I caught a great quote on Facebook by California-born singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. She said, “The idea behind a kaleidoscope is that it is a structure that’s filled with broken bits and pieces and somehow if you can look through them, you still see something beautiful. And I feel like we are all that way a little bit.”
Thinking about the possibilities of “broken bits and pieces,” which can mean so many different things for a human these days---like situational depression, anxiety and the way it either motivates or discourages us, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, or something more literal, like physical assault, I believe this quote could be used to describe any and every human being on the planet.
Bareilles’ music is generally as insightful as it is accessible, such as her album Kaleidoscope Heart, which was released in 2010 and debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. She’s also the author of Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song (Simon & Schuster, 2015), a collection of essays about her own personal broken bits and pieces---depression and body dysmorphia, among other things, and how her personal journal opened the flood gates of her songwriting career. If her name isn’t familiar to you, you may have heard her hit single, “Love Song.”
When interviewed by SheKnows.com, Bareilles was asked about the possibility of depression being a common curse of an artist. She said, “I don't think you have to be an artist to be overwhelmed by life. Every single person I know (without exception) has had moments where they feel like they don't know which way is up. But I think part of the work we as humans are here to do is to learn to understand and have compassion for what is uncomfortable. Sadness and fear are a part of life (ask Pixar), and we can't pretend they don't exist. In fact, they enrich our lives. Sometimes an artist might be able to tap into a way of expressing those feelings in a way that makes people feel seen and heard, so I wouldn't call it a curse... I'd call it a blessing. And I think moving past the fear is sometimes just strapping it on your back while you keep on walking.” In the book, she talks about being bullied about her weight as a child. The fact that she claims it still affects her to this day, makes a statement about the seriousness of the disorder known as Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, BDD is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one's appearance. While people with BDD can dislike any part of their body, they most often fixate on their hair, skin, nose, chest, or stomach. The perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection if it’s anything at all, but for the one who suffers with BDD, the flaw is significant enough to cause the kind of emotional distress that makes it difficult to function.
Bareilles says, “My greatest struggle is a big part of why I stand onstage. I sing because I was a fat kid. Now, when I look at pictures of myself at that age, I know there was absolutely nothing 'wrong' with me at all, but some thoughtless words carved out a story that I believed and my body obsession began."
When sheknows.com asked her for advice for other women struggling with body image issues, her response was one we should all remember, and that is, to love ourselves. “I think we have to practice being kind to ourselves,” she said. “It's like a muscle that needs to be strengthened. There will always be someone running around that has something you wish you had, but the more we can learn to see and celebrate what we like about ourselves, the more we can see what there is to like.” Showcasing her stripped down and confessional writing style, Sara's entertaining and inspirational book tells the inside stories behind her most popular songs and offers insights into finding balance between making art for herself and commercial music for her listeners.