[Disclosure: This article contains some spoilers]
The drama “Another Oh Hae Young” is aptly named. Yes, it’s a drama about two women who have the same name, but it’s also the story of two women who suffer from imposter syndrome and they mirror each other in their insecurity.
Imposter syndrome is a term coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. People afflicted by imposter syndrome feel like a fraud no matter what they’ve accomplished or are capable of. Although they are high achievers, they feel that it’s only a matter of time until someone finds out how incompetent they are and that they’ve been faking it. They anxiously anticipate being embarrassed.According to the American Psychological Organization, the syndrome is not unique to women but affects anyone who feels they have to work harder to make up for a disadvantage. The extra pressure to achieve may leave a person susceptible to the syndrome if they fall short of their own, often unrealistic, standards of success.
Both women named Oh Hae Young suffer from imposter syndrome, feeling they are secretly not as capable or worthy as others perceive them to be. Ironically, the Oh Hae Young played by Seo Hyun Jin went to school with the Oh Hae Young played by Jeon Hye Bin and the inevitable comparisons made her miserable. Jeon Hye Bin’s character was the queen bee at school, popular, and always the center of attention. Seo Hyun Jun’s character was always “the other Oh Hae Young.” Occasionally, she was unfavorably compared to the “Pretty Oh Hae Young.”
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Seo Hyun Jin’s Oh Hae Young was shy in school. She felt she was plain compared to her namesake and saw herself as an outsider, definitely not as one of the cool kids. Jeon Hye Bin’s character was the standard by which she was measured and she fell short. In the drama’s present day segments, Seo Hyun Jin’s character has matured into an attractive and stylish woman. She has the kind of quirkily endearing personality that’s often born of growing up as an outsider. Although she’s attractive, likeable, and has a good job, she’s not secure in her accomplishments or secure in her sense of self-worth. After the sudden cancellation of her wedding, she meets Jeon Hye Bin’s character again, having to work under her at the office. She’s overwhelmed with insecurity and feels like a second-class citizen. Anyone might feel emotionally derailed by a canceled wedding, but meeting Jeon Hye Bin’s Oh Hae Young adds the emotional equivalent baggage of returning to the worst part of high school.
In a conversation with Park Do Kyung, played by Eric, Seo Hyun Jin’s character tells him that Jeon Hye Bin’s character is in another league than she is. Seo Hyun Jun classifies herself as a B, while she classifies Jeon Hye Bin’s character as an A. And she classifies her former fiancé, played by Lee Jae Yoon, as another A. She figures that he must have been confused to want to marry her and that they broke up because he finally came to his senses. She’s sure the marriage was cancelled because he realized her shortcomings.
Meanwhile, the other Oh Hae Young might seem chic, savvy, and successful, but she’s also far from secure. Jeon Hye Bin’s character had an unhappy, impoverished childhood and has been working overtime to make up for it. She worries that her past will make people look down on her so she works hard at being successful and popular. When the mother of her ex-fiancé said she was not worthy to marry into the family, her fears and insecurity forced her to run away.
While it might be a bizarre coincidence that Eric’s character dates two women named Oh Hae Young, it’s no surprise he dates them. His character has a history of feeling sorry for women, based on past experiences with his pitiful mother. During the course of the drama he expresses pity for both Oh Hae Youngs. He almost married the first Oh Hae Young out of pity. He figured she was so broken, so damaged by her childhood that he could not break up with her. Despite Seo Hyun Jin’s admiration for Jeon Hye Bin’s character, Park Do Kyung actually pities the “pretty Oh Hae Young” and sees her as less than perfect. He treats Seo Hyun Jin’s character as if she were more resilient.
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The drama illustrates the obvious lesson that every woman has her own battles to fight. Another woman’s life may seem perfect from a distance, but it’s often not so appealing up close either. “Another Oh Hae Young” is at its strongest, story-wise, when it shows how precarious and fragile a woman’s sense of self-worth can be.
Hopefully by the end of the drama both Oh Hae Youngs will give up on their impossible standards, learn to love themselves, and realize their true worth. Both characters have a lot to offer.
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