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When Past Trauma Makes You Want to Be the Angsty 'Tough Girl' You See in Movies


For the longest time, I wanted to be “her.” You all know her. The dark and mysterious girl in the movies and books. Heavy boots, dyed hair and a leather jacket. Her outfit screams “stay away.”  She acts confident and bitter. She speaks with a heavy note of sarcasm. She rolls her eyes and tells you to mind your own business. She seems sullen but free at the same time.

In the movies and books, you can already guess at the beginning that she is hiding a traumatic past behind the stone-cold walls she has built around herself. Still she is defending and deflecting, fighting and frowning her way through the story.

For the longest time, I wanted to be her. I wanted to be dark. I thought if only I could turn all the pain from my miserable past into a smashing outfit and snappy comebacks, then I would finally feel powerful and independent. I wanted to be the master of my own destruction. In control of who and what hurts me. After everything I have been through, I wanted to stomp through the world in my big bad boots. Smashing everything before it can crawl up my legs and find its way to my heart — only to break it all over again.

I was distant even in close friendships. Telling myself the only thing someone could truthfully want from me is to use and abuse me. I broke up every single one of my relationships before I got too attached to actually be devastated if the other person would decide to leave. I told myself to never ever get a pet again after my last one died in my arms. I told myself to always expect the worst. To anticipate death and drama just behind the next corner. Sullen and Bitter. Confidentially believing in the continuity of my own misery.

I endured all the pain from my past. I bore the unbearable. I fought the nightmares, the endless stream of self-hatred and the flashbacks on my own. But I wanted more. I wanted more than just surviving. I wanted to feel alive. I wanted to feel light. I wanted to feel connected. I wanted to love and be loved. I wanted to passionately engage in what means something to me. I wanted my pain to not make me ice-cold, but fuel the fire in my eyes.

So I gave myself a promise. A promise I need to give myself again every morning and every evening because it is so hard to keep. 

I promise myself to stay vulnerable.

I promise myself that I will repeatedly choose love.

I promise myself to let my heart stay warm.

I promise myself to invite even more pain with open arms.

This promise is so hard to keep because I am so sick of fighting my despair and my walls from coming up. For almost all my life, I have been fighting and I am so tired. Nevertheless, shying away from the very human experience of hurting will also isolate me from my happiness, my lightness, my motivation, my passion.

It is so hard to stay vulnerable. So hard to stay gentle. After so much pain in my life, I need conscious effort to love and to speak openly. To not hide behind the dark girl in disguise but to show the real me. To smile at strangers, to invite new people in my life. To get a new pet, call it sweet names and love it — even if it will stay with me for only a short period of time.  To depend on others to be there for me when I crumble and fall. To be brave enough to plan a future together with someone special – even if they could be dead and gone the next day. To get my hopes up every time — even if I could feel devastated when they are crushed, again.

My pain is pure and raw and it is the counterpart to my love. I need to choose to let myself feel this pain so I will be able to give my love out to the world. Only then can I fully participate in what is called being alive.

So again and again, I promise myself this one thing: 

Stay vulnerable.

Please, stay vulnerable.

Please, just try again to stay vulnerable.

Getty Images photo via FXQuadro