I have a confession to make: I love Taylor Swift. Yes, I realize it's a bit ridiculous to be in adoration of a popstar as a woman in my thirties. But, for me, Taylor is more than a popstar. She's a fellow writer. She's a fellow woman, all too familiar with heartbreak and haters and the endless pursuit of happiness. She's a fellow human being, just trying to do what she loves and share what she's passionate about with the world. Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, I connect with her and the words she puts out into the universe on a level that's still somewhat of a mystery to me.
While I've always been extremely moved by music, I've never been obsessive over one particular singer or band. As a kid, I had stacks of CDs in my room, but most of them were there only to provide a song or two for one of my many mixes (of which I'm still making!). Until Taylor, I never really got into entire albums. But for whatever reason, when she puts out an album every other October, the words she's written always seem absolutely perfect for whatever I'm going through.
A week ago, she released her latest album, 1989, and I've had it on repeat pretty much every moment I've been awake since then. The lyrics mirror so much of what's going on in my life right now: "Blank Space" playfully explores how I feel being single again; "Bad Blood" reflects the pain I've been experiencing over the loss of a friend; "Shake It Off" reminds me to let go of those who judge my choices; "This Love" reflects how reconnecting with my past can be both so good and so bad; "Out of the Woods" is straight-up how I feel about every uncertain aspect of my life right now; and "Clean" is the perfect post-breakup song about letting go. If I wrote songs, these are the words I would have written for where I am in my life right now.
That's the beauty of Taylor's music, I guess. It can apply to so many different people all over the world and yet still feel as if it were written just for you. And when you really listen to what she has to say, both in songs and in interviews, it turns out Taylor has tons of great insights about love and about life. In honor of 1989, I've compiled some of the life lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift...
LESSON 1: SHAKE OFF THE HATERS
Being a super celebrity, Taylor's bound to have some haters, but she knows better than to let them get her down. In her song "Shake It Off," she reminds us to let go of those who hate, those who put us down instead of bringing us up. I've personally been having a tough time shaking some things off lately, but I heard Taylor speaking in a recent interview and she helped me put haters in perspective when she said, "It's human instinct to try and defend yourself when people have the wrong impression of you, but you have to let go of that and just get rid of it because it's not yours anymore."
It's not yours anymore. Those words really hit home for me. And make me realize that what other people think isn't yours anymore, but it also never was yours in the first place. Whatever hate or misconception someone has, whatever untrue things they might think of you, that's their thing, not yours. What others say or think actually says a lot more about them than it does about you — a very important thing to remember!
LESSON 2: LOVE WHO YOU ARE
“If you go too far down the rabbit-hole of what people think about you, it can change everything about who you are," Taylor has said, and I really believe that to be true. It's hard not to care at all about what others think of you, but it's important to focus on your unique awesomeness — your muchness — instead of worrying about what others think about who you are. Plus, as Taylor puts it, "What I've learned is not to change who you are because eventually you're going to run out of new things to become.” If you don't stay true to yourself, who knows who you'll become?
Taylor has also said: “You have to be happy with who you are and the choices you make. If you don't like yourself, you'll never be truly happy.” It's so incredibly true. We all make choices every single day and every single one of those choices impacts whether or not we're happy with who we are. It's important to make choices that will allow you to continue to love yourself day after day. As Taylor put it recently: "It's important to be self-aware about what people are saying about you, but even more so, be very aware of who you actually are, and to have that be the main priority."
LESSON 3: SPEAK NOW
“I think most of us fear reaching the end of our life and looking back regretting the moments we didn't speak up. When we didn't say 'I love you.' When we should have said 'I'm sorry.' There's a time for silence, and there's a time for waiting your turn. But if you know how you feel, and you so clearly know what you need to say, I don't think you should wait. I think you should speak now.” Those words came from Taylor's Speak Now tour (which was amazing) and they're filled with truth. Unless words are cruel or untrue, there are rarely things that are better left unsaid. So speak up. Whatever it is you need to say, say it.
But, there's a caveat when it comes to speaking your mind: make sure the words you use are positive ones. As Taylor has said, “Words can break someone into a million pieces, but they can also put them back together. I hope you use yours for good, because the only words you'll regret more than the ones left unsaid are the ones you use to intentionally hurt someone.” Words are an incredibly powerful weapon we all have access to; use that power positively.
LESSON 4: EMBRACE FEARLESSNESS
Taylor has a lot to say about being fearless and I support her words of wisdom wholeheartedly. She has said: "Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. Fearless is falling madly in love again, even though you’ve been hurt before...Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again, even though every time you’ve tried before, you’ve lost. It’s fearless to have faith that someday things will change. Fearless is having the courage to say goodbye to someone who only hurts you, even if you can’t breathe without them. I think it’s fearless to fall for your best friend, even though he’s in love with someone else. And when someone apologizes to you enough times for things they’ll never stop doing, I think it’s fearless to stop believing them. It’s fearless to say 'you’re not sorry,' and walk away. I think loving someone despite what people think is fearless. I think allowing yourself to cry on the bathroom floor is fearless. Letting go is fearless. Then, moving on and being alright. That’s fearless too."
As someone who is recently gone through a break-up and is striving to move on, I can so relate to Taylor's wisdom on how much bravery it requires to let go and move on, to embrace the things that scare you the most. Whatever scares you, go after it. Face that fear. (And be thankful you don't have to be brave in front of the whole world, like Taylor does!)
LESSON 5: DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
A lot of people can relate to Taylor, but that's not necessarily because she's just like every other (almost) 25-year-old. She's said, "I'd rather be at home and eat ice cream than go out and get wasted." She seems to prefer spending time with her cats and her favorite TV shows over going out and partying, which isn't all that common for someone her age. But that's what makes her happy so that's what she spends her time doing.
Taylor clearly works incredibly hard so she probably knows how to zero in on doing what makes her happy whenever she has time to do it. As she's said, "Happiness isn't a constant. You get fleeting glimpses. You have to fight for those moments, but they make it all worth it." Happiness isn't part of every moment of every day (much as we'd like it to be!), but you've got to make it priority like Taylor does. You have to know the things that make you happy and spend as much time surrounding yourself with them as you possibly can. Also, don't feel you need romance to be happy. As Taylor said recently, "Life can be romantic without having a romance. I’m very attracted to how happy I am now."
LESSON 6: CELEBRATE FRIENDSHIP
"I look for people who really have their own passion in life," Taylor said last week when she was on The View. "My friends, they all are chasing their own dreams, and they all have their own ambitions." It's pretty awesome that Taylor chooses to surround herself with people who are passionate and successful. It would be so easy for her to choose friends that idolize her or simply exist to cater to her whims (because I bet a good majority of women would be more than happy to be her friend!), but Taylor seems fearlessly drawn to strong, smart, interesting women instead of being threatened by them like some women might be.
Unfortunately women are often pitted against one another, especially in celebrity culture, but Taylor makes her girlfriends a priority and doesn't let their brilliance (or her own) get in the way of forming bonds with other women. Of her friend Ella (also known as Lorde), she has said, "[Lorde is] like this blazing bonfire. You can either be afraid of it because it's so powerful and strong, or you can go stand near it, because it's fun and it makes you brighter." Like Taylor, we could all benefit from allowing others' brightness to help us shine.
LESSON 7: KEEP ON BELIEVIN' (IN LOVE)
If you know anything about Taylor, you know she's a big believer in love. Even though she's had lots of heartbreak (and has yet to have a long-lasting, true love), she is wise when it comes to opening her heart up: "Just because something is over doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredibly beautiful. Not all stories have a happy ending and you have to learn how to deal with that." I can so relate to that bit of wisdom right now. Going through a break-up has been extremely tough, but I try to stay positive by recalling that, just because it's over, doesn't mean it wasn't worth every wonderful moment it lasted. Living in fear of love can really hinder the possibilities of what could be and it's important to learn how to embrace love even when it's possible it might not work out.
Taylor's words also carry over into launching new relationships. Instead of focusing on how new relationships might end, I'm reminded by Taylor's wisdom to appreciate the now, to celebrate the interactions I currently have for what they are, for however long they last. Taylor's got a lot to say (and sing) about love, but another insight I particularly love is this: "Don’t worry. You may think you’ll never get over it. But you also thought it would last forever." Just as love sometimes doesn't last forever, neither does heartache.
LESSON 8: LEARN FROM THE PAST
"I've found time can heal most anything / And you just might find who you're supposed to be," sings Taylor in her song "Fifteen," and in "Innocent" (one of my favs!), she sings, "Who you are is not what you've been / You're still an innocent." These lyrics are just some of those she's written to remind us (and herself) that you can recover and learn from the past. Just because something has happened in the past doesn't mean it has to keep happening in the present. She's said, "At some point, you grow out of being attracted to that flame that burns you over and over and over again." You might have to make a mistake multiple times (I know I sure I have!) to learn your lesson, but at some point you will learn and you can take that knowledge with you as you move forward into the future.
In particular, you can learn a lot from past loves. "There are two different categories of love," Taylor has said, "The first category is called a fairytale. The second category of love is called just another lesson." I completely agree that every heartbreak is a lesson. Regardless of why your heart has been broken, you can learn from the pain, and those lessons will only make you smarter the next time around.
LESSON 9: KNOW WHEN TO LET GO
It can be heart-wrenching to let go of what you want to hang on to (I know this all too well myself...), but Taylor's on to something when she recognizes that letting go of something when you know you need to let it go is always the best choiceno matter how painful it is to do so. Letting go will hurt like hell, but it hurts so much more to cling to what wants to be set free. In one of her new songs from 1989, "New Romantics," she sings, "The best people in life are free." I love the double meaning of this: the best people don't have price you have to pay to be with them and the best people are free to live as they please, unburdened by adherence to expectations or rules.
There's so much truth in how wonderful it is to be with someone who is free, someone who is with you for no other reason than because he or she wants to be. If you don't feel free or you don't feel like the other person is free, it's time to let go and move on to a more liberating situation.
LESSON 10: WORK HARD (ER)
"My attitude has always been if you get better and you see success, that should motivate you to even work harder, so that's kinda how I approach everything," Taylor has said. That's a pretty great attitude to have, isn't it? Perhaps her hard-working nature comes from what she said here: "My parents raised me to never feel like I was entitled to success. That you have to work for it. You have to work so hard for it. And sometimes then you don't even get where you need to go." Taylor's certainly gotten where she needed to go, but that's not for a lack of a lot of effort. She's been working practically her whole life, going after her dreams with a persistence that I find pretty darn inspiring.
Taylor has also said: "The world doesn’t owe you anything. You have to work for everything you get and you have to appreciate every bit of success the world gives you." Pretty humble words for a global superstar, right? That's one great thing we can learn from Taylor: if you want something, go after it. And go hard. Don't give up when people say no. Don't rely on other people to get you where you want to go. Don't let go of your dreams — work for them.
LESSON 11: FEEL THOSE FEELINGS
Taylor feels things. I mean, really. She doesn't push the heartache or pain away. She doesn't deny that things hurt or that life is far from perfect. She gets in there with those emotions and she allows herself to experience them fully and deeply. And, not only does she experience them, but she shares them. She has said, "Your feelings so are important to write down, to capture, and to remember because today you're heartbroken, but tomorrow you'll be in love again." That's such a great way of looking at it, isn't it? Remember you're feelings because, good or bad, they are fleeting.
While it's not a great idea to dwell in negative emotions, it's never a great idea to ignore emotions. Instead, the best way to heal is to embrace how you feel — no matter what that feeling is. The more you allow yourself to experience and explore your emotions, the better you'll become at managing them. So next time you feel something not-so-great, imagine you're Taylor and embrace those emotions. Feel them. Share them if you want. Use them to access a creative part of yourself. But whatever you do, don't ignore them.
LESSON 12: RESPECT YOURSELF
"When I was in high school," Taylor said, "I remember seeing girls crying in the bathroom every Monday about what they did that weekend. I never wanted to be that girl crying in the bathroom." As far as I've seen, Taylor's never been that girl. Sure, she's had a string of (alleged) boyfriends, but she's maintained an air of self-respect throughout her career and in her personal life.
In her lyrics, you can tell that she knows how important it is to respect yourself. In "White Horse," for example, she sings, "I'm not your princess, this ain't a fairytale / I'm gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well / This is a big world, that was a small town / There in my rear view mirror disappearing now / And it's too late for you and your white horse / Now it's too late for you and your white horse to catch me now." Taylor might love the idea of a fairytale ending, but she knows better than to settle. And you should too. Never settle for less than you deserve and never let anyone stand between you and what you want.
LESSON 13: HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR
In a recent interview, Taylor said: "In the last few years I've gotten better at just kind of laughing off things that absolutely have no bearing on my real life." One of the greatest life lessons we can all learn from Taylor is to have a sense of humor. Life isn't perfect; it's quite messy, in fact. If you can't laugh at yourself and some of the crazy situations you find yourself in, you're only making it harder for yourself. The more you can shake things off and laugh about them, the easier everything becomes.
Taylor's known for making fun of her single relationship status, for chuckling about her exes, for mocking her own unique dancing (if you haven't seen it, the whole video for "Shake It Off" is her making fun of herself). And every time she does, she shows us how easy it can be to make the best of a bad or awkward situation. Instead of feeling sorry for herself when people mock her dancing or joke about her exes, she joins in on the fun and pokes fun at herself. 'Cause laughing it off really is the best way to shake it off!
One way to discover even more great life lessons (or put Taylor's to use!) is to uncover the unique aspects of you. You can discover (and appreciate!) more about yourself and what matters to you by downloading a copy of Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.