Have you ever felt like you didn't quite "fit in"?
If you've been following me for a while, chances are: you've heard me talk about it a lot, but I get so frustrated with the idea that we need to conform and "tick one box" in order to function effectively in society. It's especially frustrating how early in our lives we are when we start to learn these habits.
We're taught that if we want a sense of belonging, we need to conform to some type of social identity.
We're told that if we want a solid group of close friends: we need to adopt the common interests or shared beliefs of our peers.
We're even often led to believe that if we want connection, acceptance, quality relationships, and a sense of community: we need to ignore or shrug off the difficult times, and lead those around us to believe that our life is perfect. That our vibe attracts our tribe, and therefore: it is critical that we hide our depression, anxiety, stress and overwhelm, attach ourselves to the one narrative that we've been told is our personal heroes journey, and hope and pray that our village will come.
But let's be real: no one is married to just ONE story. Just like Shrek, we all have layers... and in spite of being told that we should only share one of those layers... that often leaves us wanting for more in our lives. Wanting to show up more in our lives. Wanting to connect with, and find a community that celebrates every side of our identity - not just the parts that make those around us feel comfortable. In fact, I would argue that to truly find a sense of belonging - true belonging - we need to be able to be comfortable to feel uncomfortable around one another. And celebrate that discomfort. Honor that discomfort. And grow from that discomfort.
And - of course - again: if you know me at all, you'll know that the lifehack I've discovered to help me feel comfortable in my discomfort, connect with others, and find belonging whilst creating my own community of like-minded humans who are also on a mission to both honor their honesty and find a greater sense of social support is: music and songwriting.
Especially when it comes to the 2023 teen, or even our inner teenagers.
First, let's take a look at Gen Z on a broader level
Teenagers today are navigating a complex world that can often leave them feeling isolated and disconnected from their peers. The pressure to conform to societal norms can be overwhelming, and the need to fit in can make it difficult for teenagers to fully embrace their unique identities. This is why it's crucial for teenagers to find ways to connect with others who share their experiences and struggles, and music and songwriting can be powerful tools to help achieve this.
Research has shown that listening to music can stimulate the release of dopamine and oxytocin, two hormones that play a crucial role in regulating mood and promoting feelings of pleasure and social bonding. Music has been found to have a direct impact on the brain's reward system, which is why it's such a powerful tool for bringing people together.
In case you missed it, I talked about this recently in my TEDx Talk on how songwriting and music saved my life, personally, as a result of my own adverse experiences.
But music isn't just about listening to songs that make us feel good; it's also about using music as a way to express ourselves and connect with others on a deeper level. Songwriting, in particular, can be an incredibly effective way for teenagers to find the appropriate language to explain their thoughts and feelings. When we write songs, we have the opportunity to explore our emotions and experiences in a safe and supportive environment, and to share our stories with others who may be going through similar challenges.
For teenagers who may feel like they don't quite "fit in," music and songwriting can be a lifeline. By using those same lyrics to connect with others who share their experiences, they can find a sense of community and belonging that is imperative for their emotional well-being. And by channeling their emotions through music and songwriting, they can learn to embrace their unique identities and find their own voice in a world that can often be overwhelming and super isolating.
Hans Christian Andersen once said: “Where words fail, music speaks.” In other words: anyone can give advice or comfort with words, but these words can sometimes fail to express one's intention. Music, on the other hand, can help soothe us in such circumstances. But it's more than simply seeking advice or comfort... sometimes we, especially teenagers, don't even know where to begin when it comes to finding the right words to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas.
This is when songwriting can be pivotal. Because not only does it give us the ability, and permission to express our honest and authentic selves, but by doing so: we are giving our true selves [what Abraham Hicks would refer to as our "inner being"] the tools to navigate our emotional intelligence, and elevate our mental health.
Which is huge especially if you're between the ages of 13 and 17 in the year 2023!
According to Abraham Maslow: it's a third through fifth tier basic human need to feel seen, heard, validated and understood... but when we're raising a generation on social media, television, and cellphones: it's far too easy for today's teenagers to fall into the comparison trap rather than recognizing the power of one's voice, and the mere fact that our experiences - beautiful and ugly - can be opportunities for growth and connection, rather than isolation and depression.
We just need to be brave enough to color outside the lines, get creative, and allow our teens to express themselves in a way that can rig the game for success when it comes to self actualization, self acceptance and increased emotional, spiritual and mental health.
Which is what we really want at the end of the day, isn't it?
So how does music and songwriting help?
Thinking back to your middle- and high-school days, do you remember finding a sense of belonging among peers based on your musical choices? When I was in school, people certainly found a sense of belonging with those whose musical interests were an integral part of their identity. If you listened to hip hop and rap music: chances were your vocabulary incorporated similar languageand expressions into your communication styles. If you listened to rock and metal music: chances are you wore band shirts, and found a sense of community among those who listened to and wore the same fashion styles. If you listened to pop music like Britney or Arianna Grande: I discovered quickly that there was a high chance you could be found in the bathroom over lunch break swapping fashion and makeup tips with your friends.
Music helps us find our people. Music gives us all a foundation to build relationships upon. Music connects us.
But what if - instead of connecting with one another through the music and lyrics of others - we gave ourselves the opportunity to express ourselves authentically through our own lyrics, music and compositions?
This is where songwriting and music can really play a pivotal role in our social identity, connection and sense of belonging.
I recently had the distinct privilege to speak [virtually] to six teens around the world about the importance of honoring our uniqueness... especially if/when the world has a habit of pitying those parts of us that makes us unique. You can probably relate. We've all been through adversities that make us stop and question everything. Ponder why the world is so hard, and even if we're strong enough to make it through... especially if we feel alone in our fights.
But you're never really alone - not really - and even though I've been writing music and performing for decades: I found a community for my inner child/teenager for the first time ever in this group of teenagers.
Because these six teenagers that I spoke - from Texas to the Dominican to Ohio all have the same neurological condition I have: hydrocephalus. These six teens that I shared my story with have all had brain surgery too. These six badass humans that I wrote a song with have all been through the same adversity that I have - and are still choosing to wake up every morning to fight the good fight.
And here's the most powerful part of the entire experience: even though we're all connected through a shared condition: each of these teens, though their experiences were slightly different to each other, could identify with one another, and start to recognize the shared experiences, emotions, and struggles.
But they also found a way to empower, uplift and encourage one another through their shared lyrics.
It was incredible to witness.
Here's the song they came up with together:
Yep. I've been doing this whole channeling my emotions through music and songwriting thing for most of my life [I started when I was 4years old]. So it means a lot to me when I can help others recognize and step into the importance of their voice and experiences... and learn how to turn those adversities into powerful anthems of overcoming and healing.
The importance of connection for teenagers, in particular, cannot be overstated, and music and songwriting are just two of the many ways that they can build meaningful connections with others. Whether it's through shared experiences, shared passions, or simply a shared love of music, teenagers who learn to connect with others in this way will be better equipped to navigate the challenges of adolescence and emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side.
If you want to find out more about how songwriting and music can help you or your teenager improve their emotional, spiritual and mental health, increase their sense of belonging, acceptance, and connection [again: all part of Abraham Maslow 's Hierarchy of Needs research]: I'd love to hop on a call with you!
Simply click here to book a free discovery call [either via Zoom or phone] to schedule a time that works for you - and let's rewrite the narrative of your album, create a few duets, and use that vibe to attract your tribe.
One song at a time.
I can't wait to speak with you soon.
~ Emma G