Adulting: A Learned Skill
Newly minted graduates probably have a sneaking suspicion that their real schooling is about to ramp up after they exit the stage with their diplomas in hand. (Roll up those sleeves because life's about to get real interesting!) A sense of self-reliance must be forged somewhere between 40-plus hour work weeks and a newfound respect for adult responsibilities like bill-paying and remembering to get the oil changed. Adulting is a learned skill indeed.
How to Be an Independent, Capable, and Fully Functioning Adult
- Remain self-aware and accept human shortcomings.
- Ask for help or advice when needed.
- Look inward for happiness.
- Accept responsibility.
- Integrate life lessons so you don't repeat mistakes too many times.
Self-reliance is an unending journey, so as you "do you" celebrate your progress with a playlist of pop, rock, country, and R&B songs. We have a long list to begin your journey.
1. "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield
In a true testament to self-reliance, this 2004 uplifting pop hit offers encouragement to master your own destiny. Don't let others take charge of your life. The song narrator conveys that life is a book of blank pages just beckoning you to write your own story. Create the life you've always wanted. Don't be afraid to release those inhibitions, break traditions, and color outside the lines. You only get one shot at this life, so you might as well live with wild abandon, right? You've got this!
2. "Wide Open Spaces" by The Chicks
Leaving home as a young adult is a bittersweet parting that few of us forget. The fledgling grown-up in search of independence trades the comfort and security of all that is familiar for the adventure, risks, and newness that await in the outside world.
This 1998 country ditty celebrates the youth who is leaving home. She says goodbye to her parents as she strikes out in search of her own dreams out west. The fresh-faced girl will encounter new people and life lessons along the way, hopefully learning from experience, just as her parents did. It is a high-stakes gamble, and she will need the space to make mistakes and to grow from them, ultimately becoming a better person. There she goes! She's flying solo now!
3. "Broken & Beautiful" by Kelly Clarkson
The life-weary narrator in this 2019 country tune is self-reliant but as tired as a horse that's been ridden hard and put away wet. She's proud, phenomenal, and doesn't need you to lend her sympathy or lower the bar. And she wants you to know that she's got this and has had it all along. Under that tough exterior, however, the strong and vulnerable woman yearns for a real connection—someone who could understand how hard it is to stand on your own against the odds.
4. "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles
The woman in this 2010 pop song is a responsible, independent adult, thank you very much. For some reason, she isn't being treated like someone who can make her own decisions. She's had it up to here with the unsolicited advice, the mansplaining.
Lending only half an ear to the guy across the table from her, we can hear the sardonic voice in her head which helps us to understand her frustration:
I hate to break it to you, babe, but I'm not drowning
There's no one here to save
Who cares if you disagree?
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be?
Who died and made you king of anything?
5. "Confident" by Demi Lovato
The strong, independent woman in this 2015 pop song owns her confidence as she challenges you to explain what's wrong with it. Although people attempt to dismiss her as complicated or out of her mind, she retorts that they are seriously underrating her. Instead, this boss lady is in charge of her own life and knows what she wants.
6. "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys
With her feet on the ground, her head in the clouds, and her eyes fixed firmly on her future, the feisty girl in this 2012 R&B ballad can make her dreams reality. Okay, to be honest, she may be lonely because she has no equal, but this girl is a fighter and a real go-getter. Stand back and watch her take on the world!
7. "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John
When true survivors get knocked down in love or any other aspect of life, they refuse to wallow in defeat and self-pity. They get the hell up. In this classic 1983 pop song, Elton John celebrates his resilience in relationships in being able to stand on his own after heartbreak:
Don't you know that I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.
If Elton can bounce back consistently, then you can too!
8. "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree
Des'ree is right. "You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser."
If an artist has to go down in history as a one-hit-wonder, then this R&B song from 1994 is the right one to be known by. Des'ree confidently takes you to school on how to rely on yourself and own your identity. If you're comfortable in your own skin and you stand up to be counted, then there's nothing that you cannot do.
An unfortunate footnote: the singer may not have taken her own advice. She fell out of the public limelight in the early 2000s after some cringe-worthy lyrics made the "Worst Ever" polls, she struggled with health issues, and her record label didn't renew her contract. Des'ree has recently returned to music, however, so don't go counting her out just yet.
9. "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
Let the negativity in your life roll off you like water on a duck's back. The independent woman in this 2008 pop song knows just how to do that. Refusing to be broken, shaken, or owned, it's as if she is mainlining happiness. The self-reliant woman is centered, unable to be controlled or lied to, and looking to brighter, more positive days.
10. "New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle
Attitude is everything, and yours will predict your good fortune in the world. The sassy, confident gal in this 1985 R&B/pop crossover hit has reassessed her outlook and it shows. She feels good because she is in control, has new ideas, and is utterly worry-free:
I'm feelin' good from my head to my shoes
Know where I'm goin' and I know what to do
I tidied up my point of view
I got a new attitude.
11. "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash
Hindsight is certainly 20/20 for the optimistic narrator in Johnny Nash's 1972 signature song, "I Can See Clearly Now," which reached the top spot on the US Billboard chart. Memorably, the reggae-imbued hit was used in commercials for Windex glass cleaner in the 1980s.
The narrator focuses on the prior pain, bad feelings, and obstacles that have now subsided. Having overcome personal hardship, he can more objectively see the challenges before him. The rain has cleared, and the dark clouds that had blinded him have been replaced with rainbows and sunny, blue skies.
12. "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor
This is a survivor's anthem for people who don't need to depend on someone else for their self-worth. Faced with a lover's betrayal, the rejected lady in this 1978 disco hit initially felt unimportant. But when her two-timing ex reappeared and wanted her back, she didn't fold like a cheap suit. She dug deep within and found an audacious sense of self-assurance. Kicking him to the curb was the first step in revealing her self-reliance.
13. "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
One of my favorite quotes is an old Japanese proverb about personal hardiness, "Fall down seven times, stand up eight." Apparently, the writers of this contagiously inspirational 1997 rock song have heard it because they offer up similar lyrics on repeat:
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down.
It's excellent adulting advice; just keep moving. Chumbawamba was a one-hit-wonder with this tune.
14. "Hero" by Mariah Carey
Sometimes we are so hungry for heroes that we search outside ourselves when perhaps we should be looking at the strong, independent person in the mirror for inspiration. So says this stirring pop ballad that topped the charts in 1993. The narrator sees that beyond each of our sorrows there is the capacity for resilience and hope to rescue ourselves. We can each be our own hero, no cape required.
15. "Fire Under My Feet" by Leona Lewis
In this peppy 2015 pop tune, Leona Lewis, winner of the British series The X Factor in 2006, describes her burning passion to succeed. The song narrator previously tripped and stumbled in her life, but she has since learned from her mistakes. She now has fire under her feet and you can't keep her down. The independent woman ecstatically describes the progress of her journey:
Every tear shed will be worth it
Step-by-step ain't looking back
I've no regrets 'cause I've got
I've got fire under my feet
And I feel it in my heartbeat
Oh, you can't put out these flames.
16. "Beautiful Flower" by India.Arie
Grammy Award-winning R&B artist India.Arie provides a pep talk to girls in this thoughtful 2009 number. In particular, her target audience is girls who do not feel valued or special as well as those who have experienced hardships that threaten to overwhelm them. Arie sees herself in them and offers them encouragement, telling them that they are beautiful, brilliant, powerful, resilient, and can move from the darkness into the light.
17. "Love Myself" by Hailee Steinfeld
The protagonist in this catchy 2015 pop song has chosen to go it alone. Without a man in her life, she is putting herself first and practicing self-love, whether physical or emotional. Because the singer and its songwriters left its meaning nebulous, the track has been a popular female empowerment anthem. (You decide the meaning that works for you.)
18. "Unstoppable" by Carrie Underwood (featuring Ludacris)
This 2018 country song gives a nod to athletes and others in our everyday lives who reach the top of their fields. It pays homage to them for paying their dues as they become the strongest, invincible, and unbreakable. It honors their fighting spirit and commitment to overcoming obstacles and being the best. Champions rely on themselves to keep going. The tune was recorded for NBC Sports' televised broadcast of Superbowl LII
19. "Just Like Fire" by Pink
This 2016 energetic pop song features a protagonist who forges her own path forward in spite of the undue restrictions that others attempt to impose on her to hold her back. They have grossly underestimated the spicy chick. In proving naysayers and haters wrong, she depends on her own resources, knowing, "No one can be just like me anyway." She's a one-woman army, this one.
20. "We All Sleep Alone" by Cher
The woman in this 1988 pop song spits out a hard truth like a loogie that's been lodged in her throat. She cautions that you have to be strong when you're out on your own because whether you're young or old, have many lovers or have been faithfully married for decades, sooner or later we all sleep alone. Odds are that it's a lesson born of experience.
Even More Songs About Self-Reliance
21. Break My Stride
22. Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
23. Follow Your Arrow
24. It's My Life
25. Born Free
26. Try It on My Own
27. Grown Woman
28. Fight Song
29. The Power
31. I Make My Own Sunshine
32. 9 to 5
34. Don't Stop Believin'
35. Keep Your Head Up
36. I Want to Break Free
37. Get on Your Feet
38. My Life
39. I Believe I Can Fly
41. I Am Invincible
42. On My Way
Axwell Λ Ingrosso
44. Girl Going Nowhere
46. Me, Myself & I
G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha
47. Here I Go Again
© 2021 FlourishAnyway
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 02, 2021:
FlourishAnyway you are so right! Thank you for sharing the value about self-reliance.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 31, 2021:
Mary - They can be some challenging learning times indeed. Good luck to your friend’s niece as she finds her way in life. Have a wonderful week!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 31, 2021:
These songs reminded me of my own adulting. I don't think I want to go back to those years. A friend talked with us yesterday about her niece, who is going through this as she decides to break away from her friends to go to the school she thinks is the best for the course she has chosen. Adulting is very challenging.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 28, 2021:
Heidi - It's funny how there's such a disjuncture sometimes between the song and the video. They can contradict one another completely yet people seem to rely on them for interpretation of the lyrics.Thanks for that awesome addition. Love that glam rock. Wish the 80s big hair bands would make an awesome comeback. Would be so rad. Have a happy holiday weekend!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 28, 2021:
Peggy - I have several young adults in my life who are graduating this year or next from college. There are so many major life changes ahead for them that it's exciting. I hope you had a terrific birthday yesterday!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 27, 2021:
Devika - With the challenges of moving to a new country, you're a pretty self-reliant person so I hope this playlist had special value to you. Have a wonderful week!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 26, 2021:
Only 80s hairband option I can think of right off is Whitesnake "Here I Go Again (On My Own)"... even though it looks like he's got company in the car in the video--you know the one I'm talkin' about. 80s music videos weren't super logical. :)
Anyway, great list, as always. Cheers!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2021:
It is so true that real life begins after those first years attending schools. "Adulting," as you mentioned, is an ongoing process. Hopefully, the most important aspects of it are acquired quickly. This song list is a fun one! "I Can See Clearly Now" is resonating in my mind.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 26, 2021:
FlourishAnyway your song lists are creative and thoughtful to us all, I often learn of a song I didn't know of and see that you are keeping up at it. Songs are meaningful and you make us feel positive. Your ideas of song lists are informative and enjoyable.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 26, 2021:
Linda - A pocketful of sunshine could be a personal self-defense weapon against all the bad news and evil in the world. Thanks for stopping by.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 26, 2021:
Linda - I appreciate your kindness. I'm glad you liked this so much. I'm a fan of that song too. Oh, those poor cancer kids.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 25, 2021:
Self-reliance is a great theme for a song list. I love the idea of a pocketful of sunshine. It’s a beautiful thought.
Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 25, 2021:
Flourish, what a great list! I've enjoyed all of your compilations, but I think this is going to be my all-time favorite. When I first read the introduction, I wasn't quite sure where the song list was headed. But by the time I got down to #'s 21 thru 46 I was anticipating what would appear. I'm happy to say you nailed it (and I amazing myself at how many of these I know).
Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" has a special place in my heart. The hemo oncology unit at Seattle Childrens' Hospital (near my town) produced a video using that song. (Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihGCj5mfCk8). Grab a Kleenex.