Welcome to the next entry in the exploratory series of Mental Health Themes in Music! Today we’ll look at a well loved Billie Eilish song, written for and featured in the soundtrack of the recent blockbuster hit, Barbie. The track, What Was I Made For? is a perfect example of existentialism, which is an important pillar of mental health. Let’s look at the lyrics…
I used to know but I'm not sure now what I was made for? Remember being asked questions when you’re a young kid and knowing with full certainty the answer, even if it was a ridiculous response according to an adult? And what age did you stop knowing these answers with such confidence? I think one of the biggest perpetuated fallacies is that adults always know what they’re doing. And one of the biggest lessons here is to embrace the uncertainty as well as we can because uncertainty is inevitable.
When did it end? All the enjoyment I'm sad again, don't tell my boyfriend It's not what he's made for… Many people tend to find solace in relationships, which can be both healthy and unhealthy in practice. What this lyric is getting at, I believe, is that we can’t solely rely on others to fill the void that we may be feeling. A sense of purpose and joy needs to come from within.
‘Cause I, I don't know how to feel But I wanna try… How great would it be to just get rid of all the pesky “bad” emotions and only feel the “good” ones? Unfortunately, we cannot selectively numb our emotions. They are ultimately a fantastic source of information, so I invite you to change the way you engage with emotions. Start with labeling them as either “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” Remember that emotions are temporary. You might be surprised by what they’re trying to communicate to you.
Think I forgot how to be happy something I'm not, but something I can be Something I wait for something I'm made for… I like to think that the meaning of life can be boiled down to a main existential question: “Why?” There are many versions of this, such as “why am I here?” For the protagonist of this song, it seems like the paramount goal is to feel joy and find a sense of purpose. So much easier said than done, I know, but perhaps you can take comfort in knowing that these are lifelong endeavors.
There is definitely more I could say about this song, but the essential message is to lean into existential questions. As hard as it is, and whatever your “why” is, I invite you to approach it with curiosity.
This month Looking Glass Counseling is pleased to make a donation to north shore non-profit organization THRIVE. THRIVE empowers communities to welcome and support our neighbors transitioning from incarceration.THRIVE envisions a world where wholeness and justice replace cycles of incarceration and oppression — a world where communities THRIVE.
Kim Johnson, LMHC, MT-BC, is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and board certified music therapist (MT-BC) who graduated with her master’s from Lesley University in 2017. She has experience with adults and adolescents in group private practice and community mental health settings. The levels of care she has worked in are outpatient, with both individual and group therapy and in partial hospital programs for mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, she has had intensive training in dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy for PTSD.
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