November 3, 2013

BHOWMICK: The Phantom of Your Own Opera

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Picture this: Darkness is swallowing you. Everyone around you seems ghoulish and repulsive. But pause. Look closer. These people also seem to be repulsed by something. Wait a minute, they seem to be repulsed by you. Could it be remotely possible? Could you be the blackguard in your own nightmare? The thought of it is terrifying but what if you cannot wake up? What if you are the Frankenstein in your own life? Well, then you have a problem.

“You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.” This quote from Lisa Kleypas could not be more relevant in another age and place. We are all living in an era in which everything is bewitched by perfection. The iPhone is a clear example — outdoing itself everytime its consumers think the product has reached its zenith of supremacy. Everything about our lives is running this mad race toward impeccability — the cars we drive, our makeup, clothes, grades and even our social lives. That annoying voice in the back of your head that is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough or efficient enough is no different.

This voice is the loudest at Cornell because lets face it — we are an extremely talented pool of people bestowed with the expectations of the world at large. Our futures are blindingly bright at this point in time but that stresses each one of us out. We don’t usually commend ourselves for making it this far, but we are usually obsessed with the next benchmark of excellence, and God save us from rebuking ourselves when we don’t make it to the mark. In fact, we are more likely to do better in life if we leave the admonishment to the rest of the world. The most important opinion is the one you hold about yourself. If you happen to hold a cruel perception of yourself, it will be all the more difficult for other people to appreciate you. Even sardonic self-deprecation is the sign of a problem. Among women, this problem is even more acute because we feel the additional need to conform to a prescribed set of dimensions, straightness of hair, fashion sense and demeanour.

My point is you are perpetually being reviewed by so many institutions. There’s a prelim around the corner every time you breathe. There are interview panels, recruiters, relatives, strangers and even the NSA reviewing you. So, just spare yourself the horror of another relentless evaluation and stop judging yourself. If we feel content every moment with how far we’ve come and retain faith that someday we might just reach our perceived threshold of perfection, then we will. Moreover, here’s the most amusing part — by the time we get to what we deem as perfection, our perspective will have changed anyway. Anyway we see it, there seems to be no logic in treating ourselves with an iron hand.

Concentrate on who you are and not what others think you are. Dwell on how hard you work, and understanding your mistakes rather than your grade, score or GPA. Think about what kind of person you want to be ten years down the line instead of the job you must have ten years down the line. Do not waste time pondering why that one cute guy or girl who would not reciprocate your interest and acknowledge the people who are invested in your life already. Finally, if none of that works, think about your parents. There is a reason they have more faith in you than you might have in yourself — unconditional love. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” So, if you are, in fact, your own worst enemy, you can become a good friend to yourself by appreciating yourself more today than you did yesterday.