TRUE STORY: A few weeks ago, I got in my car, turned on the radio and heard the beginnings of a pop song I'd never heard before. I was about to change the channel when I started listening to the lyrics: "You don't have to try so hard/ You don't have to give it all away..." and GURLS, I STARTED BAWLING. Lolz. I'm not a frequent cryer (Kate can attest to that) so I was pretty darn surprised. Colbie Callait's song about not needing to try so hard --poppy and cliche as that may be-- just hit me so damn hard. Because, like most girls, I've spent most of my life feeling like I do need to try so hard. Every message I've received from the media, social norms, and mainstream advertising has told me to worship one version of beauty, and to nearly kill myself trying to attain it.
Of course, I don't subscribe to that belief AT ALL-- not rationally, anyway. But those messages sink in so deeply that even when we know better, we're constantly judging ourselves, trying to reach a narrow definition of perfection. Thankfully, as I get older I feel less desperate pressure to conform to this, but the feelings still arise. I'm in a phase now of mourning for my younger self; mourning the minutes and hours and months I lost to hating my body, obsessively exercising, scrutinizing myself, and believing I was ugly. I think I was crying in that car for all those thoughts that ate away at me during my adolescence. I was crying for all the mornings I woke up and immediately thought about my weight. For the times I stared at myself in the mirror and saw only ugly. For the countless other girls experiencing the same destructive thoughts.
I was crying from relief, too. Because if the message of the song is true-- that we can simply breathe, can be ourselves, can stop trying so damn hard-- isn't that the most relieving feeling ever? If we are already enough, if we are perfect in our own way, if we "don't need to change a single thing", as Callait sings, isn't that the most amazing realization? What space might that open up in our lives? How much time and power could we claim back if we really believed it?
She captures the relief so well when she sings: "Take your makeup off/ let your hair down/ take a breath/ look into the mirror, at yourself/ don't you like you?" Cause that's the most important question, right? When you're all alone, can you feel your own presence, your unique spirit, your aliveness? Can you face yourself, boldly and bare-faced, with no judgement? Can you see the absolutely unique perfection that you are? It's a helluva long process, but it can begin now, and it can begin with just one breath. Cause she's absolutely right. You really don't have to try so hard.
I've also been shamelessly belting along to "Scars to Your Beautiful" by Alessia Cara. Same deal. Love it so much. Here's to self-love pop that's catchy AF!!!!!!!!!