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Build-A-Girl Workshop: The Making of My Identity With BPD

Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Fortunately for him, he probably knew what it meant to be himself. I don’t think I ever knew who I was aside from being bits and pieces of other people.

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can involve identity struggles. For me, this means having a personality dependent on traits I’ve picked up from other people. When someone is speaking to me, they’re also speaking to everyone who I’ve recently interacted with. My open mind has no bouncer to control who influences me. Instead, the collage of aesthetics, beliefs and habits that make me who I am are curated from an unlimited variety of sources. Through casual interactions, I am designed and presented as what some people would call an individual.

The process of building my personality is quite simple. Like a limp carcass at Build-A-Bear Workshop, I begin as an empty body, waiting to be stuffed. Before I am stuffed, I’m fluffed up with some minor alterations to my clean canvas. I paint my hair with the dye my sister’s passion stems from. She resents that the spotlight is moved away from her budding career and onto my aqua hair that looks “so original.” My sister knows better. She did it first. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have even known where to purchase the bottle of dye in the first place. My sloppy makeup pays a poor tribute to my friend’s girlfriend, whose winged eyeliner is sharp enough to cut through glass. My lines are dull, like an overused pencil that hasn’t seen fresh graphite in weeks. Thankfully, she showed me how she wings her eyeliner so beautifully, so I can eventually rip off her style effectively.

My seams are opened wide enough to fill me with every bit of stuffing that will fit into me. Some feminist ideology is pushed into my head (but of course, it’s only my communication professor’s version of feminism). There’s still some room to squeeze Wicca, Judaism and Unitarian Universalism into the remaining space. I was told they would change my life, so they must be worth giving a try. Despite all of that, atheism manages to make its way into my mind. God doesn’t exist, but He will still make my life whole. Contradictions make my belief system whole, with my opinions changing every time someone brings up a new idea. There is always room in my head for more stuffing, even though I’m already stuffed enough up there. A few more concepts to consider won’t hurt.

My stomach is stuffed next. I am always taking stuffing out and putting it back in based on how much stuffing is inside of the women on my Instagram feed. When being big feels beautiful, I’m stuffed with my favorite cuisines. When the models at my height weigh lighter than me, stuffing is removed. Sometimes, I see a PETA video on Facebook, and my stuffing is replaced with tofu and vegetables. Once I read the comments section of the video, I’ll find some criticism of that lifestyle, and will put the chicken back inside of my stomach.

A few silky, plush hearts are placed inside my chest. One heart is filled with my friends’ opinions of others. My first roommate in college decided the guy who hung out with us in the dining hall was someone who should annoy me. Even though the guy sitting next to me in my drama class never gave me any problems, he’s apparently a terrible person. My classmates told me so, and therefore, he is to be avoided. Apparently, Quentin Tarantino is racist, but I haven’t watched any of his films or listened to any of his interviews. My professor said it, so it must be true. Another heart is filled with half-assed hobbies that were inspired by others. I was never a fan of anime until my crush in high school started watching it. He didn’t even offer to share it with me; I simply decided that passion was also mine. When we started dating, he complained he wanted to have just one hobby I didn’t try to pick up as well. Thankfully, my current boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan by proxy, even though I’ve never watched a game and know nothing about the Premier League. All I know is that, apparently, I dislike Arsenal. My cousin’s performance in a local production of Annie lead to my audition for a drama program at school. Nobody celebrated my acceptance, since they all knew I only tried out to copy my more successful cousin. The third and final heart contains the wishes that other people have for me. Apparently, I wish I would finish college. I guess I also wish I’d marry a nice Jewish man with an upper-middle-class upbringing. I don’t even know if these are things I truly want, but I don’t know anything else to strive for that hasn’t been suggested to me.

In my foot, a voice box contains phrases that are repeated when you squeeze the limb. My friend Tom recorded the word “groovy,” and it’s now my response to everything that sounds pleasant. My other friend Barbie recorded a joke I now recite whenever it’s relevant. New catchphrases are recorded into the voice box every couple of months, and they get added to the cycle of rhetoric I stole from others.

Eventually, I’m sewn up. A little bit of room is left to add more stuffing as needed. Besides, it needs to be easy to take out the stitches to add to my curated being. My full form is taken to a clothing store to complete my aesthetic. I steal a little bit from my sister’s closet, and a little bit from my best friend’s closet. My friend and I have different body types, but I still wear her clothes. They don’t flatter me quite as well as they flatter her. They’re probably not supposed to. At the end of my shopping spree, I walk out of the mall dressed like Hot Topic and Forever 21 had a baby. My T-shirt has a quote on it from a movie I never saw. I just thought it looked cool.

Borderline personality disorder has left me with no true personality of my own. Whatever the mess is I’ve created right now will be replaced with a brand new set of traits in about a year. When my therapist tells me to just be myself, I roll my eyes and sigh. Without everyone else’s personalities stuffed inside of me, it makes me feel bare.

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Unsplash photo via Alex Blăjan