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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Songs about Self-Acceptance

last updated September 17, 2020

posted by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teaching positive values, here are tunes about being true to ourselves and recognizing our own strength and vulnerability.  

A Better Man, Keb' Mo'
lyricsofficial video
"Maybe I'm not supposed to know. Maybe I'm supposed to cry. And if nobody ever knows the way I feel, that's all right."

A Better Part of Me, Connie Lim
lyricsvideo (audio with album cover)
"Cause even if there’s half of me that isn’t really ready to fight, there’s a better part of me that’s steady and is ready for light...  This light’s burning out.  Fear has pierced my heart.  I can feel the doubt pulse through my veins.  Now I’m ready to take back the reins."

"Blurryface" (Stressed Out), Twenty-One Pilots
lyrics; official video; ASL Interpretation; BSL Interpretation

"I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink.  But now I'm insecure and I care what people think.  My name's Blurryface and I care what you think.  Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days when our momma sang us to sleep. But now we're stressed out."

Brave, Sarah Bareilles
lyricsofficial video showing people having a great time doing uncool dance moves

"Let your words be anything but empty.  Why don't you tell them the truth?  Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out.  Honestly, I wanna see you be brave."

Courage, Superchick
youtube video with lyrics
This is a song about recovering from an eating disorder: "I don't know the first time I felt unbeautiful.  The day I chose not to eat... There are days when I'm OK... But there are days when I'm not OK, and I need your help."

Express Yourself, Labrinth
lyrics; video of live performance (song starts :47)
"I say the same thing twice. I'm awkward when I speak. Ain't got the perfect smile. Don't turn heads on my street. Trying to be a superstar like everybody else. But being myself is something I do well. Whatever you do, do it good."

Fight Song, Rachel Platten
lyrics video of duet with Caly Bevier, a 16-year old cancer survivor, on The Ellen Show; lipsynched version by patients, families, and staff at Valley Children's Hospital; video of two-man band version by Benjamin Kheng and Kurt Hugo Schneider
"Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion.  Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion... And I don't really care if nobody else believes 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me."

Firework, Katy Perry
lyrics; official lyrics video (there's one briefly-flashed photo of two boys kissing; otherwise this is way less controversial than the notorious official video); alternate video with American Sign Language interpretation  by Jason Listman 
"You don't have to feel like a waste of space.  You're original, cannot be replaced.  If you only knew what the future holds.  After a hurricane comes a rainbow."

The Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston
lyricsvideo of performance by Denise Weeks on The X Factor (song starts at 2:16)
"If I fail, if I succeed, at least I'll live as I believe.  No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity."

I Am Enough, Daphne Willis
lyrics; official video

"All of the lies I believed got the better of me... I was my own worst enemy. I found my way through it all and finally I see I am enough just as I am."

I Love Me, Meghan Trainor (ft. Lunch Money)
lyricsaudio + album cover
"God made me just right. I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast. I love all y'all, but I love me the most. Go and raise your glass, give yourself a toast."

If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out, Cat Stevens
lyricsyoutube video (audio with still photo); cover by Kat Dennings in the film Charlie Bartlett; cover by Anders Bjorkman

"Well, if you want to say yes, say yes.  And if you want to say no, say no. 'Cause there's a million ways to go.  You know that there are.  And if you want to be me, be me.  And if you want to be you, be you.  'Cause there's a million things to do.  You know that there are."

Invincible, Kelly Clarkson
lyricsofficial video
"I was hiding from the world.  I was so afraid, I felt so unsure...  I was running from an empty threat of emptiness... I ain't a scared little girl no more.  Yeah, I am invincible."

Just Being Me, NF 
lyrics; video (audio + album cover)
"Yo, I don't rap, so millions of people will like me.  I rap, cause there's millions of people just like me... The world wants to tell us who we are and who we ain't.  But the person that I am is somethin' you can never change.  Yea I'm just being me, yea."

Make Your Own Kind of Music, Cass Elliott
lyrics; original audio; video of cover by Charlotte Campbell 

"Nobody can tell ya there's only one song worth singing... Sing your own special song. Make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along."

Pretty Hurts, Beyoncé
lyricsofficial videocover by Chloe and Halle

I normally don’t include links to videos with very scantily-clad women, but this one has a compelling story about an African American beauty pageant contestant who looks “perfect” during the competition but is miserable backstage.  If that's inappropriate for your context, try the Chloe and Halle version, with modestly-dressed young girls.

Pretty Hurts/Try/Who You Are cover by Louisa Wendorff (BeyoncĂ©, Colbie Caillait, Jessie J Mash-Up)
This music video shows a blonde young woman who's hurting from trying too hard to fit a particular image. 

You might also be interested in the short (6-min) film "Perfection" by Karen Lin, which shows an Asian American girl growing into a woman who's struggling with internal pressures about how she must look and behave and what she must achieve.

Shine Your Way, Owl City feat. Yuna
lyrics; video (audio with album cover)
"Open road but it's still dark.  Build a fire from a spark, and shine, shine your way...  No one can stop what has begun.  You must believe when I say all of your tears will dry faster in the sun, starting today."

Try, Colbie Caillait
lyricsofficial video showing women of different ages with and without their hair and makeup done.  (This becomes quite moving, especially if you don't know what to expect.) 

"Put your make-up on.  Get your nails done.  Curl your hair.  Run the extra mile.  Keep it slim, so they like you.  Do they like you?  Get your sexy on... This is what you want, to belong, so they like you.  Do you like you?"

Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield
lyrics; video of live performance
"I am unwritten.  Can't read my mind.  I'm undefined.  I'm just beginning.  The pen's in my hand.  Ending unplanned... No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips... Today is where your book begins.  The rest is still unwritten."

Who I Am, Jessica Andrews
lyrics; official video 
"Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy, but I've got friends that love me, and they know just where I stand.  It's all a part of me, and that's who I am."

Who You Are, Jessie J
lyrics; video of live performance (she explains for the first 3 minutes about facing challenges and why she wrote the song);

"I stare at my reflection in the mirror.  Why am I doing this to myself?  Losing my mind on a tiny error.  I nearly left the real me on the shelf."

You Are a Part of Everything, Josh Kelley
lyricsvideo (audio with photo)
"Open your voice and be strong.  You are not alone.  You are what you believe.  You are not alone.  You're a part of everything."

You'll Be Okay, A Great Big World
lyrics;  official video (audio with album cover); video with American Sign Language interpretation and lyrics by Jason Listman
"You'll be okay.  The sun will rise to better days, and change will come.  It's on it's way.  Just close your eyes, and let it rain."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • Did you identify with any of these songs and videos?  Which one(s)?  Why?
  • Do you have a favorite song or video about self-acceptance, empowerment, or vulnerability?  Why do you like it?
  • Have you ever been pressured to look or act a certain way in order to get approval from others?  How did this make you feel?
  • In your opinion, is it good to love yourself? Do you think of this as self-acceptance or arrogance? 
  • How can we be true to ourselves without upsetting other people?  Are there situations where this is impossible?  How do you decide when to compromise and when to stand your ground?


Next Time I'll Do Better: Recognizing and Learning from Mistakes

Songs about Compassion and Kindness

Songs About Self-Compassion, Self-Acceptance, and Empathy