A villanelle about learning how to love again

I wrote the following villanelle – a highly structured poem of 19 lines – for young women who are struggling to love and appreciate their bodies, just as I have struggled.

Women of all ages are constantly exposed to images and literature via media that portray successful women as thin, toned, and flawless, which are not only unreasonable expectations, but often are impossible to achieve. This interpretation of the “ideal woman”, though unfounded, continues to negatively influence young women in the U.S. and around the world who believe that they will never be able to attain the “ideal.” This often leads to body image issues and self-deprecating beliefs, as it gradually begins to distort young people’s mindsets and their perception of themselves.

I too have fallen prey to the desire to achieve a flawless and desirable outward appearance, and that desire has held reign over my life. For the past several years, every time I assessed my body in the mirror, I’d find it repulsive. Then, I’d succumb to self-deprecating thoughts that lingered with me throughout the rest of the day. These thoughts had negative effects on my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. When I began to come to terms with the fact that my thoughts were having detrimental effects on my health, I realized that something needed to change.

Now, I am beginning to fight these thoughts in an attempt to change my mindset for good. And I am learning to fight those thoughts with truth – the truth that my body is one of the greatest tools that I have, and it deserves to be loved, respected, and appreciated.

As a way of changing my mindset, I’ve been writing poetry as a way to discuss and reconstruct my thoughts. In this particular poem, I decided to play with the villanelle structure. Because the first line and the last line are repeated several times throughout the villanelle, I wanted to make those two lines as powerful, meaningful, and as true as possible: my body is nothing to be ashamed of – my body is a gift. It takes me to class, it keeps me warm, it keeps me safe.

These lines are truths that I need to repeat to myself over and over again. They are truths that I need to remember and acknowledge, truths I need to repeat until I take them to heart. My body deserves to be loved, and I’m learning to love it again.

I wrote this poem as a reminder not only for myself, but for the hundreds of thousands of women who have grown to despise their bodies. This is a reminder for every single woman that your body deserves your respect and it deserves your unconditional love.

 

A villanelle about learning how to love again

By Julia Eberhardt

 

My body is a ship at sea –

a vessel for my weary soul.

I will let it carry me.

Wherever it needs to go, I’m ready.

My fat is fuel, my skin is steel,

my body is a ship at sea –

it’s steady, rooted like a tree.

I am the fruit of its branches.

I will let it carry me.

It’s as strong as I will it to be.

For as long as I stay afloat,

my body is a ship at sea.

Because in my body I am free

and in my body I am safe.

I will let it carry me.

My body is a potted vase,

a jar of clay –

My body is a ship at sea.

And I will let it carry me.

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