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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Song Playlist: Self-Compassion, Self-Acceptance, and Empathy

last updated August 4, 2020

posted by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teachers, here are songs about self-compassion, self-acceptance, and supporting each other

There are three songs for young children, which I've put at the top of the list. (You might want to check them out even if you don't teach young children. "You are Wonderful" is catchy, the "I Can Be" video is charming, and Kermit the Frog is, well, Kermit the Frog. I mean, what more can I say?)

Most of the other songs and videos are appropriate for a wide range of ages and audiences, but there are a few videos I would only feel comfortable showing to adults or mature teens. As always, please watch the full video and read the lyrics before deciding what's appropriate for your particular context. 

It's not easy bein' green. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky. But green's the color of Spring..."

I Can Be, Yaakov Shwekey
lyricsofficial video featuring kids and staff from The Special Children's Center; audio + album cover
"I am a child, and the road ahead is paved with possibility... When you’re in my world, I believe in me. I look into your eyes and see that I can be stronger, I can be braver, I can be anything I wanna be."

You Are Wonderful (The Self-Esteem Song), FunkeyMonkeys! 
lyrics not available; audio + album cover
"You are beautiful. You are magical. You're the only one of you that there is."

1-800-273-8255, Logic (ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid)
lyricsvideo of live performanceaudio; video of cover by Alyson Stoner and Next Town Down 
"What's the day without a little night? I'm just tryna shed a little light. It can be hard. It can be so hard. But you gotta live right now. You got everything to give right now." (You might be interested in a Washington Post article explaining the origin of the song.)

All Along, Kina Grannis
official video of people holding up signs as a way to rewrite their stories.
lyrics: I had it all, all along.

Be As You Are, Mike Posner
lyrics; official video (contains some nudity, which fits in with the self-acceptance message but might not be appropriate for your classroom); alternate version of official video
"There are moments when you fall to the ground. But you are stronger than you feel you are now..Everybody's got scars that they hide. And everybody plays the fool sometimes. Just be as you are"

Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson
lyricsofficial video
"I just want to be okay, be okay, be okay. I just want to be okay today... I just want to know today, know that maybe I will be okay."

Beautifully Made, Leah Smith
lyricsaudio + album cover
"You know all about the way that I am feeling. 'Cause you have felt the same way before. You've been hurt by the things people have said... You don't feel smart enough, strong enough, good enough... But in times like these you come back to the truth that you have found. You are beautifully and wonderfully made."

Brand New Day, Joshua Radin
lyrics; video of live performance
"The sun is shining. It's a brand new day. For the first time, in such a long long time, I know I'll be OK... Most kind of stories save the best part for last. Most stories have a hero who finds you make your past your past... This cycle never ends. You gotta fall in order to mend."

Courageous, Megan Nicole
lyrics; official lyric video

"We're all made of many pieces. A million emotions. Every shade and every color in the world. You are perfectly imperfect. Thinking you're broken. Never knowing just how much you're really worth... Others try to simplify you, but don't know what you've been through." 

Dare to Be Different, Rachael Lynn
lyricsofficial anti-bullying video
"The teacher don't hear all the rumors spread, or the notebook sayin' how I wish I was dead... You never know how your words can cut someone. Look into their eyes, and maybe you will see, how everyone is how they're meant to be!"

Everybody Hurts, Avril Lavigne
lyrics; audio + album cover
"Everybody hurts some days. It's okay to be afraid. Everybody hurts. Everybody screams. Everybody feels this way. And it's okay"

Fear is a Liar, Zach Williams

"When he told you you're not worthy. When he told you you're not loved. When he told you you're not beautiful. That you'll never be enough. Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath. Stop you in your steps."

Freckles, Natasha Bedingfield

lyricsaudio + album cover
"I used to care so much about what others think about, I almost didn't have a thought of my own. The slightest remark would make me embark on the journey of self-doubt... If I knew then what I know now, I would've told myself don't worry any longer, it's OK. 'Cause a face without freckles is like the sky without the stars. Why waste a second, not loving who you are?"

Get Back Up, Toby Mac
lyrics; official lyrics video
"You turned away when I looked you in the eye, and hesitated when I asked if you were alright. Seems like you're fighting for your life... This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken... We lose our way, we get back up again. It's never too late to get back up again... You may be knocked down, but not out forever."

Get Up, Superchick
lyrics; audio + album cover
"I'm not afraid to fall. It means I climbed up high. To fall is not to fail. You fail when you don't try."

Gold, MILCK 
lyrics; official video

"Come on, look in me in the eye... And I'll do the same for you. Tell me 'bout what you've been through. When we've been down in the mud, we know better than to judge."

Hero, Mariah Carey
lyrics; video of live performance
"You can find love if you search within yourself. And the emptiness you felt will disappear... When you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong. And you'll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you."

Homecoming Queen? Kelsea Ballerini
lyrics; official video

"Did you want the crown? Or does it weigh you down? Nobody's feeling sorry for ya.  
What if I told you the world wouldn't end if you started showing what's under your skin? What if you let 'em all in on the lie? Even the homecoming Queen cries."

Hope, Natasha Bedingfield
lyrics; official video
"No matter how dark it may become, don't stop your light from shining on. 'Cause nothing's ever over till you say it's over. And nothing's ever finished. Not unless you walk away."

I Am What I Am; Gloria Gaynor
lyrics; video of cover by Gwendal Marimoutouvideo of 'Dancing Matt' Harding and friends from around the world (dances start at :53, after footage of Gloria Gaynor) 
"I am what I am. I don't want praise. I don't want pity.Why not try to see things from a different angle? Your life is a sham till you can shout out: I am what I am...I am good. I am, strong. I am somebody. I do belong."

I'll Find You, Lecrae

I'll Find You, Lecrae (ft. Tori Kelly)
lyrics; official lyrics video; official video (dedicated to kids with cancer)
"I can't do this on my own. That's why I'm just trusting in you. Cuz' I don't know where else to go.And, I don't know what else to do... When you've got nobody to turn to, just hold on, and I'll find you"

I'm Sensitive, Jewel
lyrics; live performance (song start :56); cover by Sammie Grubbs
"It doesn't take a talent to be mean. Your words can crush things that are unseen... Why's it gotta be so complicated. Why you gotta tell me if I'm hated. Oh please be careful with me, I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way."

Individuality (Can I Be Me?), Rachelle Ferrell
lyrics; audio + album cover
"I'm an individual. I'm into individuality. Can't nobody be me. Can't nobody be you. God made everybody just the way that He wanted to! I'm not trying to separate. I just want to celebrate the ending of the sublimation of my soul!"

Just Do You, india.arie
lyricsaudio + album cover
"Every mountain needs someone to climb it. Every ocean needs someone to dive in. Every dream needs someone to wish it. Every adventure needs someone to live it. So who are you waiting for? If you don't take a chance you'll never know what's in store."

Mean Girls, Rachel Crow
"Do you ever go to lunch with no one by your side. Cause the moment you arrive they all leave the table... Maybe somebody was cruel to you. So you think that's what you're supposed to do.  One day, it might be you. When you need a friend, but you're no longer cool."

My Black is Beautiful; Lovely Hoffman
lyricsofficial video; audio + album coverarticle by teacher Lovely Hoffman on why she wrote the song
"Look at her hair. Look at her braids. Look at her eyes. Look at her nose. Look at her 'fro. Look at her face. Look at her skin. It's either too dark, or it's too light. Her complexion's not right... Who are you to say that I’m not beautiful? It’s your own insecurity. Because I know and I believe my Black is Beautiful."

Perfect Mess, Alex G
lyrics; official video
"You might break, but you'll learn to love your mistakes... And I know you're terrified, but I'll be by your side... You might forget the rules, but we'll keep loving you. You're not what you do." 

Scars (Come with Livin'), Toby Mac
lyrics; official video
"Try and remember
You are not alone
We've all been thereScars come with livin'."

Scars to Your Beautiful, Alessia Cara

lyrics; audio + album coverofficial video, with people talking about how they came to accept themselves after feeling different and unattractive; ASL interpretation 
"Let me be your mirror, help you see a little bit clearer the light that shines within. There's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark. You should know you're beautiful just the way you are. And you don't have to change a thing, the world could change its heart. No scars to your beautiful."

Sparkle, Charlotte Campbell
lyrics; official video 

"You used to be the one with the sparkle. Where did it go? You look tired today... You don’t have to prove that you’re perfect. Don’t ever doubt that you’re more than worth it... Don’t you think that it would be so much easier not being hard on yourself?"

Square Pegs, Kelsea Ballerini
lyrics; official video
"You can choose if you're bad, if you're good. If you're left or right. Speaking your heart or speaking your mind... Everybody gotta be themselves. Square pegs make the world go 'round."

The Story of Your Life, Matthew West
lyrics; audio + album cover

"Is this the end, or only the beginning? The second chance you never thought you'd get...  Your finest hour. Your weakest moment. It's where you've been. It's where you are. It's where you're going. Go tell the story of your life 'cause it's a story worth telling."

Take Care of Yourself, Maisie Peters
"You try, and you try, and you're trying, but the burden is heavy and overgrown. And God knows that we all get tired... I hate how you're going through hell, when you've never let anyone else. So cut off a little slack and roll all your cavalry back. My love, take care of yourself."

Tick Tock, LilCrazed (ft. Andrew Garcia)
lyricsofficial video
"He started to think if I departed mama would be broken hearted... I know it’s hard to keep going..But you got to catch your present, and remember the life is what you make it to be. Keep your head up high. Tell them 'hater, see you later' but not goodbye."

Try, Mandy Harvey
audio + album covervideo from America's Got Talent (song starts at 1:56); you might be interested in this article from BBC news about Mandy Harvey, a deaf singer who's faced skepticism from hearing musicians and bullying by some members of the Deaf community 
"I don't feel the way I used to. The sky is gray much more than it is blue. But I know one day I'll get through, and I'll take my place again." 

Try Everything, Shakira
lyrics; video by One Voice Children's Choir
"I wanna try everything. I wanna try even though I could fail. I won't give up, no I won't give in till I reach the end. And then I'll start again... Look how far you've come... Don't need to run so fast. Sometimes we come last but we did our best."

Tryin', Matthew West
lyrics; audio + album cover
"I want to buy the world a great big trash can. Get all the beauty magazines that I can... 'Cause every page is a lie they're telling, and every face is a promise they're selling... The truth is sinking in. Who I am is good enough. Who you are is good enough."

Undefeated, Chris Doughtry
lyricsaudio + album cover
"In this world of compromise, I hit every curb, every red light. Trying to keep both hands on the wheel. But through it all I'm still undefeated... You can knock me down with mighty blows, but you cannot break my hope."

Us, Brother Ali
lyricsofficial video
"Started rhymin' just to be somebody. To make people notice me at the party, and not be just the new kid that's Albino. Make 'em say 'yeah I know but have you heard him rhyme though?'... My story connected with a lot of folks... I started rhymin' just to be somebody. I found out that I already was."

Video, india.arie
lyrics; official video; audio + album cover

"Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won't... It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul... I ain't built like a supermodel, but I learned to love myself unconditionally... My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes."

The Voice Within, Christina Aguilera
lyricsvideo of cover by Natalie Ong on The X Factor Australia; youtube video with lyrics (I'm not including either the official video or album cover because I think Ms. Aguilera's eye-popping outfits counteract the self-empowerment message of the song.)
"When there's no one else, look inside yourself... Then you'll find the strength that will guide your way... Young girl, don't hide. You'll never change if you just run away...  Soon you're gonna see your brighter day.

What I Cannot Change, LeeAnnRimes
lyrics; live performance with Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles
"I will learn to let go what I cannot change. I will learn to forgive what I cannot change. I will learn to love what I cannot change. But I will change whatever I can."

What's Wrong with Me? and I See Stars, from Mean Girls on Broadway
What's Wrong with Me? lyrics and video; I See Stars lyrics and video

"Tell me what's wrong with me. My body, face, my hair. Tell me all my many faults. Tell me like you care... What's wrong with me? Where's my mind? Where does it end? Maybe I need to find a better friend."
"I see you there. It’s me and you, not us and her. Cause if we knew how strong we were, we’d say what we are stars!... I will look out for you. We’ll light each other’s way."

Win, Brian McKnight
lyrics; audio + album covervideo of acoustic performance dedicated to a mother struggling with cancer (song starts 1:39)
"Dark is the night. I can weather the storm. Never say die. I've been down this road before. I'll never quit. I'll never lay down. See, I promised myself that I'd never let me down."

You Gon' Be Fine, Lil Crazed
lyrics; official video; audio 
This is a song dedicated to single mothers. "I know the times get tough and the roads get rough. And sometimes you've admitted you've had enough. But you just can't give up, Ma.You just can't give up.  So keep your head up and don't cry. Things'll get better. It's alright. You gon' be fine."

You're Gonna Be OK, Jenn Johnson
lyrics; official lyrics video
"Just take one step closerPut one foot in front of the otherYou'll get through thisJust follow the light in the darknessYou're gonna be ok"

You Will Be Found, from Dear Evan Hansen
Performed by a virtual choir from 31 countries 

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

(As always with personal topics, please respect students' decisions about how much they feel comfortable sharing.)

  • Which of these songs do you most/least identify with? Why?
  • Do you have another favorite song about self-compassion, self-confidence, or self-acceptance? Why do you like it?
  • Why do you think so many people have trouble with self-acceptance?
  • Why do you think there's so much bullying these days? Do you think it's more than in the past? Is cyber-bullying better or worse than being face-to-face with a bully?
  • What kind of song would you write for a friend who's feeling depressed or being bullied?


related posts:

Quotations About Regret and Forgiveness

Songs about Regret and Forgiveness

Songs about Self-Acceptance

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

Thought-Provoking Videos About Empathy, Compassion, and Service