This past May, 13-year-old Olivia Vella, a then 7th grader at Queen Creek Middle School in Mesa, Arizona, was asked to compose and deliver a slam poem on a topic she’s passionate about as the final for her writing class. Wowing her teacher and bringing several students to tears, Olivia’s powerful performance of her poem – “Why Am I Not Good Enough?” – was captured on video by her classmate Maria, and has now taken the internet by storm, being viewed over 225,000 times.
Through each and every impact-filled line of her poem, Olivia candidly articulates what so many of us have felt at different stages in our lives – in middle school and beyond – compliments of the societal pressures girls and women, especially, experience and subsequently put on ourselves to fit in or look and be a certain way. It’s a vicious and harmful cycle that leads to insecurities, valuing the acceptance of others above self-acceptance, and never feeling “good enough”.
Now just a few weeks into the 8th grade, Olivia spoke with WYSK, via email, about “Why Am I Not Good Enough?” and her unexpected viral fame, which she said “actually scared me a little.” Olivia told us that the poem is an expression of “emotions and thoughts” she has “every day.” And while her words have already moved hundreds of thousands of strangers from all over, Olivia hopes they’ll have an equal impact on her. “I hope that someday I will embrace the message in my poem, to love myself! I’m still getting there.”
Why Am I Not Good Enough?
By Olivia Vella
Great, you woke up. Well;
1. Take a shower, you don’t want to smell.
2. Pick out an outfit that will fit in with the latest trends and won’t make you the laughing stock of the school more than you already are.
3. Put on some makeup so you actually look pretty and you can show your face in public.
You can’t even recognize yourself, and your face tingles with an itch you can’t relieve, otherwise you will have ruined the meticulous painting you applied to your hideous face.
4. Don’t forget to style your hair in elegant curls; you can’t let the people at school see how your hair frizzes up naturally like an electrocuted monkey.
5. Shove your fat feet into your toe-pinching, blood-blistering Converse shoes, because everyone at school is wearing them and you CAN’T be the odd one out.
As you gaze into your bathroom mirror, you see a stranger, that somehow stole your reflection, and replaced it with a completely different girl.
Every part of your outfit is uncomfortable. But even though you spent hours trying to look pretty, you’ll never be as good as those other girls at school.
You are really holding back a few tears, but you feel like you are holding back a tsunami of emotions that you can’t let anyone know that you feel because they may not respect you the same way–or did they ever?
Why am I not good enough?
Beauty is pain.
6. Get off the bus.
7. Find a group of people you can walk with to class, because heaven knows you can’t just walk alone.
But you don’t even like these people. They make dirty jokes and cuss a lot. They laugh and joke about you.
You know you shouldn’t hang out with them, but hey, they are popular, and you just want people to like you like they like them.
You are in the stocks, as people throw judging tomatoes and hating heads of lettuce at your insecure little head.
You cannot stand up for yourself, because you are alone, trapped, and defenseless. And you cannot stand up for yourself, because these popular kids are the royalty of the school, and what they say and do goes.
You take each comment, each judgement, each assumption, each opinion, each strange look, each remark, each criticism, each review, each report, each assessment, and with it your self-esteem plummets like a sinking ship–down, down, down, to the dark and dreary depths below.
You look at all of the other girls; your mind racing a mile a minute. I wish I had her hair. I wish I had her eyes. I wish I had her perfect teeth. I wish I was as skinny as her. I wish I had her social confidence. I wish that as many boys that like her liked me.
Why am I not good enough?
Well, life isn’t fair.
8. Get your work done.
The only part of your life that seems to be solvable is actual school work.
You take pride in your work, because it is possibly the only thing special about you.
You do it to see the radiant smiles on your teacher’s faces as they applaud your work. Their joyful praise is the gentle rain that brings a magnificent rainbow, the sunshine that brings forth fields of sweet daisies, and one of the only things that brings you happiness.
But, it is not popular to be smart. In fact, you are seen as a nerd, too smart, human calculator, brainiac, robot, geek, computer girl, know-it-all, teacher’s pet, suck up, and any other wonderful names you can think of.
Your peers’ jealousy is the pollution that prevents a rainbow, and the bulldozer that plows through the once golden fields of daisies, the intangible object that crushes your happiness like a bug.
A’s are getting you nothing but torment.
Why am I not good enough?
Just get over it.
9. It’s the end of the day, get ready for bed.
10. Undress, get your pajamas on. “Wow, did I get fatter today?”
11. Undo your hairdo. “Man, my hair looks like a mop.”
12. Wash off all of your makeup. “I can’t even look at myself.”
This is my life everyday. I can’t help it.
I’ve been told you can’t compare apples and oranges.
I’ve been told that I am distorted.
I’ve been told that I need to be grateful for who I am.
But going through your middle school years, you are in charge of your own journey to find yourself on a small jet, and sometimes you can’t control what happens to you–the turbulence will throw you off-course.
But, popular isn’t always a good thing.
You tell yourself, “I just want people to like me; I just want to be accepted.”
But skipping meals and marking up your wrist isn’t going to fix that.
You look at other girls and wish you could be like them, but other girls are looking at you and wishing they were you.
Society infers that girls have to have skinny waists, tan skin, long silky hair, perfectly straight and white teeth, big butts, and etc.
Society claims that girls have to wear lots of makeup to be pretty.
Society claims that girls have to wear skanky clothing and do inappropriate things to be happy as well as “cool.”
But society is wrong. You are loved. You are precious. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are capable. You are deserving of respect. You can eat that meal. You are 1 in 7 billion.
And most of all, you are good enough.