Note: See an updated version of this poem, along with a video performance, here.
Growing up, I used to have this image.
An image society placed in my mind,
which grew to consume my entire perception
of what a woman should be.
She was taller,
and She had bigger curves.
She had long, glossy brown-black hair
and big, blue eyes.
And She could flirt.
She was confident that she was attractive.
She did whatever She wanted with whomever She wished,
and She didn’t give a damn.
All the boys liked her.
And She was loud.
She was not quiet at all.
In fact, She was extremely extroverted.
She walked into a room, and She laughed and smiled,
and She was funny.
and She wasn’t smart–oh no!–
She didn’t think about things too much.
She didn’t speak her mind or share her opinion.
She was always silly and fun and carefree.
And She never had any problems.
And She never shed any tears.
And everyone loved her.
And I loved her,
She, this image of who I should be.
I loved her.
I envied her.
Because in every way She was the opposite of me.
I, who was often quiet,
I, who froze up in a room of strangers.
I, who wasn’t funny at all.
I was awkward and tongue-tied.
And I wasn’t extroverted.
I could spend hours alone writing or drawing or reading,
and a crowd full of people often felt like hell.
And I was broken.
And I cried sometimes.
And I was hurting.
Because I was not She.
She, the image of who I thought I should be.
Because no one loves someone like me.
Years passed, and I began to grow up.
So many people told me who I should be.
So many people told me I should be She.
And they laughed, and they scorned,
And I tried so hard to be what they wanted of me.
I lost myself,
Time and and time again.
It was like drowning–
only whenever I thought I was really going under,
I came back to the surface.
Lots of things happened.
Bad things and good things.
Heartbreak and depression and loneliness.
But through all the hardness, I began to live.
And through all the darkness, I began to see.
I cried and cried,
I felt like I was dying,
But in the tears, I finally found Me.
And one day not so long ago,
I looked at myself in the mirror,
and I thought:
I do not have to be She,
The image society tells me I should be.
The unattainable wish and incomparable dream
of a woman who doesn’t exist.
I will be a real woman.
A living, breathing human being.
I, who am slender and small.
I, who’ve always liked short hair better than long.
I, who am not loud or funny.
I, who am smart and stubborn and strong.
I will often be quiet and think,
and I will see things that others don’t see.
I will look at people and love them,
even when they so quickly forget me.
I will write and I will create,
I will run through the mountains,
And sing in the valleys.
Sometimes, I will cry.
And I will always be broken.
But I will be real.
I will live.
I will be strange and wild, winsome and free.
I won’t let others tell me who I should be.
And I won’t let the image of She haunt me.
I will be strong.
I will be courageous.
I will be Me.
Me, who is so much more than She.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Anna Om