What’s In a Song: “Look What You Made Me Do”

Chances are, you’ve heard of the new Taylor Swift song, “Look What You Made Me Do.” (If not, watch the music video below or click this link before/while you read the rest of this post, otherwise some things might not make sense.)

Okay, I could write a lot about the song itself, and the music video alone has enough to span thousands of theories (seriously, just look on Tumblr and you’ll wonder why some people are allowed to have the Internet and how anybody could have that much time on their hands), but that’s not what this post is really about. For starters, I don’t have infamous ongoing feuds with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Katy Perry, and I also want to know if Taylor just has some beef with people whose names start with K in general. I’m not nearly well known enough to cause the Internet to have a meltdown if I delete all of my social media posts and post cryptic videos of snakes. If I dressed up as a zombie or had snakes surrounding me while I sat on a throne, I think my parents would be extremely concerned. But regardless, the song has become an anthem of sorts of me lately for a number of reasons.

First, one thing I’ve drawn from the song (and discussed extensively with some of my best friends) is that it’s okay to be upset and angry. It doesn’t mean you can be a terrible person, hurt lots of people, and then just chalk it up to emotion, but it does mean that your feelings are valid and you should embrace them in a way that is actually helpful. It’s even okay to not forgive someone immediately, which is something I think we’re expected to do. I do believe you should forgive people, but I think a key part of offering forgiveness is saying, “You hurt me, and I’ve felt the pain and gone through the process of embracing that hurt, but I’ve also forgiven you for what you’ve done.” Embrace your humanity in the sense that you’re a person living in the 21st century with feelings and emotions, and when you’ve been wronged or things don’t go your way, it’s okay to allow yourself to feel that. Now, I’m also a person who strongly believes in being nice to people and I’m not naturally a very revengeful person, so I’m not going to recommend slashing people’s tires or setting their house on fire (Picture to Burn, anyone?), but I will say that if you don’t allow yourself to embrace every emotion, it’ll come back to hurt you a lot more later down the road. I’ve had to learn how to stand up for myself and how to voice my feelings and emotions in a way that’s healthy, and I think there’s a lot of value in that.

Here’s the thing. I think we all have a lot of things we could be angry about. I know I do. And in the past, when I’ve been angry, I’ve told myself to ignore it, to push it down, to distract myself, to pretend it isn’t there. Every time, I’ve ended up hurting myself and somebody else an awful lot more than if I’d just addressed it at the start. Every time, I’ve done more things that I regretted that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t chosen to ignore it. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m saying we should act on our anger, because doing that also results in a lot of pain and regret. We have to find the middle ground, in other words. Even when I left Oregon, I had friends and family who were really angry on my behalf, which is mildly entertaining if I’m being totally honest, but I didn’t let myself be angry at first. I didn’t really sit with it and allow myself to experience it when it happened. I have since, though, and by allowing myself to feel it and to acknowledge that it’s there, I’ve been able to let go of it. I think I’d still be pretty angry now if I didn’t do that. (And I can personally confirm that writing a song about someone actually does help release some of that hurt.)

The second thing I’ve learned is not to be ashamed of who I am. Obviously I’ve learned this lesson from listening to more than this one song, but if there’s one thing I love about Taylor Swift, it’s that she’s unapologetic and authentic about who she is. She didn’t set out to be this perfect, unattainable celebrity figure, and she’s getting a lot of hate for her mistakes and imperfections which I personally think are just her being a human being. I think “LWYMMD” is totally a revenge song, getting back at the people who’ve said terrible things about her and wronged her, but it’s also acknowledging her own hurt and the fact that she’s a real person who can and does experience those emotions. There’s a line in the song that says, “Sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ‘Cause she’s dead!” I won’t necessarily advocate for completely ditching your past, which isn’t really what I think she’s saying anyway, but I will say that there’s something really empowering about saying, “This is who I am now and my past brought me to the present, but the past isn’t who I am. Love it or leave it.”

The “Love it or leave it” portion is the third thing that struck me. Now, I’m naturally a people pleaser, which overall doesn’t do a whole lot for my wellbeing, because it ends up becoming more about making other people happy and not making myself happy. That doesn’t mean that I want to be selfish and never think of other people, but I’ve had to learn how to discern when I should make myself priority. We can’t please everybody, and that’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. Rather than let everybody else’s emotions, feelings, and opinions, trump mine, and at the expense of my self-confidence, my self-esteem, even my mental and physical health, I’m learning how to figure out when to take care of myself. I was never the popular kid in school, and people knew me more from my relationships (such as my dad’s daughter or my brother’s younger sister) than for things I did on my own, so I’ve always wanted people to like me and know about me, to recognize my own accomplishments as an individual.

A major consequence of wanting to please everybody is that you compare yourself to everybody. I wanted a boss to like me and approve of my work, so what did I do? I compared myself to every other person in the office and tried to be better than everyone else. I wanted to be the best in school, so I compared myself to every other student who walked through the door. The comparison game is terrible, because you’re always going to lose. I still find myself playing the game a lot, but the reality is that it’s only ever going to hurt me, and I’m learning how to step away from it and see myself on my own terms, not on the world’s terms. I’m figuring out who I am not based on everybody else, but based on how God sees me, and what I individually have to offer.

Now, as a side note, I don’t like using phrases such as, “You MADE me do that.” On one hand, I don’t like thinking that other people have control over me to do things, and on the other, it puts the blame on them and makes it sound like I’m rejecting my own responsibility. That’s why I think it’s so important to know and embrace who you are. At the end of the day, who you are and what you do is your choice, not anyone else’s.

Here’s the thing: if you spend your whole life trying to get other people to like you, you’re going to end up being somebody you don’t like.

I don’t apologize for my emotions, although I will apologize if I wrong someone as a result of my emotions. You won’t hear me say, “I’m sorry I got angry,” but I will say, “I’m sorry for yelling at you.” There’s a major difference between the two. One’s apologizing for an emotion, for a part of who I am, and the other is apologizing for something I did. I’m a human being, which means I’ll get angry every once in a while. We all do. I won’t apologize for how I feel, but I will apologize for what I do if it hurts someone, regardless of my emotional state. I don’t allow people to tell me my feelings are invalid or my emotions and opinions don’t matter, but I do want people to tell me if I’m being mean to someone because of them. I don’t apologize for being who I am, and I try at the end of every day to be a person I like, to be the real me, and to be okay with that.

In honor of fall unofficially starting and Pumpkin Spice Lattes being back in stock at Starbucks… I really like pumpkins and I miss those boots.
Be you.

Be unapologetically you. 

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