6 Life Lessons I Have Learned from Taylor Swift

Young adult with headphones and brightly dyed hair listens to musicDon’t let my youthful face fool you—I’m a few years older than Taylor Swift. (No, I’m not telling you how many years older. How rude of you to ask! We just met.) Nonetheless, the iconic pop star has several lessons those from every generation—millennials to boomers—could stand to learn, even if you are not a Swiftie or are repelled by the idea of becoming one. (I must confess, though, life on the Swiftie side really is delightful!)

Life Lesson No. 1

“Don’t let other people’s opinions of you define you, especially when they don’t know you.”

I’m taking this quote directly from Taylor when she performed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Well said, Taylor.

How many times have you worried about other people’s opinions of you? How has that worry held you back? What might you have achieved or accomplished if you had been able to let go of that worry? Could you have felt better about yourself?

One thing I’ve learned in life is that, the majority of the time, people are focused on themselves—so much so they probably have no clue what you’re doing. And if they did, they would likely be more concerned about what you thought about what they thought of you! (Are you still with me?)

Life Lesson No. 2

Your 20s are both “miserable and magical” and a time to feel “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.”

As a psychologist, I provide therapy to adults of all ages, from every decade of life from the 20s to the 80s. Each decade has common challenges. Yet, for those in their 20s, it can be a landmine of obstacles. For many, the 20s are a time when nearly everything in life is up in the air, sometimes all at once.

Young adults often question what they should do for a living, who they should date (perhaps exploring or questioning their sexuality), where they should live, even who they feel they truly are. These concerns don’t magically or mysteriously resolve the day you turn 30. However, as people move through their 20s, they often find some grounding in these various areas that can be built upon in future decades. In the interim, the vast selection and possibilities can feel liberating, scary, or even isolating. Any unpleasant feelings can be exacerbated by people aged 30 and over who act dismissive, telling those in their 20s they have no problems because they are young. Maybe they had so much fun in their 20s they can’t remember the associated and occasional angst. For their sake, I hope that’s the case.

Life Lesson No. 3

When you drown, you can ironically begin to breathe.

It’s hard for me to imagine that concert-goers under age 10 could understand the lyrics, “When I was drowning/that’s when I could finally breathe.” For me, I associate this song (“Clean”) and its lyrics with the occasional importance of hitting bottom, or at least getting close. It is often only when you hit bottom that you realize you can float, or essentially discover how resilient you really are.

As humans, we typically do all we can to avoid emotional pain. But people die, get divorced, get fired from jobs, and go through countless other forms of adversity. And the only option is to keep going forward, even if you take some time to grieve and retreat, because you must come out the other side. When you do, you will realize you are stronger than you think.

Life Lesson No. 4

Players gonna play, haters gonna hate, heartbreakers gonna break, and fakers gonna fake.

When you run into these characters, try to do like Taylor and “shake it off.” This is related to life lesson No. 1—not letting others define you. Believe people when they show you who they are. Don’t let others throw you off your game.

I often advise people in therapy to keep their eyes on their own lane. Just as when driving, if you focus on someone else’s life or drama, you may get hurt in a crash or start driving to someone else’s destination.

Life Lesson No. 5

Always take the high road, even when others don’t (ahem, Kanye).

This life lesson can be learned anytime Taylor must interact with Kanye West or his crew. Few of us will ever forget the infamous 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye rudely interrupted Taylor’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video. And we won’t soon forget the recent lyrics Kanye wrote about Taylor, the video he made, and the subsequent reactions on social media.

It doesn’t seem to matter who throws shade her way; her responses, whether in an acceptance speech or in a tweet, always seem to reflect maturity and integrity. I don’t know how she maintains such composure, but it’s impressive. I know what I wanted to say to Kanye, but Taylor never went there. She rose above.

Life Lesson No. 6

Make art out of your pain.

Some of Taylor’s best work emerged from times of what seemed like significant pain. Figure out how you can work with your pain and sadness to create something amazing or healing. Such an approach could transform your life.

In my practice, I call this a “tragic gift.” This relates to life lesson No. 3—when you drown, you can ironically begin to breathe.

I could write about several more life lessons I’ve learned from Taylor Swift, including investing in and supporting your friends, standing up for what you feel is right, being able to laugh at yourself, and giving back to your community. But you get the idea. Despite Taylor’s relatively young age, there is much we can learn from her. One of my favorite lessons is you can be a woman and be powerful, beautiful, and intelligent. Thank you, Taylor!

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ashley Curiel, PsyD, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Hannah

    September 16th, 2016 at 1:43 PM

    best words of wisdom- shake it off

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 17th, 2016 at 12:22 PM

    Thank you both for reading and reflecting! I agree with your insights wholeheartedly!

  • Locke

    September 17th, 2016 at 9:04 AM

    I am so glad that you have a musician that you can relate to in that way.
    I guess that I have a few of those too, not TS, but I do have some, and while some people might think that it is corny, isn’t that what the music that you enjoy, no matter who writes or sings it, is supposed to bring to you? There is a message there that we can often relate to, and we may not have been able to articulate the words ourselves but when we hear it sung by another, it is like it is speaking the exact words that we would have liked to say.

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 17th, 2016 at 12:27 PM

    Exactly! Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

  • Terri

    September 19th, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    I have been to that point of feeling like I couldn’t breathe, literally until you hit bottom and you are swimming your way back up to the surface. Funny how we have to have that aha moment sometimes for something that should have been so obvious to finally click and make sense.

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 19th, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    Thank you for reading and providing your reflections, Terri! In hindsight, things often do seem so much clearer. I feel that we have to do our best to be patient and forgive our human-ness, but it can certainly be difficult.

  • Richie

    September 19th, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    She actually is a pretty profound lyric writer to just be in her 20s.
    You kind of think that someone should have a little more life experience to have words like that.

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 19th, 2016 at 2:35 PM

    Thank you for reading and responding, Richie! I agree! I’m extremely impressed with her maturity and wisdom; she feels like an “old soul” to me in that regard.

  • Iris

    September 20th, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Don’t be fooled. Any age bracket can be miserable and magical all at the same time.

    That’s not something you leave behind when you get older.

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 20th, 2016 at 9:37 AM

    Very true, Iris. While some experiences might be more common at certain ages, we are all human. Most human experiences can occur throughout our lives, regardless of age. I think that’s why we have more in common with each other than we have differences. We can learn a great deal from one another regardless of chronological age. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Lillian

    September 21st, 2016 at 2:20 PM

    Awesome article- someone should share to her fan page!

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 25th, 2016 at 6:47 PM

    Thank you so much for that positive feedback, Lillian! I greatly appreciate it. We have directly tweeted her the article, but haven’t tried the fan page yet. Excellent idea!

  • Alex

    September 22nd, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    As a dad of tween girls, believe me, I have listened to more Taylor Swift then anyone would ever think was possible. I thought when my girls started listening and really getting into her music that I would just naturally hate it, but you know what? She writes her own music, she writes her lyrics, she plays instruments and has a pretty darn good voice. Isn’t this the kind of role model that any of us would want our kids to look up to? She doesn’t rely solely on skimpy clothes to sell her product. She has a voice, a brain, and she has used it to catapult her to mega stardom.

  • Dr. Ashley Curiel

    September 25th, 2016 at 6:49 PM

    I totally agree, Alex! Even more reasons why she inspires me. :) Thank you so much for reading and responding!

  • Franca

    April 10th, 2020 at 9:54 AM

    Your 20s are a time of figuring out your blueprint for life. You’re officially an adult, moving beyond the naivety of your teenage years, but not yet entrenched in the responsibilities of adulthood. You’re-launching toward your future, full of energy and possibility. But you’re also at an age where the uncertainty and heartaches of life can leave you deflated and drained. So how you manage them is what makes you an Adult, do the best for yourself because you deserve that. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

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