You see that word in the title of this blog post? Yeah, I hate it. It’s just such an arrogant and obnoxious word. And it’s got such negative connotations. I mean, achievement is great. But overdoing anything is not good. Who wants to be defined by their tendency to approach every accomplishment with an exaggerated desire for greatness? Not me. Unfortunately, though, I must admit that I was something of an overachiever growing up. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I do believe my disability played a big part in it.
As many people know, there are two main types of overachievers: those who focus on becoming exceptionally good at one thing and those who try to be good at everything. I fell into the latter category. I was at the top of my class academically, edited the school newspaper, served as captain of the school volleyball team, and sang in about three different choirs – all by the time I graduated eighth grade. In high school, I continued my quest for perfection by getting involved in as many extracurricular activities as I could, from acting in drama club productions to singing in the choir at Carnegie Hall. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not bragging here. Along with these achievements (if you will), I struggled with severe anxiety and depression as well as an eating disorder. In my case, I didn’t try to overachieve in order to better myself or reach my full potential; rather, I needed to prove myself a worthy and capable individual. That’s the problem with overachieving: the motivation behind it is never pure or good. The reason behind that unnatural yearning for perfection is always fear.
While I don’t blame my missing arm for my years of needing to be “perfect,” I know that many of my fears stemmed from insecurities related to it. I was so afraid of appearing weak or inadequate to people because of my arm that I did everything in my power to look capable and put-together. I wanted it to seem as though I was completely flawless in every way except for my lack of an arm. That would be the only thing anyone could hold against me, and even then it was only an accident of nature that I had no control over. But that’s just it – no one’s perfect; it’s not possible. So my vain attempts at becoming flawless eventually took their toll on me. I hated that I couldn’t be perfect and I blamed myself.
As I’ve grown older and (I like to think) wiser, I’ve stopped focusing so much on proving myself to others. More importantly, I no longer feel the need to prove myself tomyself. I know what I’m capable of and I have enough self-confidence to accept that I have limitations too. I’m not afraid to try and fail because, one arm or two, everyone has the right to pursue what they want and give their dreams a try. So with that, I’d like to challenge myself to live by this one word: vulnerable. Yes, I need to allow myself the chance to fail and to let others see me own those failures. I have to let my guard down and forget about trying to impress people with how much I can do with one arm. I’m human, and I have the right to cry/laugh/hurt/love just like anyone else. I don’t need to be amazing at everything; I just need to focus on the people I love and the things I love because they make me happy. And at the end of the day, that happiness is what counts.