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On Creativity

Every student knows the struggle of wanting to set him or herself apart. Most places we go, people ask us to think outside the box, to set ourselves apart, and to be creative. If creativity is finding unique ways to flourish in the world, then, to me, one of the most creative things in the world is a deliberate, hard-earned rejection of other’s definition of success.
While creative outlets come naturally to some people, I was forced to learn mine as a survival strategy. “Creativity” requires being different. That is the last thing someone with an eating disorder wants to be. Growing up, instead of accepting my differences as creative assets, I opted for what seemed to be a natural solution: look and act like everyone else and no one would have any reason to dislike me. As I almost unknowingly ingrained this principle into my mind, I became enshrouded in a cloud of conformance. Looking around me now, I realize that this desire for conformance has infected many of my peers as well, forcing each of us onto a pathway we didn’t choose.
Today’s hyper-competitive prep-school cultures by which we are surrounded push us towards the pursuit of building a picture-perfect college entrance profile. Our peers’ validation of success motivates us; We want to take AP’s, score well on the SAT, and log volunteer hours to impress people and gain their stamp of approval – instead of gain the inherent virtue of the deeds themselves.
In recovery from my eating disorder, I learned how to develop tools to embrace my uniqueness. In doing so, I adopted a creative outlook on life in which I live for myself and filter my decisions through a prism of internal – not external – validation. Learning where to focus our efforts, prioritizing what keeps us up at night, and living a life balanced with priorities on health, happiness, and mental well-being is vital for our growth into adulthood. Adopting this outlook on life can help us unlock our full potential and take steps towards becoming the strongest versions of ourselves.
They don’t teach us this in school. But I encourage everyone to take this approach to creativity (though it’s more subtle than most). Living life on your own terms is as creative a pursuit as painting, engineering, or debate. So we must ask ourselves: what is a goal or concept in our lives that has been placed there by the demanding society around us, instead of by ourselves? How have we talked ourselves into believing it’s what we want? We can all think of something.