Music and Self-Image


I have a lot of friends who are really into music. Like, REALLY into music. Often saying things like, “music is my life” and “I couldn’t survive without music”. I like music, but when I heard stuff like that, I thought, “Wow. That’s hardcore. Those people are so cool.” (And they are!) But, until recently, I didn’t really acknowledge what a big part of my life music was. I just assumed I like music, just like the next person. Doesn’t everyone listen to music all day long and get all the feels when a good song touches them? Hmmmm… I guess not.

I was speaking to a good friend I’ve known for many years and I was telling her about these other friends I have that I look up to and think are so great and how they are so into music and stuff. She said that it makes sense that we are friends then. I was confused by her statement.

She went on to explain that I’ve always been really into music and that I always seem to be listening to something and that I know the stuff I know better than anyone. This made me stop and think. Two things~

She sees me in a way I’ve never thought about myself. That fleeting conversation was eye-opening. It made me go on to think about self-image and how others see you and how they don’t often match up with how you view yourself. Of course we all adapt how we put ourselves out there based on who we’re with. (Like, you’re going to act differently with kids than with adults, at your job than out with your friends, etc.) It’s not being inauthentic or putting on masks or hiding anything. It’s just human nature. It’s the many different sides of yourself. So it seems only natural that various people are going to have varying perceptions of who you are. You’re never the exact same person to more than one person. It’s fascinating to me to be able to get a glimpse of how other people see me. To my friend, one of the things that stands out to her is that I am a music lover. This is one of the qualities that comes to her mind when she thinks of me. I was stunned to find that out.

The other thing that I thought about was what being a “music lover” actually means and why I didn’t classify myself as that before. It should be simple, right? A lover of music loves music. But I sometimes place unreasonable expectations on things, especially on myself. I would have denied being “cool” like my music-loving friends based on some pretty stupid criteria. If you were to turn on the radio right now and listen for half an hour, I may know one or two songs out of the entire set. I don’t keep up with what’s popular. I feel “out of the loop” most of the time. There are also standards or classics that seemingly everyone knows that I have no clue about. I was raised by a mother who did not listen to music other than at church and a father who only listened to his selected genre (The Beatles and other music from that time). I had no one to teach me these things. So, how could I possibly be one of those cool people? I am not constantly sourcing out new artists and songs. I tend to fall into music ruts and sit and listen to one or two artists for months at a time. So the songs I know, I know really, really well. If I really like an artist/band, I will hoard everything I can. So I’m not someone who “knows everything”. My music knowledge is sparse and full of holes.

But, back to the being a music lover thing, I do LOVE music. I love that it can express anything you need to communicate. There’s that saying “where words fail, music speaks” (or something like that). There is something for every mood. Most of the time, I have music playing in the background even if I’m not paying any attention to it. I use music to wake up and I use it to fall asleep. Then there are the times when I just sit and listen to actually hear it and connect to it.

Sometimes I listen to the lyrics and that’s what grabs me. I can relate to or imagine what it feels like to experience what is being sung. Other times, I don’t pay any attention to what is actually being said but the melody or harmonies or beat or something about the instrumentation is striking. Music can make me feel sad, can lift me up, excite me, calm me down. It can heighten an existing mood or completely turn it around.

I like that music hold memories too. I’m sure it’s like that for anyone. You hear a certain song and are instantly transported back to a moment or period in your life. You remember how you felt and what you thought. Or you associate certain songs with particular people. Music can wrap you in a hug or slap you in the face. It’s so powerful. It’s bizarre to me that it’s not like this for everyone. I can’t really wrap my head around life without music.


Later addition: When I reread this before posting it, the part about different sides of yourself made me laugh. I was thinking there are those different aspects that you show at different times, all of which are a part of you, but that you can’t be “whole” at one particular time. And then, like I often do, I was reminded of a song (hence the ironic laughter). Lenka’s “Everything at Once”. It’s about precisely that. Being all parts of you at once.

Funny how music does that. Just an errant thought and all of a sudden a song pops in your head to complement it.

Or have you ever been having a conversation with someone and they say a particular string of words that just happen to be song lyrics (usually not having anything at all to do with the content of the conversation) and then you’re off singing in your head and totally miss what that the person is even saying? Or spontaneously broken into song, just like in a musical, when something triggers a song in your head?

*sigh* Did I mention I love music?


(originally posted to wohngsikneuih)

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3 Responses to Music and Self-Image

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