Source: Ben Houdijk/Depositphotos
Lizzo recently told the Today Show that she enjoyed reading psychology books in her free time. She mentioned sapiens and The Molecule of Morewhich I’ll obviously be adding to my to-be-read stack to coincide with Lizzo’s album release (Special drops on July 15th.). She’s also extolled the virtues of therapy and described the impact it has had on her own life.
All this comes as no surprise to me. My Lizzo playlist recently got me through an extremely stressful time. Yes, her music is catchy. It’s upbeat and easy to dance to. That’s why she’s the self-proclaimed “bop star.” But her music and videos are also filled with nuggets of psychological wisdom. So I’ve decided to break it down with this list: Seven times, Lizzo taught us about psychology without us realizing it. So do your hair toss. Check your nails. And get ready for a crash course in Lizzo psychology.
1. Talk to Someone
Let’s start with Lizzo’s viral hit “About Damn Time.” Early in the song, Lizzo asks, “Is everybody back up in the builtin’? It’s been a minute, tell me how you’re healin’? Cuz I’m about to get up in my feelings. How you feelin’? How do you feel right now?”
Here we see Lizzo take on the role of therapist. She asks what kind of personal growth we’re doing and then normalizes talking about feelings. Finally, she asks us how we’re feeling, not once but twice. Not only does she make it seem safe and normal to talk about mental health, but she also makes it seem immediate and important.
She revealed to Harper’s Bazaar that she has anxiety and depression and sought out therapy to come to terms with fame. In “About Damn Time,” she’s inviting us all to do the same inner work.
Studies on the efficacy of talk therapy are anything but conclusive, but conservatively, it boosts the chances of improving depression symptoms by at least 20 percent.
Talk therapy takes work. It takes consistency and candor, but let Lizzo be your guide here. It’s about damn time that you at least give it a try.
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2. Find and Utilize Coping Techniques
Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” music video starts with her sitting in a “Stressed and Sexy Support Group” at the Y. When the teacher calls on Lizzo to recite her poem, comparing what makes her feel stressed with what makes her feel sexy, Lizzo runs out of the room to compose herself.
She pumps herself up with some singing, dancing, rapping, and flute-playing and then heads back to the meeting when she’s adequately prepared to do so.
We should all learn something from Lizzo’s strategy here. She goes at her own pace and does what she needs to do to feel mentally and emotionally ready to share with the group. She takes care of her mental health while transforming the YMCA into the funkiest confidence-boosting hot spot.
Coping techniques for managing stress include yoga, meditation, tai chi, and humour. I’m counting the tour de force that is “About Damn Time” as a mix of all these things. Lizzo tears through the YMCA dancing, doing the split, and even playing the flute as she walks on water surrounded by synchronized swimmers.
I’m not saying you have to use Lizzo’s exact coping techniques, but taking a few calming breaths can go a long way toward lowering your stress levels and improving your overall mental health.
3. Feel Your Feelings
In “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo belts, “I’m cryin’ cuz I love you.” In “About Damn Time,” she’s “been so down and under pressure.” Lizzo feels her feelings, which is essential to mental health maintenance.
A UCLA brain scan study showed that affect labeling (verbalizing emotions) decreased activity in the amygdala and other limbic brain regions. This appears to calm the brain down enough to think more logically, creatively, and calmly. So take another page out of Lizzo’s mental health playbook, feel your feelings, verbalize them, and calm your amygdala down enough to be your best self.
4. Set Boundaries
It’s important to set clear boundaries with people. In Lizzo’s smash hit “Truth Hurts,” she does exactly that. She commands, “Don’t text me, tell it straight to my face.” Lizzo couldn’t be clearer with her expectations for clear and direct communication.
In her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab defines boundaries as a verbalization or action communicated to help someone feel safe, secure, and supported in a relationship. We have to express our boundaries clearly if we expect them to be followed. In other words, people can’t read our minds.
Lizzo knows this, so she states her boundary clearly.
We should all do the same.
5. Enforce Boundaries
It’s not enough to set our boundaries. We have to be ready to enforce them. In her Cardi B collaboration “Rumors,” Lizzo sings, “Had to cut some hoes loose, yeah, no NDA, no loose lips, now them hoes tryna sue me.” Then she implies that she no longer cares that they’re trying to sue her because she set and enforced a boundary and dealt with the requisite discomfort associated with such clear and direct communication.
Lizzo set the boundary that her friends should refrain from gossiping about her. They didn’t adhere to her boundary, so she “let them loose.” They’re no longer her friends, which I imagine would be a disheartening experience. Imagine: you’re friends with Lizzo. Then you mess up. Then you’re not friends anymore. I’d be gutted.
So take a cue from Lizzo and enforce those boundaries. Sit in the discomfort and stay strong. Healthy relationships depend on it.
6. Don’t Just Ruminate. Get Moving.
In “Good As Hell,” Lizzo is talking to her friend (Seriously, I wish I was her friend.) about her floundering relationship. Lizzo’s friend has been through “big fights” and “long nights,” so like any good friend, Lizzo encourages her to move on. But Lizzo is a realist. She doesn’t just tell her friend to get over it. Instead, she sings about tossing her hair, checking her nails, dusting off her shoulders, and taking deep breaths. In short, she encourages her to do something physical.
In a study of 6-17 year-olds, young people who didn’t participate in physical activity were about twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression symptoms compared to those who participated in at least an hour of daily activity. Now, sure, that’s a lot of hair tossing, but it feels worth it if we’re talking about such substantial mental health benefits.
So don’t just sit on the sofa ruminating on your problems. Do your hair toss, check your nails, and be much less likely to be anxious and depressed.
Source: Ben Houdijk/Depositphotos
7. Stop People Pleasing
Lizzo’s final psychology lesson comes once again from “Rumors.” She warns, “If you thought that I was ratchet with my *ss hangin’ out, just wait until the summer when they let me out the house.”
This is the ultimate reminder for us to stop people-pleasing. Do some people have problems with Lizzo’s social media content? Sure. Does Lizzo go out of her way to accommodate and please these people? Definitely not.
People-pleasing is a type of perfectionism called socially prescribed. The other is self-oriented. Socially prescribed perfectionism is when one tries to live up to other people’s expectations. Self-oriented perfectionism is when one tries to live up to their own.
In one study, both types of perfectionism were linked with an increased risk of depression symptoms. So it behooves us to listen to Lizzo, stop worrying about what others think of us, and stop trying to please everyone.
When they let you out of the house this summer, I hope you’re as ratchet as you want to be. And I hope you’ll be listening to Lizzo’s new album Special,
Lizzo is so much more than danceable tunes and twerking while playing the flute. She’s also got a lot to say about psychology and overall mental health and well-being. If we listen, I think we’ll all feel a lot better. And who knows? We might even feel good as hell.