How Taylor Swift helped me learn to love myself

If you’re like me, then you are over the moon with joy over the fact that Miss Taylor Swift is finally getting the love and appreciation that she deserves. I remember getting in my mom’s car in the fall of sixth grade and her pulling out this bright blue CD from the glove compartment.

“You’re gonna love this girl, she reminds me of you,” she said as the first few notes of “Tim McGraw” filled the car. Since then, with every heart break and bad day, I turned to Taylor for comfort and reassurance. Some people may be sick of the recent Tay-love fest the world is having right now or dislike Taylor because, for some reason, it’s cool to hate what and who is popular, but I can’t help but jump for excitement every time I see my girl grace the cover of yet another magazine.

I was a wide-eyed little weirdo with my heart on my sleeve when I first heard Taylor. I believed the world was full of beautiful people, magical adventures, and fairy tale romances. I still believe these things, but during my teenage years, I lost sight of the person I wanted to be and became someone new — someone they wanted me to be.

I dealt with bullying from the third day of kindergarten onward. The bullying got physical in sixth grade, but to be honest, I found the verbal bullying worse. The bullies’ words haunted my mind for hours after they left and the worse part was, as the words continued to repeat in my head, they were played back to me in my own voice. And eventually, I began to believe these words I heard so often.

I still believed that the world was a wonderful place, so I decided that if people didn’t like me, it must be because there was something wrong with me. I decided to figure out what that wrong thing was and change that. For five years, I was constantly changing myself and observing others to attempt to become the “right” person. I wanted to be cool, not popular, but accepted. But when I graduated, began university, and realized people were still blowing me off in the “adult world,” it hit me that some people will just never like you, and that’s okay.

It was around the beginning of my second year of college that “Shake it Off” was released. The message of this amazing single, and the interviews that followed, truly changed my perspective on everything.

In the promotional interviews, Taylor talked about struggling to accept herself while the media constantly tried to make her into someone she wasn’t. I faced a similar struggle in high school; “Indie 500” was my nickname (because apparently I went “around and around” — even though I didn’t date anyone at all for two years and was in a serious relationship for three), and seeing Taylor finally talk about how those untrue rumors affected her helped me move past my own reputation as well.

Sure, Taylor can be problematic at times, but I truly love her and I know that I’m not the only person that felt this way and was helped by her words. People are going to be jerks and say whatever they want about you. Some people are just never going to like you and there’s nothing you can do about it. And once I accepted the idea that some people are just mean and it’s not my fault, I stopped hating myself.

It was like this huge weight was lifted and I could finally just breathe. Watching Taylor stop caring what people said about her, and watching her become happier than I’ve ever seen her before helped me realize that my fear about what others thought was holding me back. I’ve always wanted to be the total sweetheart that everyone loves, and in trying to make everyone love me, I ended up hating myself. That was a big problem since, at the end of the day, your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters.

I’m not saying that I love every part of myself every minute of the day — I mean who does? I’m saying that I don’t let my flaws, or the things I perceive as flaws, hold me back from the things I want to do. If I could go back in time and tell younger me anything, it would have to be the same thing my mom told me everyday I came home from school with tears in my eyes, pretending I was fine: “If you change for them to like you, they are either gonna like a person who doesn’t exist or you’re going to have to keep changing to keep them happy.”

Yes, I am naive and, very often, childlike. I think that the world is, generally, a wonderful place and I feel insanely lucky to be alive and, for the most part, healthy. I smile at strangers, thank the bus driver, never tip less than 10%, and prefer skipping to walking. I give people way too many chances, sing to myself (or, more accurately, perform to myself), and buy way too many gifts for my friends. But that is who I am. And people roll their eyes at me or try to burst my happy little bubble with pessimism disguised as “realism.” I might be a completely different person in 10 years, but for right now, I am happy and finally comfortable in my own skin; and if anyone has something rude to say about me, I’ll just Shake it Off.

(Images via Big Machine, here, and here.)

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