Stages of Reflection
By Olivia Wronski
“Stages of Reflection” reveals the ongoing journey of self-love in three basic stages.
Why do I continue to look into mirrors
When I know I’ll hate what I see?
How could I ever love myself
When I look nothing like the beautiful people all around me?
On my phone in little square Instagram posts,
Posing in front of New York City buildings,
Sprawled on beaches,
Perched on benches.
And they look so gorgeous,
Skinny and shapely,
Small face and small waist,
Which extends to delicate, full curves.
How can I look at them and then at myself
And not see every single one of my flaws
From the dip in my hips to my round face,
To my large arms and tummy
which don’t get smaller
no matter how long I starve,
until I’m sweating through my shirt into the carpet.
And even then drenched in sweat,
I was drenched in tears.
I need to hide myself.
Hide these pudgy sides
These pudgy arms
This pudgy face.
So I hide.
Underneath layers of jackets and sweaters,
And long sleeve shirts and baggy pants.
But the layers of clothing build upon my body
Like layers of sediment over eons
Until I feel as big as a mountain
And my sadness collects like snow over my head and shoulders.
It wasn’t always like this.
I was happy with myself when I was ten.
When I would wear what I liked
instead of hiding behind dark hoodies and jeans.
I wore fire truck red, tiger orange, sunny yellow.
I wore springtime green, coral reef blue, and grape jelly purple.
I was happy with myself when I was ten.
Until my aunt reached to pinch my stomach
Turning to my mother and laughing
“She’s getting fat, how much does she weigh?”
Now at 17
I pinch my own stomach,
Naked before a shower
When I have to be conscious of the space I take up in the small stall.
Speaking just as my aunt did:
“You’re still getting fat. How much do you weigh today?”
Because my worth is defined by my weight
A woman should be light as a feather
But still have large, soft breasts,
Buttocks and thighs.
But also a thigh gap a train could easily fit through.
And the frame of a child
with no hair anywhere but their head,
But the frame of a child and wide hips.
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I was on the outside looking in
At a world of people who fit these starry-eyed standards.
The beauty of their bodies is a musical piece,
Rolling waves of sound.
Flat stomach hourglass guitars,
Hair strand strings,
Round hipped harps,
A tinkling, sweet sound.
I knew I could be music too—but how?
I looked outwards at others like me.
Confident and beautiful in their unique bodies
Proud of their curves and rolls and roundness
Posing in the little Instagram squares on my phone.
Their happiness encouraged mine.
I looked inwards and pulled the instruments from my body.
My body is also a musical piece
Rolling waves of harmonies.
And suddenly I am in a concert hall
Playing the special sound of my body.
My stomach is round,
Just like a drum.
Meticulously crafted ridges and rounds
I let loose loud, thundering laughs.
My hips that curve in, rather than out
Are the shape of violins,
Delicately curved pieces of art, pieces of me.
A piece in the grand orchestra of my body.
My legs, long and large
Are what carry me over mountains
Through subway tunnels,
Big, beautiful, and strong.
These broad shoulders,
when I stand tall
block the powerful waves of the ocean
Stone pillars that grow more beautiful as they age.
Why do we reject the bodies
Mother Nature crafted us with?
The body she made by
Twisting locks of vines for our hair
And molding us with the clay of the earth
Filling our mud bodies with beauty
That we’ve shattered.
We’ve smashed the hardened clay
Torn the vines from our heads
And from the pieces of our bodies.
This wild jungle of human beauty
Has been deforested.
That wood reaches the factory
And we are manufactured into
Wooden Barbie dolls,
identical and monotone.
If society is a garden,
It is a boring garden.
The same flowers,
Hedges manicured into straight rectangles.
This garden would look so much better
Overflowing with different flowers,
An explosion of color on every bush, in every nook and cranny
If each body was made unique
Why do we try so hard to be identical?
I am worth it.
This body works hard everyday.
My body is what gives me life,
It’s the reason I can laugh loudly
and the reason I can see sunsets
To finding love within myself
Is not an easy task.
It is an enduring process of continuous reflection.
But the present me is not alone.
My future self and I will trudge through snowstorms and sand,
Swim for miles across seas
Until I’ve returned from my adventures
A source of compassion and beauty,
Smiling at my own reflection in mirrors
Because I am beautiful
Even if I am different.
The inspiration behind this piece is my real world struggle with self-love. Learning to love oneself is a common battle in a modern society where outrageous ideals and standards reinforce strict limitations on what it means to be beautiful. I wanted to take my personal experiences with this struggle against conventional standards to create a poem that would map out my journey of coming to accept and love myself. I wanted the piece to be some level of relatable, so that anyone could read the poem and find something in it that they connected with. Writing the piece really solidified the change in thought I briefly touched on within the poem. It reinforced the fact that I do love myself the way I am now, even if I am nowhere near what is conventionally considered beautiful and worthy. I learned that my self-worth can only be determined by myself and I saw the harsh reality of society in a new perspective. Writing this piece forced me to face many of these self-hate demons straight on, and I credit the development of this piece to be an important factor in overcoming them.
Olivia Wronski is a hopeless romantic, growing up surrounded by the romance genre in books and movies. As an artist, they find ways to express themselves through creative outlets like art and dance. She is an environmental activist, working to change the way we treat our earth, starting with her immediate family and local neighborhood. They are also a queer activist, pushing for rights for all. As a side note, she is a twin sister and is very interested in understanding the phenomenon of twins.