How The Music You LOVE May Seriously Harm Your Self-Esteem (Or Build It Up!)

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music can build self-esteem

You’ve got to give it to get it — but there’s an easy magical gateway to self-esteem and learning how to love yourself only a few of us use:


As much as we are what we eat, I’d like to suggest that we are also what we hear. 

One study shows how our music choices reveal about our personality traits, and suggests that sharing favorite playlists with a new acquaintance is an excellent way to explore compatibility.

The composer John Cage offered this observation: “Art's purpose is to sober and quiet the mind so that it is in accord with what happens.”  

In my life, the art of music helps me quiet the voices in my head. 

Do you know those voices? The ones that make all sorts of suggestions about how to think, speak, or act about any given thing, person or event? 

If I choose the right music, those voices shut up, and I move closer to that "quiet place”.

Entraining my brain this way helps me see what actually is, rather than what "should be". 

It helps me bust the lies haters tell about me. 

It helps me remember what’s lovable about me. 

Most importantly, in that place, I can offer my best self

In that place, I can give what I want to receive.

And there’s more!

Even though music can go all emo, it also works on self-esteem, much the same way that it can fire you up for exercise or inspire you for creativity. 

The right pick is the trick.

Here’s a simple, four-step thought experiment you can try for yourself. 

  1. Ask yourself: “In the music I listen to often, what’s the most common mood?” 

    Keep it simple: Most music will fit into one of the four primary emotions: fear, anger, grief or joy.
  2. Ask yourself: “Generally, what’s my mood?” 

    Choose one from those same four primary emotions: fear, anger, grief or joy.
  3. Ask yourself: “Does my overall mood match my music?”

    For example, if the most obvious mood in your music is anger, and your overall mood is joy, that's not a match.
  4. Ask yourself: “Is this the mood I want?”

    Tricky question! Whether your music and overall mood match (or not), the idea is to be aware that there's either a connection (or not), because that is a big step toward care for your self (or not). 

Get it?

Of course, I don’t know how your experiment will turn out, but I’ve observed — for me — that while rap and hip-hop often satisfy my need to shut down the angry voices in my head, they don’t leave me feeling very altruistic. 

Understand, please, that I enjoy sharing music of all kinds with friends.

But, like food, I need to listen to a mix of music that lets me feel complete without putting me in a mood I’d rather not have. 

I’ve also learned that, while I agree that art can be a safe place to explore racism, homophobia, or misogyny, it also takes some effort for me to avoid internalizing that stuff in ways that are harmful, regardless of what genre of music they may exist in.

My bottom line? 

It’s hard for me to feel good about myself while I’m listening to hate speech or angry music, so I’m careful about how much of it I take in.

Studies, like this one, show that music therapy has a positive effect on self-esteem. 

I’d like to take that further and suggest that — if you are willing to choose your music wisely — what you hear can have a similar, positive effect. 

Think of this as musical neuro-linguistic programming. Our subconscious “go-getter” mind will go and get what you suggest to it that you want.

So condition yourself to want the good stuff: self-esteem, self-care, all the love you want, all the happiness, all the contentment.

Does that make sense? 

If so, find music that aligns with what you want, and listen to it.

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