We met before the time I knew myself.
It was the time when your approval mattered—when your approval became the foundation of the fragmented woman I was.
“You tell me who I am,” I would say, as I awaited your instruction, wide-eyed and so very eager to please. And you told me who I needed to be to win your approval, and your love so laced with conditions and strings attached to heights I would never reach. You drew your lines and wooed me into them.
But your lines soon grew into walls. Walls so wide and tall and deep I could no longer see over them or around them. They closed in around me and I became captive to them as they seethed with your hushed expectations.
I could never leave, for if I did I would know of your rejection, your disapproval, your criticism, and abuse. And you were the one to build me, so I could not bear that you would break me.
Though afraid of the darkness, I stayed in your walls so fraught with conditional love and approval. Sometimes I would see a shard of light, fleetingly, and I would believe for one whimsical moment in the love you were never capable of; that perhaps you would see beyond the surface so smeared with scars and recognize the purity of the heart underneath.
But I would soon learn your love was not light, nor hope, nor truth, nor freedom. It was the sound of the door as it closed behind you, the lock and key to your walls of darkness. I molded and shaped and bent myself to fit within your walls, but no matter how small I became for you, my efforts were futile when the walls would always change shape on your irrational whims.
The darkness grew thicker, more pungent with your dissatisfaction, until my heart too became dark, filled with a blackness that poisoned my mind and wasted away my soul. I began to hate myself almost as much as you did, this girl who could do no right. Worthless, hopeless, useless.
You nearly broke me.
But not quite.
Because you didn’t hear the primal roar that began to swell inside the pit of my stomach before it made its way into my bones and out through my scream. You didn’t know what I had already survived through, the tenaciousness of my strength, my courage, my resilience. You didn’t know of my fighting spirit that may have lay down short of hope for a time, but never without defeat.
For I cannot be defeated.
I am a warrior, made of the dust and the stars and the oceans and the skies.
I am a phoenix that has risen once again, a force of nature, a hurricane, a storm, a raging fire.
I am certain, I am sure. I am complete.
My feet stand firm upon the earth and she carries me, her energy rising up within me, and though the winds may blow I cannot be moved. The shard of light was never you. It was always the light within me, the embers of a powerful spirit you never quite burned out.
Your walls have no hold on me as I walk away now, light on the wings of my freedom. You tried, but you did not break me. You will try again, you always do. But I refuse. I know who I am now. I hear the voice of truth as it whispers in the stillness of the place you used to be. My light can no longer be contained.
And I know I will never again be found captive within the dark walls of your approval.