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Come Clean, Deerfield

Are the gleaming Crest Whitestrip smiles genuine?

When is the automatic response “I’m great, thanks!” sincere?

Certainly, there are instances of actual contentedness on campus. As privileged teenagers, we have plenty to be grateful for and happy about. However, many Deerfield students are burdened by challenges they would never admit to. Yes, at one time or another, we complain about the stress of school work, nagging parents, or gossip. But people rarely discuss deeper, less apparent issues: conflicts in relationships, trouble at home, or the stigmatism and struggle of mental illness and eating disorders, to name a few.

Indeed, Deerfield students frequently cloak their true feelings, hiding difficulties behind façades of confidence and good cheer. Few discuss the challenges they face, problems many only feel comfortable sharing anonymously. This “fakeness” promotes the pervasive, unrealistic impression that the majority of our students are flawless and imperturbable. No one feels comfortable mentioning anything less than perfection, because perfection is all that appears to surround us.

If individuals decided, however, to confess a troubling concern instead of biting their lips to conceal their seeming “weaknesses,” they would benefit both themselves and the entire community. The student body might become more tolerant and accepting, as no one would judge harshly because he or she shared a similar problem. Instead of being intimidated by impeccable, unflappable, and most of all, unattainable images of the ideal Deerfield boy and girl, students need to recognize that these are but mirages that do not exist. Everyone struggles. If only we could admit our own individual shortcomings more openly, we might better empathize with and support one another.

We all know we’re fortunate to be in a community such as this— to study and play on this beautiful, well-tended campus—but we shouldn’t pretend to be happy when we sometimes aren’t. So when an issue is too tough to hold in, no one should feel pressured to struggle alone, to put on that happy, dress-code face. He or she should be bolstered by a community of people who understand adversity because they themselves can admit to difficulty.

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