Reflections of the Scarlet Letter

The letter P for pessimistic reveals a character flaw that I was reluctant to see in myself, even though it is so prevalent in my daily life. To be pessimistic means to see the worst in things or believe the worst will happen, and it focuses on the negatives instead of the positives. I usually associate this more with myself, instead of the world.

I am always pessimistic, with the elements of school, Science Olympiad, and other activities combined giving me many opportunities to doubt myself. Pessimism results in a lack of confidence, which has been my greatest obstacle since elementary school. It has really impacted my personal relationships and hindered my participation in class discussions and interactions. In constructing my letter, I started with a base of cardboard. The rigid nature of the cardboard symbolized how I am stubborn in my pessimism, that once I believe something will happen, I will not listen to other people who try to tell me otherwise.

I cut out the shape of the P to be slightly bent, but not enough to be extremely noticeable. The shape represents me and my mood when I am being pessimistic, hunched over and not very happy. However, as it is not very noticeable and I am the only one who can see it without being told, it shows that oftentimes, other people cannot see my mood as I always try to appear cheerful, that I am the only one who knows my real feelings. I then ripped up pieces of newspaper and faded light blue construction paper, wrinkled them, and taped them to my cardboard cutout. Newspapers mostly report negative news, which reflects my views towards myself. Faded light blue is a color that gives you the feeling of a lost positiveness, as light blue is a cheerful color, but the fading makes it nostalgic. Similarly, I always hope that I can look at things with a positive outlook, but I always revert back to a gloomy perspective. The wrinkles in the papers also mimic my perspective that everything will go wrong, that nothing is ‘smooth’.

Wearing my letter for the whole day was not as bad as I thought it would be. People who walked past me only glanced at the letter, but did not seem too confused or care as to why I was wearing it. My parents didn’t even seem to notice the letter, or maybe they were just ignoring it. My friends also knew that I would be wearing a letter, and some were also wearing letters. Although I knew my experience would not be the same as Hester’s, as this was a school project for one day and not a source of shame for many years, I was still worried that wearing the letter would isolate me because people would stare at the letter P hanging around my neck, and although the opposite was true, it was always a relief to see someone else wearing a letter. It was mostly other people wearing letters who approached me to ask about my letter and to tell me about theirs. During this time, I felt a sense of camaraderie with the other people wearing letters because it assured me I was not alone in this task, and they were going through the same struggle as I was. This is the opposite situation of Hester, as she was the only one with a letter, and while she had people who could support her such as Pearl and Dimmesdale, she was truly alone in her experience with the letter.

When I was approached, or when I approached someone to have a conversation with them about my letter, the most significant thing that stood out at me was my awkwardness and hesitation to talk about my letter. I would use humor or change the subject to avoid going deeper into my flaw and insecurity. However, as I talked to more people, especially those who were also wearing letters, I began to realize that everyone has their own ‘scarlet letter’ and their own shortcomings. Oftentimes when we isolate someone for their imperfections or mistakes, it is because we are insecure about our own issues and we funnel it into shaming someone by exposing their flaws in an attempt to turn others away from seeing our own flaws. Similarly, Hester faces the criticism and condemnation of others in her village, who do not hold back in their denunciation of her transgression, even though they all have committed sins. They put all the attention on Hester’s wrongdoing so it can overshadow their own flaws and insecurities. Through this experience I learned that no one is perfect, and our flaws are part of who we are. I know they will never go away, so I can only learn to accept them and grow from that.

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