throughout most of their childhood, and flew to America with barely anything. They didn’t know what America had in store for them, but they believed that the “American dream” was real, and wanted what was best for their children, grandchildren, and so on. They wanted us to live in a middle class community, where it was safe, peaceful, and friendships and trust could be formed, rather than a broken community that had nothing but the sound of bombs, gunshots, helicopters, and shrieks of terror. They wanted us to take advantages of the things America had that Vietnam didn’t: access to clean water, healthy food, advanced healthcare, but mostly, free education. They didn’t want us to go through what they did when they were children. They wanted to come to America so they can give us the opportunity to accomplish the “American dream” ourselves. I will never stop being grateful and forget how much my parents sacrificed for me and my brother. I will never forget how indebted I am towards my parents. If accomplishing the “American dream” was going to make my family happy and give them a better life, then I was going to do anything it takes to achieve the “American dream”. It became my mission in life, but what I didn’t know before was that I was conforming to a stereotype that was eventually going to destroy me later on in my life: the model minority.
I loved going to school every day when I was in elementary school. All I had to do was work hard, listen to my teachers, and finish my homework to pass the grade level. I was ahead of everyone in the class, as I always wanted to read more books and did extra math problems that weren’t required. I wanted to learn more, expand my knowledge, and satisfy my curiosities. Now that I look back at my days in elementary school, it was like paradise: a place where grades were superficial and weren’t heavily prioritized.
My love for education and thirst for knowledge evolved in middle and high school. Grades and grade point averages, a concept I never really understood until high school, began to take up a significant part of my life. My parents also started to change their mentality towards me when I was in secondary school, “You need to start studying more, make sure to get As and Bs. Don’t get anything below that and don’t fall behind your classmates”. I ended up graduating high school with As and Bs as my final grades with at 3.92 GPA. Although I may seem like a good student in the eyes of my teachers and friends, I didn’t see myself that way. I unconsciously compared myself to my friends and peers who had straight As every semester, who got a high score on their SATs, GPA, who graduated with honors with an IB Diploma and medal. This made me question my own achievements: What did I do wrong? Did I try hard enough? Am I really on the path to success? I was in a state of jealousy, disbelief, and confusion. I also wanted that perfect GPA, SAT score, transcript, but the grades I had did not meet the expectations I had for myself. I cried and starved myself to sleep, I called myself dumb, and I perceived myself as a failure. I saw my grades as a reflection of my own character and capabilities. The love I had for school when I was still a child was gone, and I felt like I was letting everyone, especially my family down.
Because of the constant habit of comparing myself to others and the societal pressure, becoming a perfect student became an unhealthy obsession. I was over infatuated with the idea of perfectionism. But instead, perfection turned into a disease that wasn’t immune to. I wanted to be perfect, but I wasn’t. The obsession to be perfect infected and is now killing me slowly.
Being hard on myself only created unnecessary pressure for myself, low self esteem, and made me feel miserable for a long period of time. My expectations conformed to the model minority, a stereotype and myth that can hurt your pride, self esteem, and even kill you. My battle with the model minority still hasn’t ended, as college is another challenge I need to overcome. But I do not plan to lose, as this long battle has helped me grow into a more optimistic and strong minded person. I became more grateful of what I’ve achieved. Although getting rid of unhealthy and compulsive habits is hard. I remind myself everyday that being optimistic helps change the way you perceive life, but you have to put in the effort to change. I learned that a score doesn’t define who you are, and that I’m more than just a score on a test.
Remember, “your imperfection is perfectly beautiful” (Tablo).