Tell me I’m pretty.
That you like my hair, my eyes, my smile.
Say that my laugh is contagious,
That I have the power to shift the energy in the room.
Tell me you love my positive energy,
My hardworking, diligent nature.
I’m the responsible one.
Pat me on the head and tell me I’m good—
I’m a good girl.
Better than all the rest.
Tell me I’m smart, wise, and mature.
I want your appreciation, your love,
I’ll do anything to get your attention.
Tell me I’m giving, generous, lovely, and kind.
Tell me you like me.
Let me know
I am, after all, seeking my worthiness in you.
All of you—
All of you who do not live or breathe or reside
And if I see judgment in your eyes
About something I like,
Try to convince myself I don’t like
If you’re displeased,
If I sense even the smallest whiff that you’re displeased,
I’ll shift and mold and shape myself—
Do whatever it takes, whatever I can
To please you,
To make you glad—
Even if it means
And who I am.
When you tell me it’s not what ladies do,
I’ll make a mental note
To never do it.
It’s a no-no.
I’ll shift and mold myself to such an extent
That I won’t even be able to identify
What I want
Or how I feel.
Hold my worthiness, my entire sense of worth,
In your hands.
Handing it over to you.
Do with it as you please.
I am, after all, more concerned
With seeing myself through your eyes—
In viewing myself through the lens
Of your filtered perception.
And one night,
When I’m lying in bed
And I realize what has happened
What I’ve done,
I’ll see my whole life pass before my eyes,
Images and memories
Replaying, heartbreakingly behind closed eyes.
I’ll feel panic rise in the center of my chest
When I realize
What this means.
And I’ll decide,
Once and for all,
I’m through trying to prove myself to you.
Any of you.
I no longer need you to tell me I’m pretty.
That you like my hair or eyes or smile.
I don’t need you to say that my laugh is contagious,
Or that my energy has the power to shift an entire room.
I don’t need you to tell me I’m smart, wise, or mature.
Oh, God, please don’t call me mature.
That’s not who I really wanted to be.
I no longer need a pat on the head.
You don’t need to tell me I’m good—
I no longer need to hear anything from you.
I will no longer scan your eyes to sense how
I should feel about me.
I’m through trying to find my worth
I don’t need your attention, your love, or affection.
I will no longer try to fit or mold or shape myself to you.
And the expectations I think you hold
There are too many of you—
All wanting, asking, silently requesting
I’m through trying to prove my worth to you.
From now on,
I’m listening to the only voice that matters,
The one that lives and breathes
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