Meaning of “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

“She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles digs deep into the complexities of self-discovery, personal transformation, and the nostalgia of “what used to be.” It’s an emotional ballad that speaks to anyone who feels they’ve lost touch with their true self. The song isn’t just a sad tale; it’s a rallying cry for reclaiming yourself, with a focus on the internal struggles we often don’t reveal. Bareilles wrote this song for the musical adaptation of “Waitress,” giving voice to the lead character, Jenna, who’s going through a challenging period in her life. She paints a vivid picture of a woman who’s messy, broken, but also strong and resilient.

Stick around as we unpack this soulful tune, lyric by lyric.

“She Used to Be Mine” Lyrics Meaning

Starting with the lines “It’s not simple to say / Most days I don’t recognize me,” the song captures the essence of identity crisis. The lyrics emphasize how life’s twists and turns—the “shoes and this apron, that place and its patrons”—can change us, sometimes to the point where we no longer recognize ourselves. Sara Bareilles taps into that universal feeling of displacement and unhappiness with the person we’ve become, a sentiment many can relate to.

“She’s imperfect but she tries / She is good but she lies,” Bareilles continues. These lines embody the contradictory nature of human beings. We’re all imperfect, trying to balance our virtues and vices, even if we don’t admit it. The song celebrates the messy but kind girl, who is also “lonely most of the time.” That loneliness, that brokenness, doesn’t diminish her worth. It makes her human.

Arguably, the most heartbreaking line is “She is gone but she used to be mine.” This line encapsulates the theme of loss, but it’s not just about loss; it’s a longing for a version of oneself that has faded away due to life’s hardships.

Moving on, “Sometimes life just slips in through a back door / And carves out a person / And makes you believe it’s all true” addresses how life has a way of altering us without our explicit permission. Life’s curveballs can be disorienting, and yet, as the lyrics later highlight, these very experiences make us stronger.

Sara Bareilles leaves listeners with a message of resilience and self-redemption. “To fight just a little / To bring back the fire in her eyes / That’s been gone but it used to be mine,” she sings, reminding us all that it’s never too late to reclaim our inner fire.

Why Was “She Used to Be Mine” Written?

Sara Bareilles composed this heartfelt song for the musical adaptation of “Waitress,” a film revolving around a young woman named Jenna, who finds herself in a difficult marriage and an unexpected pregnancy. At that point in her career, Bareilles was looking for a challenge and felt deeply connected to Jenna’s story. Through this song, she wanted to encapsulate Jenna’s complex emotions—her regrets, her longings, and her hopes for the future. The emotional weight of the song also touches on universal feelings of loss, change, and personal growth, making it relatable to a broad audience.