Shake It Off: Learning to Live a Life Less Controlled by Others

Picture by nosound-withoutsilence, via tumblr

Picture by nosound-withoutsilence, via tumblr

Taylor Swift and I are about the same age and, as a result, I’ve watched her and her music change as I grew up too. So maybe it’s not odd that I can look at her music and see myself in it so clearly.

Some of her early songs about haters, like Mean, were mostly about reacting to the hate and using it to motivate you. The song is really down on the singer just as much as the ‘mean’ person is.

“You have pointed out my flaws again/As if I don’t already see them/I walk with my head down/Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you.”

The song, for all that Taylor is defiantly calling out a bully and saying she’s better than them, still puts a lot of negative emotion onto Taylor’s self image. While fighting against someone’s bad opinion of you can be motivation to succeed, it sometimes just motivates you to spend time reacting to the hate, trying to prove people wrong, not because it makes you happy…but because you kind of believe the hate a little yourself.

Shake It Off is an entirely different message, though on first glance it might seem similar. It’s about the people that hate you and make up rumors and insults about you, just like Mean, but it’s about a different reaction to that kind of abuse.

Instead of letting all that hate and meanness get inside you, where you end up having to fight it off internally as well as externally, you just have to shake it off. You have to learn to ignore it and just do what you want to do, not to prove the haters wrong, but because it makes you happy.

Taylor is adorably dorky in this video. She’s not very good at dancing with the others, but she doesn’t care. She’s being uniquely her and people can take her or leave her, but she isn’t going to change who she is to make them happy.

Here’s where my own life is surprisingly in sync with Taylor’s. Two years ago I was morbidly obsessed with how I would be viewed by the people that are considered influential (or simply the people I called friends) in my chosen career field.  I was constantly trying to play my hand right, watching what I said and trying to anticipate how what I said or did would impact my future career path. “Oh, this person is important, I better not offend them…even if I disagree with them.”

Now I’ve grown and I’ve begun to realize that if I will have to become some sort of pathetic Yes-Man who caters to the “popular” people and their opinions just to be successful in politics or punditry…then I don’t want it. That’s not me, it’s never been me, even when I was younger. I never sucked up to the cheerleaders because they were popular and I never skipped class or smoked a cigarette because of peer pressure. I argued with teachers and pastors and told my friends where to stick it when they tried to tell me what to do. That lost me friends and got me into trouble then and it’s still doing it now.

But I’ll just shake it off.

I’d rather be the dorky Taylor Swift who has fun and stays true to herself even if she never quite gets the steps right, even if that means I lose friends and I never quite become the success in this career that I wanted. I’ll always love writing about politics, but if I have to become something I’m not to make it in this career, then maybe it’s time I consider some other options.