Four Lessons on Soul-Centered Living from Taylor Swift
I find it inspiring to watch or read stories of transformation. I love memoirs and I love documentaries. Still, I was surprised to be so deeply moved by Miss Americana, Taylor Swift’s latest documentary on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here. I was hooked from this opening:
“My higher moral code, as a kid and now is a need to be thought of as good. It was all I wrote about, it was all I wanted. It was a complete and total belief system that I subscribed to as a kid. Do the right thing, do the good thing and obviously I am not a perfect person by any stretch but overall the main thing that I always tried to be was like a good girl. I’ve been trained to be happy. When you get a lot of praise - I had that praise of Taylor you are doing a good job at your work. You're doing a good job at being a songwriter. You're doing a good job at being a musician. Those pats on the head were all I lived for. I was so fulfilled by approval that that was it. I became the person who everyone wanted me to be.“
Swift also says, “when you are living for the approval of strangers and that is where you derive all of your joy and fulfillment, one bad thing can cause everything to crumble.”
For Taylor, that moment happened publicly during the MTV Awards. She was in the middle of her acceptance speech after being presented with the Best Female Video award of the year and Kanye West hijacked the microphone calling out Beyonce as having the best video of all time. The audience started booing. In the middle of the confusion, Taylor thought that they were booing her. She said, “For someone who has built their whole belief system on getting people to clap for you, the whole crowd booing is a pretty formative experience.”
That incident was the catalyst for a journey that I think we can all learn from.
1. Be clear about whose opinion matters to you. If you build your life on being liked, on the applause from other people, on the position you have, you will always feel vulnerable. Rejection hurts deeply if you have built your life on people’s approval.
2. Know your values and live them. Swift called this, “prioritizing what matters.” It can be difficult work sorting out what you value. We have often internalized an entire set of beliefs about who we are and how we need to show up for others. In Swift’s words, “I had to deconstruct an entire belief system for my own personal sanity.”
3. Speak your truth. Swift decided to speak up about two issues that were quite personal for her. She was willing to lose fans in order to have her integrity. She also learned even when you speak your truth, people may not respond the way you hope. You don’t do it for that reason. You do it because you realize that your voice is important. And to remain silent is to be complicit.
4. Let your challenges fuel you. After the Kanye West incident Taylor Swift recounts, “I went to a place where I had to prove myself. I am going to make sure that people know I belong here. . . . I can’t change what is going to happen to me, but I can control what I write.” It can be tempting to give up when things are difficult. I admired how Swift learned to let that energy strengthen her resolve to write songs.
I love that we have women like Taylor Swift sharing their stories to inspire all of us. I recommend watching it. All of these lessons are important. We all need to be clear about whose opinion matters to us. We all need to know our values and live them. We all need to speak our truth. We all need to face our challenges and not run from them.