Recently I’ve noticed myself recoiling when people describe me as “badass,” even though I know it’s meant to be a compliment. While I’m grateful to be thought of as bold and capable (which I think is supposed to be the root meaning of badass), my boldness and capability have often arisen from some dark places, as boldness and capability often do. And I don’t want to live out my life in reactivity to darkness.

Here are some of the things I’ve done in the name of being badass:

– pushed myself to consensually endure brutal sadomasochism to prove I was tough
– failed to enforce any personal boundaries in relationship because “I could handle it”
– cultivated dissociation from my body because both physical and emotional pain were forms of weakness
– seduced some of my favorite famous men without ever bothering to ask myself if I felt safe with them
– took up parkour and krav maga despite having no health insurance
– persisted in work environments that profited off of physically endangering me because they were lucrative, because money trauma had given me a scarcity mindset
– disdained affection and tenderness because I was conditioned to believe that they were inconvenient to my partners
– skipped foreplay (unless it was a blowjob, obviously), because I was conditioned to believe that it was inconvenient to my partners
– took responsibility for my own sexual assaults, or failed to recognize them as such because they didn’t seem like a big deal

When people refer to me as badass, non-traditional, able to handle anything, what I feel like is Black Widow getting a hysterectomy at assassin school. I didn’t want to be this tough, you guys – life happened, abuse happened, trauma happened, and I responded as best I could. And now here I am having forged this admittedly non-traditional, admittedly deeply independent lifestyle for myself – because I was taught that the only person I could rely on was me – and everyone’s like “wow you’re such a badass.” And meanwhile I’m fucking exhausted.

I don’t want to be a badass anymore. I don’t want my entire life to be one long trauma reaction. I don’t want to walk around feeling like damaged goods, like I’m forever locked out of a normal life where people give and receive mutual care, support, trust, and affection, like I’m doomed to live out the assassin archetype forever. I don’t want to feel like I’m never allowed to be vulnerable or have needs, that my value comes from my ability to “handle anything.” I don’t want to have to keep editing myself down in order to survive.

What I wanted, what I remember wanting as a child, was to be loved, respected, chosen, and treated with affection. Life happened otherwise, and I was ridiculed or ostracized for thinking something better was possible. But I had seen that it was possible, I knew in my soul that it was possible, and so I figured the missing piece must be me. So I changed, I adapted, I did everything a sick society tells us we have to do in order to be worthy of love. And when things fell apart, I picked them up and put them back together, because I was told there was no greater embarrassment than being a woman who needed others too much. But I’m tired of self-sufficiency, and I’m tired of feeling like I’m locked out of a normal life. I want to be able to have the normal, boring, traditional life choices that everyone else seems to get to make without feeling like the Justice League is going to ring me up needing my help at any moment.