Do you know Arielle? She is an articulate, creative, grade 11 student who is a newly published author of a children’s book called, “Perfectly Imperfect”. The book features Paula, a beautiful parrot with colourful feathers … the story reveals Paula’s difficult but heartwarming journey of how she lives with Trichotillomania, a body-focused repetitive behaviour that Arielle developed (more commonly known as hair-pulling). Knowing that I would love the title of the book (one of our clothing designs is called Perfectly Imperfect!), and love supporting young people making waves, fellow member, Sharon Neiss Arbess introduced me, and we did this interview. I read a book once that urged us to talk to young people, because they know stuff we don’t … and urged young people to talk to older people, because we know stuff they don’t … so here we are to learn from the inspiring young woman!
If you’d like to meet Arielle and be in community with her and other good humans, join us in The Wellness Intelligence Collective. Find all of our interviews, including this one, and so much more Wellness Intelligence.
What does perfectly imperfect mean to you?
The title of my book, Perfectly Imperfect, is based upon the overwhelming feeling many people with trichotillomania have. Many people with “trich” feel embarrassed with their lack of hair, and demand themselves to isolate from their community in order to prevent immense shame. However, through my book, I wanted to diminish this stigma and encourage people to embrace themselves for who they are. Everyone has some sort of imperfections, that is an unavoidable aspect of life, but in order to embrace these imperfections, one must perceive them as perfections. These so-called imperfections have the potential to degrade oneself, but if someone is able to regard these imperfections as definitive, positive traits, it will allow them to view themselves in a positive light. So, make that choice to turn imperfections into perfections.
Why did you decide to write a book and what made you believe you were qualified at such a young age?
This book started off as a project for my SAP (sociology, anthropology, psychology) course. We were tasked with writing a children’s book about a mental illness of our choice. Prior to this project, I was reluctant to learn more about my condition. When assigned this project, it was a turning point for me. While this story was initially intended to be a learning experience for myself, as I continued to write, I realized the effect it could have on others. When I told my classmates which topic I was doing my project on, the most common response questioned the meaning of that condition. I realized that this was a problem, and wanted to use my book as a way to educate others, as the condition is much more common than people think. I did not know how much of an impact I could make at a young age, but wanted to do my part in spreading awareness.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty is more than just one’s physical appearance. People with trichotillomania define beauty on hair, and feel as though when the amount of hair they have decreases, so too does their beauty. That is not the case at all. Even if one were to just define beauty based on the outside, there are so many features on one’s body that are magnificent, and the lack of hair one has does not diminish the absolute beauty of every single inch of their body. Beauty is more so, though, about how one carries themselves: how they treat others, and the effort they make to help. So the line in my book where I say: You are beautiful and don’t need to hide, does relate to embracing one’s physical features, but also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a sense of kindness, despite the personal problems one faces.
Have parrots always been significant to you?
When choosing the animal for my book, I wanted something that had definitive features, so as to replicate the feeling of losing hair, something so cherished by a lot of individuals. Parrots do not have much personal meaning to me, however, through my research, I learned that many birds, including parrots, have something called pterotillomania, feather plucking. The fact that parrots have similar plucking habits make them a suitable choice for the main character.
What’s something your parents have taught you that makes you smile/laugh?
They have taught me to “let it roll”. When I was younger and was upset about something someone said, they would use the metaphor of rain on a jacket and would tell me to picture how heavy rain, which should impact the condition of the jacket, simply slides off. I still carry this metaphor with me whenever I encounter problems. Though it sounds silly and makes the problem seem less significant, it ultimately is quite helpful. If a downpour of rain is unable to diminish the well-being of a jacket, then I, too, can be resilient to any obstacles.
What’s something that you have taught yourself that makes you count on yourself?
I have taught myself the importance of planning and setting goals. When I have a stressful week, the first thing I do is reasonably consider how much I really have to do, and how long each task would likely take. From there, I create either a written or mental schedule of what I want to accomplish each day, in an attempt not to work aimlessly. In doing so, I am able to balance my time to ensure absolute productivity. At the same time, I set goals not only on what to achieve, but also the extent in which I achieve it. I put high standards on everything I complete, and, while I likely should lower these standards, they are oftentimes necessary to enforce a sense of motivation. In setting goals, even just minor ones, I count on myself to fulfill them, which ultimately provides me with a sense of accomplishment, something that is necessary for my esteem.
Least favourite thing about school?
The pressure to succeed. While this is internal pressure, the high standards I consider make school less about learning, and more about success.
What is your favourite breakfast?
Are you a morning person or night person?
I am a night person
What are a few stress-busting practices you count on now that you’ve learned so much about yourself?
I think that exercise is a practice that acts as a release for me. It allows me to focus on the specific program, rather than fixate on my stresses.
Additionally, I have begun to recognize the importance of taking short breaks to decompress as I begin to be frustrated by the task at hand. I used to demand myself to work through the temporary blocks, however I quickly learned that giving myself short breaks whenever these challenges arise allows me to temporarily take my mind off the task, and go back to it with a refreshed attitude a few minutes later.
Do you find social media helpful or hurtful?
Social media has the potential to be both helpful and hurtful, it all depends on the way it is used. Social media can be stressful. You are forced to look at everyone’s highlight reels, comparing those ‘perfect’ moments to your own low points. People acknowledge the fakeness of social media, but still compare themselves to what they see online. However, if social media is used for good, it has its benefits. Social media brings people together and is a way to learn about not only others, but also yourselves. For instance, before I was ready to open up to my peers about my trichotillomania, I would see videos on Tik Tok of other people talking about the condition. These short videos provided me with comfort that I was not alone, and even if I wasn’t able to openly talk or actively research it, I would still be able to come across information as I scroll.
Where is your happy place?
On the soccer field.
What makes someone a good friend?
Their ability to understand, even without being told. Their desire to help. Their ability to support. Their ability to be serious, but also to laugh.
What makes someone a good teacher?
A good teacher is someone who has an obvious willingness to help. They have a clear love for children, and go out of their way to bond with their students outside the curriculum. A good teacher is flexible, and is able to modify their plans for the wellbeing of their students. I have had so many influential teachers in my life who have taken an interest in understanding who I am. This allowed me to feel a sense of comfort in their class, which ultimately contributed to not only academic success, but also personal success on a larger scale.
What does Wellness Intelligence mean to you?
Wellness Intelligence, to me, is about getting into consistent routines which work for your own body. It is about first gaining an understanding of yourself, and then partaking in specific actions, daily, that meet your body’s needs. Wellness Intelligence finds a balance though. It is about creating these routines, but understanding that routines don’t have to be rigid. One must be able to understand their body, and modify their routines when necessary. Additionally, Wellness Intelligence is about conversing with others and learning and opening your mind to developing yourself based on the values of others. Wellness Intelligence is also about taking care of one’s mind. While physical wellness may be a contributing factor to that of mental wellness, there are specific actions one can take in order to preserve one’s mental wellbeing. Taking breaks, getting fresh air, spending time with friends, family and dogs, watching your favourite show, cooking, eating, and simply talking and expressing your thoughts, are all ways to be Intelligently Well. Physical and Mental Health are equally as important, and often go hand in hand with each other. It is important to find a routine that enforces the use of both mental and physical tools.