try not to try.

There are some songs that hit us square in the heart; their impact is undeniable, because they pinpoint an emotion or a thought that we might not have even been able to express before.

This is one of those songs. Colbie Caillat’s mesmerizing voice isn’t the only beautiful thing about her. The woman is gorgeous; stunning, really. However, after hearing her new song, “Try”, I feel like she has offered the most beautiful gift of all to her listeners: the opportunity to peer into her soul.

This song resinated with me immediately. I am extremely passionate about inner beauty and body image, so the second my friend, Gabby, told me about Miss Caillat’s new song, I had to check it out.

Not only is the melody enchanting, but the message is positive, encouraging, and liberating. I love this song, because it goes deeper than telling you the typical, “You’re beautiful, everyone’s beautiful”. Hearing a singer who I will never meet sing about how everyone is beautiful is not going to make me believe that I am beautiful. We can hear the words, “You’re beautiful” over and over again, but unless we believe it ourselves, nothing is going to change.

Telling someone how they are supposed to feel, or how they are supposed to see themselves will not further their self confidence; it will not bolster their self image. Colbie Caillat doesn’t sit and sing about how beautiful every single person in the world is while she strums her guitar and flashes perfect pearly white teeth at the camera. Caillat does not bat dark, mascara laden eyelashes and digitally brightened eyes at the camera while she sings about how gorgeous we all are.

Caillat is gets real. The singer removes a mask of makeup as she bares her face, and her soul, pouring every fiber of her being into a powerful message of self acceptance. Take a look at the lyrics:

Oooh
Oooh

Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
Yooou don’t have to try

Oooh
Oooh

Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why, should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
Yooou don’t have to try

Oooh
Oooh

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you

There is a haunting quality to Caillat’s voice; the kind of emotion that is revealed only when a singer shares a piece of their soul with the world.

I appreciate the realness that laces every word of this song together. Even the music video lives up to its message. Too often we are told, “You’re beautiful, no matter who you are!” while our eyes are assaulted by a band of impossibly beautiful 20-somethings beaming back at us. This video shows the before and after of each subject, and it also showcases a variety of shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and ages. I appreciate the way Caillat and her media crew practice what they preach.

We see curves, we see bones, we see wrinkles, we see freckles, we see aging, we see youth. The message isn’t “You’re beautiful”, the message is self acceptance. We cannot be happy if we cannot accept ourselves. So often, we are told by others who and what we are. We are given so many opinions, whether or not we ask for them.

Like everyone, I feel this pressure on a daily basis. Sometimes instead of asking myself if I like who I am, I think about what others would like. I once met an agent from New York who told me that if he could use me for an ad, he would like me to grow out my bangs and stop running and doing squats, because he was afraid that the exercise would add centimeters to my butt and thighs, which were already too big for runway fashion. You know what I did when I got back from that interview? I went on the elliptical and did squats. Why? Because moving my body makes me feel strong, and I didn’t want to quit my exercising to win someone else’s approval of my body.

Sometimes, like the modeling job, I am told that I am not small enough. Other times, I feel the pressure in the opposite way, like a friend or a family member who will tell criticize me if I pass on a dessert or junk food, saying, “You shouldn’t be try to lose weight, you need to eat more”. I used to make it a point to indulge in the opportunities when dessert was offered, feeling like I needed to prove that I am not dieting.

It’s funny how it’s not socially acceptable to call someone too heavy, but we feel fine about pointing fingers at people and calling them too skinny. Granted, it’s never healthy for someone to obsess about their weight, no matter what size they are, and if someone seems to be paying far too much attention to their size, it’s good to confront them in a positive and polite, caring way, but it’s never okay to accuse someone of being TOO something. Too big. Too small. Too short. Too tall. Too flat. Too curvy. Too edgy. Too girly. Too tomboyish. Too modest. Isn’t it time we encourage each other instead of picking others apart to bolster our self confidence?

Even today, at one of my jobs, I listened sadly as I overheard a group talking about a pregnant anchor on a popular TV show, “Her arms are terrible”, “Her legs aren’t that great either”, “Wow, she’s soooo pregnant”. What gain does it bring to pick others apart? It made me so sad, but even sadder, because I know that I do things like this in my head. I make a mental comparison to others, trying to draw out their flaws, and even going as far as coming up with excuses not to like them when I can’t find any. Why is this a natural response? I’m not sure. Maybe we feel better about ourselves when we can explain our faults by highlighting someone else’s.

This doesn’t make sense. Have you ever met someone who looks up at the sunrise and says, “The clouds are okay I guess, but the sun sure could be brighter, and I’ve definitely seen the sky in a more vivid shade of peach and gold than that one…this sky is just kind of bland.” Ridiculous! No one looks at the ocean and says, “Meh, this ocean is a grayish color, and the waves aren’t even making whitecaps today. This ocean is boring. I’ve seen way better bodies of salt water.” Whenever I think a negative thought about someone, I think of this, and I can learn to love and appreciate someone’s beauty instead of depleting my own energy and their humanity by searching for their faults.

I like how Colbie Caillat faces the camera and takes off her makeup mask; she bares her real skin. Caillat is real with herself about the things she is hearing and feeling. Once we understand why we are feeling the pressures to be a certain way, it can help us fight back and embrace who we are. Caillat verbalizes the messages we receive every day, whether it is from the media, our friends, our family, or ourselves.

Caillat explains that we don’t have to work so hard to make ourselves into something that we are not. We face so many expectations in the way that we “should” look, talk, think, act, dress, and behave. Part of embracing yourself is realizing that not everyone is going to agree with you. When I was in middle school, I wore fake purple Ugg boots and giant peacock earrings to school, and my mom looked at me and smiled; not because I was the picture of fashion and beauty, but because I was being who I wanted to be. It was 7 years ago, but I still remember her words and her smile today: “Kelly, I love that you are brave enough to dress and be who you are without worrying what others think of you. I appreciate that you are yourself.”

This was probably the best compliment I ever received. Someone loved me and appreciated me for who I was. Did I look ridiculous that day? Probably. Could my mom have rolled her eyes and given passive aggressive incentive for me to change my outfit? Easily. There is so much power and beauty that comes from accepting others for who they are, and appreciating them for the things that make them purely themselves.

Caillat ends her song singing, “Do you like you? Cause I like you.”
We don’t have to try so hard to make others happy. We are the most ourselves when we are not trying to be. I fall the most in love with someone when they have their full guard down, and they freely express themselves without thinking about anyone else’s perception of them. When my mom throws her head back and laughs loudly, when my sister raises an eyebrow and smirks at me as she bakes a batch of red velvet cupcakes. There is a beautiful sincerity that comes along with someone who is in their element, enjoying who they are as a person without taking the fragmenting pauses that come along with considering someone else’s opinion.

Think about it. Do you like you? I’m not saying it’s easy, but once we learn to accept who we are as a person, as a whole, we can freely love ourselves and others.

You don’t have to try so hard.

In fact, try not to try.

Just be you.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14 NIV

 

 

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