There’s no denying that society places significant importance on outward appearances. We can see this play out in how individuals and media platforms feed us with images and ideas of what is ideal. Due to these messages, some of which are subtle, people can feel the need to conform to a particular body image. On the other hand, we have artists sharing positive songs about body image and acceptance.
With the outbursts of messages and images that infer a certain body image, we also need encouragement. Rather than adhering to the ideals used to sell fashion, lifestyle, and any other manner of consumer goods, we can consciously cultivate our own positive body image. This can boost your self-confidence and self-love and ultimately make you happier.
In this post, we'll share some empowering songs to help you appreciate your inner and outward beauty.
Before diving into the songs we’ll be sharing, let’s examine the concept of body image. Body image is a term you’re most likely familiar with. It refers to your perception of self and the level of attractiveness you attribute to yourself.
Further, body image is a combination of an individual's thoughts, emotions, and feelings about their body. As a result, your perception of your body can fall on a scale of positive to negative.
People’s perceptions of their bodies also influence how they believe other people see them. For instance, someone with a negative body image will most likely believe other people see them as unworthy or unattractive.
A heightened sense of body dissatisfaction can significantly affect someone’s sense of worth and self-love. Studies show that body dissatisfaction is a leading predictor of eating disorders2. With the way we find ourselves exposed to ideas of the perfect body, many people resort to extreme techniques to aid in losing weight or redressing how they naturally appear.
A study on body dissatisfaction among adolescents revealed high dissatisfaction rates within this group5. It also revealed it predominantly affects girls. We can associate this prevalence amongst the female population to heightened media portrayals of the ideal female body3.
Many children, young adults, and adults experience low self-esteem without a positive outlook on self. So, what are the building blocks to loving one’s body?
In order to change your perception of yourself, it’s important to start with your mindset. You fully accept and appreciate yourself when you have a positive body image. As a result, you won’t have to tie your sense of self-worth to their outward appearance. Also, you’ll begin to understand that as much as you accept your body, you can also engage in practices that reflect body love.
There are various tools and techniques available to challenge body stereotypes. These techniques are also relevant to help you cultivate a positive body image. Some of the ways to cultivate positive body image include:
Related: Check out our compilation of mental health quotes and diversity quotes to further inspire acceptance and well-being. You might also like our list of self-care ideas for simple, practical steps to give yourself a little me-time.
The music industry holds power. Music offers a pathway to help people elevate their moods. Based on what you listen to, a particular song can additionally affect the way you think and feel. Two prominent reasons people listen to music are to activate a positive mood and to establish a sense of companionship.
Aside from the various studies on music and the mind, people report experiences of empowerment from certain songs. Science shows us that there’s a link between music4, our minds, and our emotions. As a result, we can use this to our advantage and build body positivity. There are millions of songs out there, so why not select those that address body empowerment?
Many artists have created one inspiring song or the other that addresses positive body image. Body image music can significantly affect our emotions and make us feel good about ourselves. Here are 11 of the best body-positive songs that can help you begin to celebrate your body as it is:
Melanie Martinez uses an interesting approach to address society’s focus on women’s looks in this song. Melanie addresses the insecurities women face and the desire to fix themselves by using Mrs. Potato Head as a metaphor.
Mrs. Potato Head is a plastic toy that children can attach plastic parts to decorate her face and body. Similarly, society picks on women’s insecurities, leading to the widespread uptake of cosmetic enhancements and surgeries.
Apart from the prevalence of plastic surgeries, Melanie also uses the song to address the dangers of such surgeries. Moreover, through the song’s lyrics, she seeks to help women recognize that they’re beautiful without needing surgery.
Melanie expresses becoming confident in her skin through her 2015 album, “Cry Baby,” which houses “Mrs. Potato Head.” The singer-songwriter mentioned that she grew up as a homebody and was quite emotional as a child.
The Cry Baby term, which later became an album title, came from what people called her due to her emotional nature. The singer also struggled with being fully seen due to sexuality norms. So, the album and song represent a sense of empowerment.
“Oh Mrs. Potato Head tell me
Is it true that pain is beauty?
Does a new face come with a warranty?
Will a pretty face make it better?
“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera speaks to positive self-affirmation and recognizing one’s true beauty. Rather than believing what society tells you about yourself, “Beautiful” is a reminder to embrace who you are. The song is a popular anthem for radical self-acceptance.
Christina sings in a soft yet firm tone that reminds you to filter the negative external comments. Aside from outward beauty, “Beautiful” addresses beauty in an all-around and holistic way. It also addresses shame, insecurities, and rising above these low points.
Christina is a singer, songwriter, television personality, and actress. People know Christina for being vocal about topics such as feminism, domestic violence, and sexuality. So, this is an artist who isn’t afraid to speak up against harmful societal norms. Christina is never afraid to reinvent herself - looks and style - while showing up unapologetically.
“Every day is so wonderful
Then suddenly it's hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure
From all the pain
I'm so ashamed
I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down, oh no”
Lizzo starts this song with a voice note addressing the journey of loving yourself. She says, “Learning to love yourself and, like, learning to love your body is like a whole journey that I feel like every person, but more specifically women, have to go through..” The song questions how we can move from the process of learning to love to simply loving ourselves.
Lizzo uses a personal approach in “My Skin” to recognize and accept one’s body. Similarly, she addresses the struggle of learning to love herself and coming to a place of appreciating the skin she’s in. She urges not just herself but also the listeners to accept themselves. It’s all about feeling confident in your own skin.
Discussing artists that address body image without mentioning Lizzo is almost impossible. She openly addresses and embodies positive body image and radical self-acceptance.
Through her music lyrics, words, and actions, Lizzo constantly reminds her listeners to appreciate the skin they’re in. Further, she’s never afraid to call out those who make negative comments about her body. Lizzo continues to serve as an inspiration to plus-sized women and anyone who struggles with self-acceptance.
“I woke up in this, I woke up in this
In my skin
I can't wash it away, so you can't take it from me
My brown skin”
From the time Alessia released it, “Scars to Your Beautiful” became an anthem amongst many young people. It serves as a gentle reminder that you’re beautiful just the way you are. Alessia uses the song to speak to young girls who are susceptible to media images of the perfect body. “Scars to Your Beautiful” speaks to recognizing that “beauty goes deeper than the surface.”
“Scars to Your Beautiful” empathetically addresses how young women simply want to be seen as beautiful. As a result, many of them settle for extreme techniques to attain unrealistic beauty standards. Through her words, Alessia encourages people to block out the noise.
Alessia Cara began posting song covers on YouTube at an early age. It’s these covers that helped her gain popularity and eventually get signed under a label. Alessia writes songs that are often relatable. One of her earlier releases, “Here,” addresses social awkwardness and being in the wrong crowd.
“She says, beauty is pain and there's beauty in everything
What's a little bit of hunger?
I could go a little while longer, she fades away
She don't see her perfect
She don't understand she's worth it
Or that beauty goes deeper than the surface”
Pretty Hurts addresses the painful expectations of the perfect body. It takes an honest approach to discuss the pain of beauty. People can experience pain due to their measures to conform to society’s standards.
The song takes into account the pressures women face to be externally perfect. Part of the lyrics read, “Mama said, "you're a pretty girl. What's in your head, it doesn't matter. Brush your hair, fix your teeth. What you wear is all that matters.” From these words, we also get a glimpse into how young girls are raised to conform to expectations.
Through the lyrics, the songwriters Sia, Ammo, and Beyoncé remind us that surgery is only a temporary fix. What truly matters is, as the song addresses, the soul. This is what can make people feel good about themselves. In 2014, the music video won “Best Video with a Social Message” at the Video Music Awards (VMAs).
Beyoncé barely needs an introduction. The singer is one of the big names in the industry, consistently releasing hits. Beyoncé’s rise to fame began in the 90s. She was a lead vocalist of Destiny’s Child, the famous R&B girl group. Over the span of her music career, Beyoncé has also won multiple awards. Her music addresses topics such as womanism, confidence, and the celebration of Black people.
“Pretty hurts, shine the light on whatever's worse
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, shine the light on whatever's worse
Tryna fix something but you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs the surgery.”
Maggie reflects on what it means to be a girl and someone in the spotlight. This entails being a subject of criticism and often being reduced to being a pretty face. The singer expresses the various struggles and contradictions of existence through the lyrics.
Oftentimes, people make judgments about others based on the information they have. However, this often doesn’t give a holistic view of who a person is. This song is a reminder that being a girl is more than just external beauty. It embraces the various dimensions of being human.
Pretty Girl was Maggie’s breakout single. She posted video clips of her singing sessions on social media before being discovered by her manager. Artists like Lana Del Ray inspire Maggie as she continues to embrace her individual sound. As a result, she’s constantly looking for ways to be herself rather than conform to mainstream standards.
“I can swear, I can joke
I say what's on my mind
If I drink, if I smoke
I keep up with the guys
And you see me holding up my middle finger to the world
F*** your ribbons and your pearls
'Cause I'm not just a pretty girl”
The beauty of this song lies in our ability to apply it to different tough situations. The song represents hope and a brighter day. Although we can see that it addresses cases of misery in the world on a surface level, anyone can turn to it to feel empowered.
Due to various situations, people can feel alone in their difficulties. The harsh realities of our world that place so much emphasis on perfection can make people feel hopeless. “Rise Up” is a call to get back on your feet even when going through challenging situations.
When going through periods of anxiety and worry, this song can serve as a source of inspiration and empowerment.
Andra Day is a professional singer and songwriter who began singing at a young age. Stevie Wonder later discovered her after she started performing at a strip mall. “Rise Up” was nominated for “Best R&B Performance” at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Andra additionally uses her words and platform to advocate for racial justice and inclusion.
“You're broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can't find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day”
In today’s world, people quickly criticize others for ‘flaws’ and ‘imperfections.’ J. Cole uses this song to remind his listeners to embrace their inner beauty and imperfections. Although it has a personal message to the artist, he uses his lyrics to encourage others to love all the parts of themselves.
Combined with the music video, the song’s message remains to discover peace in our minds and communities. J. Cole talks about how we aren’t picture-perfect, but it’s okay because we’re still worth it. The message also conveys that you begin to experience freedom when you worry less about impressing others.
More than a rapper, J. Cole is a songwriter and record producer. He uses his music to address recurrent themes in our society. As a conscious hip-hop and rap artist, his music serves as a form of activism. He shares his struggles through his songs while serving as a voice for honest and positive messages.
“They tell me I should fix my grill 'cause I got money now
I ain't gon' sit around and front like I ain't thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it's funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it's real
We ain't picture perfect but we worth the picture still”
“Perfect to Me” talks about showing up just as you are without putting on a show for external approval. The song addresses loving every part of your body and being okay with being imperfect.
Many times, people feel the need to show up in a way that society will approve. This entails putting on certain types of clothes, wearing your hair and make-up in a certain way, and having a particular body type. “Perfect to Me” is a reminder to be yourself in every situation. Anne-Marie also talks about love being gender-free in the line, “And I'll love who I want to love, 'cause this love is gender-free.”
Apart from body-related issues, this song also talks about not fitting into a crowd and dealing with depression. Through it all, this artist is reminding us to love ourselves.
Anne-Marie is a fast-rising star who makes pop music. She has been standing up and promoting diversity and positive body image messages throughout her journey. The lyrics of “Perfect to Me” embrace her personal imperfections while redefining her idea of what perfection is.
“Don't feel like putting make up on my cheeks
Do what I wanna
Love every single part of my body
Top to the bottom
I'm not a supermodel from a magazine, mmh-mmh
I'm okay with not being perfect
'Cause that's perfect to me ..”
“Love Myself” talks about loving yourself unconditionally without needing approval from anyone. Hailee talks about being gentle with yourself as you go through the journey of self-acceptance and love.
According to Hailee, the song is an empowerment record that addresses taking care of yourself in various dimensions - including physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Hailee Steinfeld is an artist and has been in the acting industry since a young age. This young pop star continues to vocalize the experiences of being a woman in a hyper-critical world. Apart from “Love Myself,” “Most Girls” is another song from Hailee that addresses being beautiful in your own way. “Most Girls” embraces the diversity in the ways girls show up in the world - “Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable, Most girls, our fight to make every day. No two are the same, I wanna be like, I wanna be like most girls”.
“I'm gonna put my body first
And love me so hard 'til it hurts (hey)
I know how to scream out the words
Scream the words
Gonna love myself, no, I don't need anybody else (hey)”
“My Body” is a song that also doubles as a positive affirmation. It is a call to own and love your body just as it is. The song also serves as a reminder that we’re whole and complete. It tells us to embrace the bodies we reside in.
With the singers repeating just four lines, listening to the song puts you in a state of accepting the message.
This group makes affirmation and meditation-like music that serves as reminders to love and embrace ourselves.
“My body is fly
My body is beautiful
My body is bold
My body is mine”
There are various tools you can use to cultivate a positive body image. One of the most accessible tools is music. By consciously selecting empowering songs, you can begin to feel the effects on how you view yourself. Also, many artists in this article are dedicated to working to promote body positivity and inspiring through their platforms. You can always explore their work and discography.
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Quittkat, H. L., Hartmann, A. S., Düsing, R., Buhlmann, U., & Vocks, S. (2019). Body dissatisfaction, importance of appearance, and body appreciation in men and women over the lifespan. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 864.
Granatino, R., & Haytko, D. L. (2013). Body image, confidence, and media influence: A study of middle school adolescents. Journal of Applied Business Research (JABR), 29(1), 45-50.
Trimble, M., & Hesdorffer, D. (2017). Music and the brain: the neuroscience of music and musical appreciation. BJPsych international, 14(2), 28-31.
Meland, E., Haugland, S., & Breidablik, H. J. (2007). Body image and perceived health in adolescence. Health education research, 22(3), 342-350. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyl085
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.