Maggie’s Musings—Emma Wagner’s “Don’t Let Them See”

A study in mirrors.
Insecurities affect us all.
Insecurities affect us all.
Onnika Hallam

Poetry utilizes few words and instills them with emotion. When a writer does it well, those emotions seep from the page and onto us, the readers. In this piece by sophomore Emma Wagner, my emotions are reflected in her words as she is in the dreaded mirror, the mirror she knows, I fear. Her few words reflect my every emotion, I identify with every line. As a woman. As a writer. As a teenager. As a sister. As a daughter. As a person. I recognize her.



I wake up each morning

Not wanting to get up

How much effort

do I need to put in today?

Will I be good enough?


Dragging my body to the bathroom

Desperately avoiding the mirror

If there was nothing to see

I’d walk out the door and not want to cry

Why is my hair so messy?

Ew, my face is so oily


I brush my hair and wash my face

I hope this will make me look decent

Cover my face like a mask with makeup

Style my frizzy hair

Don’t let let them see me

They’ll think I’m a fraud


The outfit I chose covers my arms

My arms are so hairy

I look like an ape

But I still show some skin

I have to fit in

This outfit looks horrible

My belly looks fat

Why does she wear it better?


Every step I take

in the crowded school halls

I feel like a freshwater fish 

stuck in the ocean,

Panicking and choking on salt

Why are they all staring at me?

Is the pimple on my nose that noticeable?


I analyze each girl

As if we’re in a competition

Who is the prettiest?

Who is the smartest?

Most confident and popular

I hope I win


I wish my teeth were as white as hers

I knew I should have worn different pants

Why do hoodies look better on her? 

She looks at me

Does she see my insecurities?

Does she see me?


Safe in class,

where all of the attention

is on the teacher

I don’t understand the assignment

Should I raise my hand?

Ask for help?

No, don’t do that

Everyone expects you to be smart

Don’t let them see how brainless you are


My friends are the best

They compliment me

They like my outfit

Pretty hair

They’re lying

They remind me of how cute I am

You’re ugly


Not good enough


It doesn’t matter how hard you try

You’ll always be worthless

Just end it all

It’s easier that way

No one will care

No one will miss you

No one will cry for you

They’ll feel elated to not have to look me


Walking home

I stare at my feet

Why do I walk so weird?

Waiting at the crosswalk

Remembering a time in class

I’m sure they snickered 

when you got the answer wrong

It was so easy

You’re such a cretin


At home

I’m safe

But there’s still so much to do

Homework and chores,

Care for the dogs

Don’t be lazy

Help out more

Mom and dad worked all day

You don’t deserve to feel tired


Trying my best to not disappoint them

Taking on the most responsibilities

as the eldest

You’re so mean to your brother

He doesn’t love you

I’m trying my best

You need to try harder 


For years I battled

with the voices in my head

Screaming at me

You will always be worthless!


I’m a freshwater fish placed in the ocean

Self-esteem like water

Flowing out of my cells

Until there is nothing left 


I’m shriveled and useless

What else am I going to lose?

No one cared

No one will

I have to swim on my own


Little by little

I swim to the river

I tune out the voice

Sloughing off the parts of me

labeled “not good enough”


I can finally see

And love the real me

My long eyelashes

Beautiful hair

Winning curves

Contagious smile

Personality and intelligence 

My natural, God-given beauty


Devoting energy to love

Is easier than exhaustion from hate

I learned to respect

Grasped to love 

My body and mind I now appreciate


– Emma Wagner

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