A Reflective Essay Example

A reflective essay explores the writer’s feelings about a certain subject or experience. It has the ability to weave the writer’s reflections together in a manner that conveys new thoughts and ideas to its reader. This example reflective essay written by Zine Steenkamp does it perfectly, and is good enough to grab the attention of its reader from the start.

 Reflective essay

Defining and undefining a life defining moment

(written by Zine Steenkamp)

"Who are you?"

My automatic, almost programmed response would be: "I am Zine Steenkamp, a grade 12 learner at Cornwall Hill College." Is this how I define myself? by name and by school?

"But who are you...really?”

I pause to consider the question.

“Well. I have heard you ARE, what you eat, sleep and breathe...Now, if this is true, then in my matric year, where all I eat, sleep and breathe is schoolwork, I must be defined as SCHOOL. Or rather its subjects and curriculum.”

I discovered that this is not such a far fetching concept. According to the dictionary, the definition of a school curriculum is:” A course of deeds and experiences through which children grow and mature in becoming young adults” and a life defining moment is:”a moment or event that shapes the direction and focus of our lives from that point on”. These definitions imply future growth from a sound foundation. I have come to the conclusion that schooling and life defining moments are one and the same and that I can discover my identity, literally and figuratively through the syllabus.

In English, it would be suitable to define my life and its meaning in terms of a dictionary, a reference book or quote. And who better to use as reference than William Shakespeare. Shakespeare posed the question: “What’s in a name?” And although a rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, it is the name of a “rose” that encapsulates and defines a unique character. A name creates the sweet aroma...the mystery. What aroma will my name define? Well, according to www.namesearch.com , - none! “Zine” – has no meaning at all. What was this webpage trying to tell me? My life has meaning! My name, my identity, everything I am and that which my name represents is unique. Maybe – it just means that ME, My Life and I are still UNDEFINED! I am not yet characterised by a single defining moment within my life, nor do I prescribe to any particular stereotype. I would rather be viewed according to my dictionary:

I am (my own adjective)

I am (my own verb)

I am (my own noun)

Thus, I have the ability to be what I like, do what I like, when I like and be described as something I like. I have witnessed life as a circus. Life as a minefield. Life as a rollercoaster, puzzle, a song, a journey and a dance. This confirms my opinion, that life is seldom made up of a single defining moment. My life is (my own metaphor).

Maths is all about graphs, equations and measurements. It’s about formulas and predictions, the sum of positives and negatives. I have come to trust in the outcome of certain formulae, for example:

SUCCESS=HARD WORK + PERSEVERENCE

TRUTH = WHAT YOU THINK HAPPENED

               WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

LOVE = LIKE X LIKE

DISAPPOINTMENT = EXPECTATION

                                  REALITY

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand the sum of a life because in algebraic terms the answer might be x, y or z2 , whereas in real life it can either calculate to heartache, pleasure or uncertainty. My life is still a variable, with me in the process of setting up an equation, adding and subtracting pros and cons, whilst integrating learning curves. In geometric terms, I hope to become neither obtuse nor narrow-minded enough to be an acute angle. Although I might not know the exact degree of my angle, I value the view from a different angle.

A scientific definition of the element Zine would describe me in terms of matter and molecules. My chemical and physical properties are determined by various subatomic particles namely: protons(positive particles), electrons (negative particles) and neutrons (neutral particles). If government regulations, school rules and parental control wasn’t enough, I still have to conform to Newtons laws and the law of attraction and repulsion simultaneously. The plus side is that the world is an energy field and I have infinite potential. However, my properties, characteristics and features can only be discovered by experimentation.

According to the accounting equation, I should be classified as follows:

ASSETS = OWNERS EQUITY + LIABILITIES

In other words, my net worth is measured by what I own (cars, clothes and money), how I sell myself to others, the effective utilization of my assets or talents; the value of my character and the management of resources: making the best out of what I have. In order for my life to operate as a successful business entity and yield profits I need to balance my assets with my liabilities, developing my talents to outweigh my shortcomings.

In Art you are not necessarily required to colour in between the lines, therefore I do not need to conform to the role that society has outlined for me. To be a skilful artist, i need to be creative, think outside the box and develop my own style, technique and expression. Art is not necessarily perfect but nevertheless beautiful. Ultimately, my philosophy is that “Life is a canvas and you gotta throw all the paint you have on it.”

The last period of the day...history – it dictates that I am all that which is in my past, my experience, my culture, my roots, my heritage and my genetics. But the historical event under inspection (namely my life) is still in action, still subject to change and there is not yet enough evidence or records for it to be defined. Still this learning area is crucial for growth and development.

Therefore, at the end of the day I am defined in terms of school, the various tests life has handed out at me, the self-experiments that have highlighted my unique properties. I have had a great role models and amazing teachers that provided me with the building blocks to successfully achieve the learning outcomes in phase teenage. The past four years have felt like just a moment but I know it is this moment that has made me who I am and shaped me into what I shall become.



Zine has clearly woven together her ideas in this reflective essay sample. Her transitions are smooth and flow together superbly. A relective essay must also explore lessons learned and this one has succesfully achieved this.

In conclusion:

  • A strong reflective essay explores how the writer feels about a subject or experience.
  • A strong reflective essay reflects the writer's relationship with the subject
  • A strong reflective essay clearly explores lessons learned.
  • A strong reflective essay still proves a point.
  • A strong reflective essay successfully weaves together the writer's reflections and conveys new thoughts and feelings to its reader.




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