Sometimes we all have blue days. We know the things we shouldn't do — hate on ourselves, compare ourselves to others around us, drink martinis with that toxic friend with the doctorate in passive-aggressive compliments ("Fun haircut!") — but we do it all anyway. Such is the nature of being a human being on planet earth, right? During times like this, a self-care playlist of confidence-boosting songs is essential. Ladies and gentlemen, step right this way. I've lined up 32 songs to get your head to exactly where it needs to be in these exaggeratedly gray, bleak times.
Pop music gets a bad rap, sometimes. It isn't just about loving and lusting and shaking your thing on the dance floor, OK? A lot of the time, music's just as concerned with the pitfalls involved in constructing a healthy self-image and with the need to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally. These songs are focused on the one person in your life you spend the most time with: you. If you haven't been kind to yourself recently or you've had a couple of rough days or sleepless nights in a row, schedule in some self-care. And, before you slip into a bubble bath, try on these songs for size.
1. TLC — "Unpretty"
The self-esteem song, right? Besides which, it does a convincing and catchy takedown of the U.S. beauty industry. You'll be ditching your lip gloss and going Alicia Keys bare-face-beautiful for the next few days after listening to this.
2. Drake — "Started From The Bottom"
Heck, if even superstar/your future husband Drake had to stay at his mom's house while trying to make it, you know you can achieve whatever you want if you set your mind to it. There's a reason this song gets quoted inspirationally all the time — because it works in hyping you up.
3. Hailee Steinfeld — "Love Myself"
Whether this song is about self-love in the physical sense or emotional sense is up to you. Regardless, "Love Myself" is exactly what it says on the tin: a dangerous catchy self-care banger from one of the newest queens of pop.
4. Electric Light Orchestra — "Don't Bring Me Down"
Sometimes the problem isn't you; it's the assholes around you. Let this arena-rock anthem be your own personal anthem today.
5. Meghan Trainor — "All About That Bass"
When body positivity feels challenging, you know what track you need to shake it to. "Because every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top." Amen to that, Ms. Trainor.
6. Rihanna — "Needed Me"
This kiss-off about a nonessential lover is self-love by way of recognizing relationships for exactly what they are, be they significant or completely insignificant. Like Rihanna, you're good enough on your own.
7. Nicki Minaj & Beyoncé — "Feeling Myself"
It doesn't matter what gender you identify with; this is the celebrating-yourself anthem of the decade. Also, it's so catchy that it'll be on repeat in your brain for the next week, which can't be bad for your self-esteem.
8. Courtney Barnett — "Pedestrian At Best"
Sometimes, self-care isn't about telling yourself over and over again that you're a goddess. Sometimes, it's about compassion: we're all human and we're all flawed. This song celebrates the messy, chaotic business that is being a person.
9. Shamir — "On The Regular"
Shamir for president. His swagger is contagious and humorous in equal measures: "This is my movie, stay tuned for the sequel." Also, great line for the next time someone's messing with you: "Don't try me, I'm not a free sample."
10. Beyoncé — "Run The World (Girls)"
When sexism has got you down, sometimes you need a pro-lady anthem to throw shapes to. This is it. Let the true leader of the free world (Beyoncé, of course) share her throne with you, and all the girls out there.
11. TLC — "No Scrubs"
There's something really powerful in saying no, and declaring that you deserve better. "No Scrubs" is the song for these moments, when you've had enough, and you won't put up with anything less than the absolute best.
12. Fleetwood Mac — "Go Your Own Way"
Because toxic relationships are bad for your health and worse for your happiness, sometimes you just need to embrace following your own path, and doing away with the negativity that might come from past relationships.
13. Kanye West & DJ Premier — "Everything I Am"
"I'll never be picture-perfect Beyoncé," anyone? This song is all about celebrating what makes you you and coming to peace with everything you'd like to be, even if you're not there yet.
14. Florence + The Machine — "Shake It Out"
This one is perfect for those dark days when you're your own worst enemy, and you need to shake off some negativity. By the time the chorus hits and Florence is singing to the rooftops, you'll be in full-blown catharsis mode.
15. Nas — "I Can"
Nas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: you're eloquent, smart, and you celebrate positive life choices. Plus, you wrote this reliable mood-lifter of a song. You can be what you want to be, if you w
16. Lady Gaga — "Born This Way"
"Just put your paws up — because you were born this way, baby." It's hard to stay sad listening to this upbeat celebration of self-love. Don't be a drag, just be a queen.
17. Bruno Mars — "Just The Way You Are"
Nope. No more changes, no more self-improvement. Learn to embrace yourself in whatever phase of life you're in — you're amazing just the way you are!
18. Christina Aguilera — "Fighter"
Oh god, that operatic, hyper-melodramatic intro still sends shivers down my spine. This is the song you need to queue up before you go out to slay. It'll make you feel powerful.
19. India.Arie — "Video"
"I’m not the average girl from your video, and I ain’t built like a supermodel, but I learned to love myself unconditionally. Because I am a queen.” That's about all that needs to be said, right? Heaven.
20. Aretha Franklin — "Respect"
Self-care is all about feeling comfortable taking up space in the world. Sometimes, you can't ask for respect; you've got to demand it. Aretha will even spell it out for you, if people don't think you've made it clear enough.
21. Eve & Gwen Stefani — "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"
This entire song is a jam, but it could exist on this list on the power of this line alone: "You see, I do what they can't do, I just do me." Are you sensing a theme here?
22. Christina Aguilera — "Beautiful"
Two Christina Aguilera tracks on one playlist? So sue me: Aguilera is the queen of celebrating the joy of residing in your own skin. Words can't bring you down.
23. Nina Simone — "Feelin' Good"
Because those opening vocals don't just give me goosebumps, they're also a master class in the beauty of self-belief. Simone's voice, stark and free from instrumental backing, is a testimony to the charismatic pull of confidence.
24. Erykah Badu — "I'll Call U Back"
Is this about phone calls? Or is this about making space for yourself? I assume the latter. Do your thing, then call them back when you feel like it. Sometimes self-care is about taking your damn time.
25. DMX — "X Gon' Give It To Ya"
Sure, this song's a little silly. But its mix of unbridled braggadocio and a catchy beat is an instant mood lift. Yelling along with DMX can be empowering!
26. Destiny's Child — "Independent Women, Pt. I"
Ralph Waldo Emerson waxed lyrical about it, and, 200 years later, Destiny's Child celebrated it: self-reliance, baby. The joy of "'Cause I depend on me if I want it" is apparent in the joy of this anthem. Throw your hands up at me.
27. Robyn — "Don't F*cking Tell Me What To Do"
Where does all the negativity in your head come from, anyway? Robyn dissects all the messages women are overwhelmed with on a daily basis in under five minutes, and it's a complete and total bop.
28. Princess Nokia — "Tomboy"
Lots of pop stars are big on body positivity, but they're often quick to embrace a new standard of female beauty — a big, sexy butt. What if your body doesn't conform to either the old beauty standards or the 2016 butt-beautiful norm? With the repeated refrain of "With my little t*tties and my fat belly," Nokia celebrates her own special body with immense swagger.
29. Norah Jones — "Carry On"
For when the past is weighing too heavily on you, this song will set you free. This one will ease you into feeling better, if you're not quite ready to shout about empowerment from the rooftops just yet.
30. Paolo Nutini — "New Shoes"
Because sometimes retail therapy makes everything better. Or maybe the shoes are a metaphor for a new mindset? Who knows. Either way, this one is a pick-me-up.
31. LIZ — "When I Rule The World"
Sometimes dystopian shopping mall pop from the future about being an unapologetic dominatrix who is going to rule the world is everything you need to feel like the boss.
32. Khia — "My Neck, My Back"
Because when you can ask for what you want in bed, you're making serious headway on asking for what you want in the world at large.
We all have bad days, but hopefully this playlist will give you the lift you need to shrug off your self-doubt and take up space in the world. I can't stress the importance of self-care enough guys, and, hopefully, after you listen to this playlist, I won't need to.
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