Sandra Engstrom is a social work academic. Born in Canada now living in Scotland with many stops along the way. She has a fondness for books, music and learning new things, especially if it challenges her own way of thinking.

The scars on my heart run deep and long, through one ventricle and out another. Some have been put there by others, the deepest…I did all on my own.

Let me give you the back story. A number of years ago I suffered a great loss, closely followed by another, preceded by an initial. It was a series of blows my heart did not know how to process or proceed. What I did not know then, that I can reflect upon now, is that this was a key moment in my becoming a dangerous woman. I did not know how dangerous my resolve, drive and focus could become. What began as a need to find some element of control on an overwhelming situation, led to a full blown eating disorder and terribly low self-worth.  This was compounded by a diagnosis of a chronic illness that directly impacts intimate relationships and resulted in having to revaluate myself, my dreams and what I was capable of. I was dangerous to my own heart and to others, I was not an easy person to be around with such focus and determination around the issues of food, exercise and unsustainable standards for myself.

However, I was also able to use this determination for good, I powered through work and school, working through two more degrees as one of the top in my class. Coincidently, I also used this frantic, dare I say dangerous work ethic towards my recovery. I was determined to recover and recover as best as I could. This meant a refocus on health on every level, putting relationships and a few dreams on hold in order to dive deep into myself to heal not only physically, but emotionally and mentally from all that is involved when you no longer recognise yourself in the mirror.

Who has emerged through this long and detailed process is a dangerous woman indeed. I no longer listen to what a lot of voices tell me to do or who to be. I don’t prescribe to traditional notions of “happily ever after” or Prince Charming coming to the rescue…I don’t need to be rescued. I’ll buy my own horse thanks, figure out how to train it, and take myself on an adventure. If someone wants to join me, that’s fine, if not that’s okay as well. I have been called intimidating, scary, in a different league and “on a different level”, I take all of these as compliments. I am deeply acquainted with the workings of my heart, and what each scar represents and the lesson I learned from it. I spent an inordinate amount of time healing and being strong in who I am. I know what I am capable of, I have been through the depths and back again, reminding me that if I want something, to go after it because when else will I get the chance? I don’t often wait for permission and don’t always ask for forgiveness, instead I forge my own path and see who will join me. As a result, I now know who is on my team and who I can go to when I get triggered. I listen to my intuition and if it doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it – no matter what that ‘it’ may be…. I am conscious as to whom I let close to my heart. It has been through a lot and sometimes gets tired.

The relationship I have with myself is the power I hold in order to be dangerous. I am comfortable on my own, not needing to fill my time with superficial or meaningless relationships just because I am of a certain age and heaven forbid, may be “running out of time”, whatever that means. Life is too short for those games. That being said, I am incredibly loyal to the relationships that I do have, they are my lifeblood and I refuse to be reckless with other people’s hearts. I have trouble understanding what seems to be the current norm of swiping left or right…seemingly afraid to go deep, take risks or putting yourself in the dangerous position of being loved for more than one night.  For being loved, by anyone, especially yourself, opens you up to becoming dangerously close to whom the media and wider society tells us we are not. Enough.

I fully accept myself, I don’t see myself as having flaws but battle wounds, quirks and things that are specific just to me – I’m the only me out there after all, and I’ve worked damn hard to be here. Dangerous women are known to speak up for what they believe in, going against the grain and to not conform to main stream societal standards. By a variety of methods, we are told not to be confident in ourselves, our bodies…that we need to be fixed, to cover up our scars. I have never claimed to want to be like anyone else and those scars are my (her)story, I wouldn’t be me without them. I know that by putting in the work and being dangerously close to the edge, that I am resilient and dangerous in my inner strength. I know I can handle what life throws at me.

I was recently told “to stop being so brave”, and while I know the individual was trying to tell me to be express my struggles more often, anyone that knows me knows I still have some work to do in that department, being vulnerable itself is an act of bravery. So I call bullshit on that. I have been dangerously vulnerable with myself. I went to the darkest corners of my heart that I didn’t know existed, not an easy place to be for any length of time. In order to become the woman that I knew was in there, I needed to accept the scars and celebrate what they have come to mean. I am grateful for them and how they continue to help her grow. She is not perfect (I don’t even know what that means or what that looks like), she gets tired, sometimes pushes herself too hard, feels incredibly deeply, and is worried that there aren’t enough people being true to their hearts because it’s a dangerous place for them to go, she knows…she has been there.

I am proud to be a dangerous woman.

No apologies.



Featured image: “journal-419” by Bea Mahan on Flickr, used under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 license.