It is a rainy day in Brooklyn. I am sitting at my kitchen table, drinking an iced coffee, listening to Taylor Swift’s brand new album, Folklore, on repeat. It was unexpectedly released last night, and I have now found myself, unexpectedly, overwhelmed with all the feels.
And I’ve had a realization – Taylor Swift has become such a force in our culture because she does more than create catchy tunes; she has the ability to relate to people on a deep emotional level. And her music can, in fact, teach us a lot about navigating our own feelings.
So, what lessons on emotions can we glean from Taylor’s Swift? I’m sharing a few here, each with one of her songs to go along with it.
1. Many Emotions Can Exist At Once
Ever felt like you were happy for a friend for getting a promotion, but at the same time, felt sad for yourself for feeling stuck? Or maybe you’re grateful for all that you have, but then feel guilty because you also want more?
We live in a world that teaches us to see things as black or white, all or nothing, when in reality there are endless shades of gray. Luckily there is always space within us to acknowledge all of our emotions, and feel them all at once, even if they seem contradictory.
Lyric: “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.“
2. Learning To Shake It Off Will Serve You Well
Caring about what people think is not uncommon. Almost everyone I work with in therapy has a fear that others are judging them for their choices.
***IMPORTANT REMINDER: No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are.***
But even if the worst case scenario is true, and someone is judging you for the choices you make – so what? Are you going to let that stop you from living your life?
Learning to shake it off takes PRACTICE. But the more you practice, the more your brain gets used to learning how to let things go. And I find karaoke-ing at the top of your lungs to this song is good strength training. 😉
Song: Shake It Off
Lyric: “It’s like I got this music in my mind sayin’ it’s gonna be alright.“
3. Being Yourself Is One of The Best Feelings In The World
Each and every one of us has a unique essence that makes us who we are. Sometimes, that essence gets buried under societal expectations, familial and social obligations, our fears of what others might think, etc. And when we lose sight of that essence that makes us who we are, it can cause us to feel trapped by stress and anxiety.
Being who you are meant to be in this world is freeing. It means doing what you want to do with your life, loving who you can’t help but love, and living your truth. Finding your way back to your core and expressing that most authentic version of yourself is a lifelong practice that is worth cultivating.
Lyric: “I’m the only one of me, baby that’s the fun of me!“
4. Sometimes, The Only Solution Is To Allow Yourself To Feel Your Emotions
We all experience sadness and emotional pain. What most people don’t realize is how helpful it can be to give yourself time and space to actually feel those uncomfortable emotions as you move through them.
I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s actually incredibly challenging. But learning to breathe through sadness, anger, disappointment, and grief has a cathartic quality in the short term, and can help a person to develop tremendous strength over the long term.
Lyric: “And I can’t breathe without you, but I have to.”
5. There Is Strength In Vulnerability
It’s okay to not be okay. And when you’re not okay, sharing that with someone can feel incredibly vulnerable, but it is also an act of bravery.
Talking with someone about what is really going on for you – whether a friend, a therapist, a parent, or heck, even a reddit forum – can create deeper connections and also provide tremendous relief. And the more we share what we are feeling authentically, the more we reduce stigma around mental health.
Song: All Too Well
Lyric: “And I might be okay but I’m not fine at all.”
6. We Can Express How We Feel With More Than Just Words
Art has the power to heal us. Whether we are creating our own art, or immersing ourselves in others’ creations, art has the ability to evoke emotional responses within us that can oftentimes resonate more powerfully than words.
We are all artists, and we all have the ability to express how we feel through imagery, movement, collages, music, poetry, etc. The process of creating in and of itself is nourishing for our souls. I highly recommend you give it a try.
Lyric: “And some things you just can’t speak about.”
7. Our Feelings Can Change Over Time, And That’s Okay
Think about who you were and what you stood for 5 years ago, 10 years ago, even 15 years ago. Maybe you didn’t know how to handle that breakup gracefully, because you were overwhelmed by your emotions at the time. Maybe you regret some of the choices you made, because you didn’t have the self-awareness you do now.
We are all works in progress. We all look back on things we said or did and feel regret or embarrassment. More often than not, we do the best we can with what we know and where we are at the time. Accept responsibility, be kind to yourself, and remember there is always room to grow.
Lyric: “I’ve found time can heal most anything, and you just might find who you’re supposed to be, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be, at fifteen.”
Do you have any favorite songs (Taylor Swift or other) that have helped you navigate your emotions, or taught you something about yourself? If so, I’d love to hear about them!