Adolescence can be incredibly rough. It’s a time of intense insecurity and social pressure, a time of feeling awkward and confused about how to transition into adulthood, all the while surrounded by peers undergoing the same stress. Recently, an Arizona seventh grader delivered a powerful spoken word poem about the pressure she feels to conform to certain aesthetic ideals and to find a way into the “popular” crowd. Her poem features a refrain that will fill familiar to anyone who has lived through middle school: “Why am I not good enough?”
Olivia Vella, 13, wrote her poem as a final project at her middle school in Queen Creek, AZ. The school released a video of her reciting the poem that has gone viral. In the poem, she describes the instructions she gives herself throughout the day. “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,” she recites. “Put on some makeup so you can actually show your face in public so you can be a little bit pretty.”
“As you gaze into the bathroom mirror, you see a stranger that somehow stole your reflection and replaced it with a completely different girl,” Vella says. Throughout the poem, she talks about nearly buckling under the pressure to conform, to not be the “odd one out.”
Vella toldAZ Family that she decided to write the poem in response to being “picked on” for doing well in school. Indeed, in her poem, she discusses how getting good grades can be a social liability. “[I]t is not popular to be smart… A’s are getting you nothing but torment,” she recites.
The viral response to the poem has proven that the anxiety and insecurity that Vella expresses are a very common among adolescents. (I know I certainly felt like that at 13.) “People I don't even know would say ‘Hey Olivia I really liked your monologue and I feel the exact same way’,” Vella told AZ Family. “And it was really eye opening because I for most of the time thought I was the only one that felt this way and I was crazy for feeling it.”
Vella ends her poem on an empowering note:
You can see Vella perform her poem here.