The outside belongs to others.

Only you should decide for you—


is perfect.

- Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Everyone is pressured to be perfect at one point in their life. By their parents, teachers, coaches - even their peers. It starts out simple, like the caterpillar or the sapling of a cypress. Get good grades, do your homework, win a set, be a leader. As time goes by, the bud grows and grows and grows before it morphs into an unbreakable cycle.

The cycle can't end because as time went on, An gets used to the pressure, the demands, and slowly, disgustingly, she begins to crave the attention. The acknowledgement and applause she gets from being the top student or the best player grows on her, builds up her confidence and ego. It becomes a part of her that flows in her blood and resides deep in her mind.

She lives in the shadow of her brother, his tennis skills, and wants to make a name for herself. She takes what started out as basic expectations and mixes them with her life. She loves her brother, but can't stay in his shadow. To have people recognize her when she walks down the street, come up to her and want to be her friend, to be able to look at her parents and go, "Look at me now."

Yet as she blends the lifestyles together, she can't help but regret it sometimes. Here she is; perfect grades, best player, and a leader to all. She has confidence, opinions, and the belief that no one can change her into what they want. The perfect daughter with the perfect life. Then it finally comes crashing down.

She debates with herself day in and day out. Is she skinny enough? Everyone says she is, but she has to stay fit for sports. Why doesn't she have a boyfriend? She's not ugly, but maybe a guy doesn't want a girl who won't dedicate her whole life to him.

Why is it she lies to herself everyday that everything will be okay?

Her parents have argued for years and still do. Things don't—and never did—get physical. It was the screaming, the hateful words, that led her brother into her room and his arms wrapped around her. He was her guardian, her role model, her best friend. He taught her everything that she needed to know before middle school.

Then he crumbled.

Once he hit the pro circuit, he realized he wasn't good enough to keep playing with them. So he stopped. He stopped and went to college, end of story. They never had the most money, but after some pleading, their parents paid for one year worth of college, in hopes that he would get scholarships to keep going. The college is far away (his first semester just ended), so she never gets to see her brother except when they have time to video chat or instant message each other.

Her brother is smart, very smart, and An always made sure to be on his level. But when she learned that he failed two classes, one gram down the drain, and blames it on their parents, she shatters into a million pieces inside her room.

Tears stream down her face as she curls herself into a ball, trying to sink deeper under her covers and vanish forever. She cries for her brother and his pain of failing to reach his dreams.

For the parents that try to be supportive, but really aren't.

For the stress of meeting impossible expectations that she doesn't want to meet anymore.

For every time she questions if she is good enough for everyone, when the only person that she needs to please is herself.

For not having the strength to be the standing stone everyone needs for support, because she destroyed her ability to support others long ago.

For getting addicted to perfection but not having the will to save herself from the madness.

She cries for everything that is wrong in her world, but still asks herself the one question that she will never stop asking:

Was I just not perfect enough?

A/N: This is what I always thought about An, or something similar - she tries to be perfect to get out of her brother's shadow, and can't stop. I wrote this because I feel like it could happen to anyone, and I understand this feeling.