Britney Spears is reflecting on the difficult years she lived under a conservatorship and how the court ruling stole her of her humanity.
Spears, 41, writes in an extract from her long-awaited memoir The Woman in Me published exclusively with PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that she thought she’d been dealt an unfair life card for more than a decade.
“Thirteen years went by with me feeling like a shadow of myself. I think back now on my father and his associates having control over my body and my money for that long and it makes me feel sick. Think of how many male artists gambled all their money away; how many had substance abuse or mental health issues. No one tried to take away their control over their bodies and money. I didn’t deserve what my family did to me.”
Following a public breakdown, the “Hold Me Closer” singer was placed under conservatorship in 2008. In September 2021, her father Jamie Spears was removed as custodian of her estate, and the conservatorship was ended two months later.
Spears’s time spent under her father’s authority has come under increasing criticism because she has maintained it was a painful time, but Jamie insists he was acting in his daughter’s best interests.
According to Spears in The Woman in Me, the conservatorship “robbed” her of her independence at that time and frequently left her caught between adolescence and adulthood, turning her “into a child” and removing “[her] womanhood.”
“There was no way to behave like an adult, since they wouldn’t treat me like an adult, so I would regress and act like a little girl; but then my adult self would step back in – only my world didn’t allow me to be an adult. The woman in me was pushed down for a long time. They wanted me to be wild onstage, the way they told me to be, and to be a robot the rest of the time. I felt like I was being deprived of those good secrets of life — those fundamental supposed sins of indulgence and adventure that make us human. They wanted to take away that specialness and keep everything as rote as possible. It was death to my creativity as an artist.”
The singer notes that although growing up in the spotlight was challenging, she had already discovered methods to rebel, such as when she shaved her head in 2007. However, during the conservatorship, “I was made to understand that those days were now over.”
She writes that during the conservatorship, she lost her creative spark and that her love of dancing and singing turned into “almost a joke.”
“I became more of an entity than a person onstage. I had always felt music in my bones and my blood; they stole that from me,” she writes. “If they’d let me live my life, I know I would’ve followed my heart and come out of this the right way and worked it out.”
In an email-based interview with PEOPLE, Spears delves deeper into her most difficult moments, acknowledging that she still finds them “hard to speak about.”
“The top things on my mind are not getting a moment of peace, the judgments from strangers who don’t even know me,” she says. “Having my freedom stripped away from me by my family and the government. Losing my passion for the things I love.”
Spears has moved on and says in her book that she “had to construct a whole different identity” since the conservatorship ended.
I’ve had to say, Wait a second, this is who I was — someone passive and pleasing. A girl. And this is who I am now—someone strong and confident. A woman,” she writes.
The Woman in Me, a Simon & Schuster imprint, will be available for purchase by Spears on October 24 through Gallery Books. Pre-orders are accepted right now.