Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Sound of Self-Acceptance: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

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Continuing my series of song lists for teaching positive values, here are a dozen tunes about being true to ourselves and recognizing our own strength and vulnerability.  

Update: I've made several additions to the list because of great suggestions from the Facebook folks and the Google gang.  And if you teach younger kids, be sure to check out my new list of Children's Songs about Mindfulness, Self-Acceptance, and Gratitude.  (Actually, even if you don't teach young kids, you might want to check it out: there are some fun songs with celebrity singers backed up by the Sesame Street Muppets.)

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
"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 and lyrics 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."

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."

Pretty Hurts, Beyoncé
lyricsofficial videocover by Chloe & 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, use the Chloe & 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 young woman 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 makeup

"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
lyricsvideo of performance by Jordan Smith (The Voice 2015)

"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?
  • 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

The Sound of Compassion: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

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