Ok. I know. Justin Bieber. But stay with me.

For years, he’s been the butt of so many jokes, the “bad boy” who was really just a little teenage punk with money. But his last album was not only on point, it was on the verge of inspirational. Normally I would blame these kind of emotions on the glass of moscato that I just inhaled, but I’ve been obsessed with his album Purpose for a long time now, and I’m not alone.

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We’ll just gloss over the fact that the Purpose album contains songs such as: Life Is Worth Living, Trust, and, well, Purpose.

I want to talk about Love Yourself.

The first dozen or so times I listened to it I figured that the line: “you should go and love yourself” was just a clever adaptation of a more explicit phrase, with which I will not foul my keyboard. But the more I think about love, the more I’m considering that this song could be saying so much more than I initially gave it credit for – whether Biebs meant it to or not.

If you haven’t heard it yet, you should. You can watch the music video here.

At first, the song seems like your average breakup song, equipped with zingers like:

My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone.

or:

I fell in love, now I feel nothing at all.

But it’s not.

It’s surprisingly calm for a breakup song. It gives facts and is completely straightforward, as if to say “yeah, this happened, but I’m okay with how everything turned out” – in stark contrast to Gwen’s new Used to Love You, which is full of emotion and confusion and crying. Oh my word, so much crying.

Instead, the focus of Love Yourself is on the girl, not on himself. It talks about how she should be something, but most of all, how she should love herself. And I think he genuinely means it. I think he’s really trying to tell her to love herself, because it’s clear that she doesn’t. She is self-centered, annoyed with people, and it seems she is incapable of returning love or even affection. She makes him feel small and doesn’t respect him when he’s vulnerable.

And I know from personal experience that those are all symptoms of a woman who doesn’t love herself, who can’t love herself. I am that woman, or I have been for a very long time. And Justin Bieber was the one who made me ask myself:

How can you love others when you don’t love yourself?

Whether he intended to or not, Justin Bieber created a song that says something remarkably true about mankind as a whole. While we are constantly blaming others for their insufficiency, the real problem starts in the deepest recesses of our own hearts.

It starts with our refusal to love.

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