21 Of The Best Songs About Finding Yourself

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

You’ve probably heard the phrase “I need to find myself” at some point. People use it right before quitting their jobs or breaking up with someone.

The idea of finding yourself is different for everyone. However, it points to finding your sense of purpose or meaning in life. It involves knowing yourself a little more through your experiences. That means accepting your feelings and your thoughts, and your goal in life.

You can get more ideas about finding yourself by going through our compilation today. As always, songwriters have the most appropriate songs for every occasion. So here are 21 of the best songs about finding yourself.

1. “Born This Way” By Lady Gaga

The title track of Lady Gaga’s 2011 album, her second full-length studio effort, “Born This Way,” hit the airwaves like a bomb.

Her rabid fans got an electro-pop anthem almost immediately adopted as an unofficial gay anthem. And while its lyrics skew toward LGBTQ themes, the song isn’t off-limits to straight people. It’s about accepting who you are and not hiding it. Its lyrics are a bit heavy-handed, but that may be the point.

Why sing about finding your true self and shining your light on the world around you but couch those lyrics in symbolism and other poetic forms of obscuring the message?

2. “A Place In This World” By Taylor Swift

She was only 13 when Taylor Swift wrote “A Place in This World,” a time in life when we’re all searching for who we are. The song appeared on her self-titled debut album in 2006.

She wrote it in a fit of pique upon moving to Nashville, penning lyrics about trying to find her specific place in the world around her. While she sings, “I’m alone, on my own,” she also recognizes that “I’m ready to fly.”

Swift doesn’t pin anything down in the song related to her identity in life. But she does conclude that she’s simply someone trying to find where she belongs. That might be enough in our quest for identity. At least for a start.

3. “Express Yourself” By Madonna

When Like a Prayer dropped in 1989, it spawned, as Madonna albums do, several hits. The lead single made a splash, but so did “Express Yourself.”

The song is widely considered one of female empowerment. The message rings most true in the lyrics about refusing to settle or accept less than the best that you deserve. The singer reminds us, “Don’t go for second best, baby.” It also requires knowing your worth as a person.

As we bumble through life trying to find who we are, we often self-sabotage by settling for less than what we truly deserve. Queen Madge puts the kibosh on that idea in “Express Yourself.” After all, how will you find yourself if you can’t even admit that you’re looking?

4. “thank u, next” By Ariana Grande

American singer-songwriter Ariana Grande began writing the title track to her 2018 album while engaged to actor and comedian Pete Davidson. It was a trying time in their relationship. What she came up with is “thank u, next,” a self-empowerment anthem that became her first #1 hit.

Lyrically, “thank u, next” is a list of Grande’s four exes. But with each one, she takes a stab at enumerating the good things that came from the relationship.

Basically, it’s a song about things we learn. Grande concludes that the things life throws at you are the things that make you who you are.

5. “This Is Me” By Keala Settle

An integral part of the 2017 film about P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman, was “This is Me,” performed mainly by Keala Settle. She played the film’s Bearded Lady, a character who’s spent her life hiding from the world.

The song trumpets to the world a message that we all could use from time to time. That no matter what people think or say about us, what matters is who we are.

“This is Me” is about grabbing the part of you that makes you you and holding on to it, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if that’s your flaw. Your imperfection adds to your being a unique person. And it takes a brave heart to let people see that part of you and still be proud of it.

6. “My Way” By Frank Sinatra

Admittingly, Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way,” is less about finding yourself than about someone who found himself years ago and held tight to it.

Paul Anka wrote the lyrics to a melody from a pre-existing French song. When Sinatra made it the title track of a 1969 album, audiences quickly flocked to it.

The lyrics paint a picture that we can all identify with: I’ve done some things right, some wrong, and I’ve done some things maybe I shouldn’t have. But I did them all in good faith because I know who and what I am, and I’m good with all of it.

7. “Lose You To Love Me” By Selena Gomez

Our next song, “Lose You to Love Me,” is probably about Selena Gomez’s relationship with Justin Bieber, though more specifically about the end of it. Released in 2019 as part of her Rare album, the song is a ballad that starts spare and builds over its three-plus minutes.

It’s a song about choosing to put yourself first. Not in a selfish way, but in the way of self-preservation. Gomez sings about having to lose who she was (or who she thought she was) to discover her true self.

And that also means losing the other person in the process. She had to lose him so she could find and love herself. What she gains out of the experience gives her the courage to say, “It’s goodbye for us.”

8. “Within You Without You” By The Beatles

The songwriting duo of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney is arguably the best in history. But we often forget that The Beatles recorded songs by Ringo and some by George Harrison, too. “Within You Without You” is from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album and the only song not written by Lennon and McCartney.

Harrison had a dinner conversation with a fellow artist regarding the walls we put up to hide from the world. Shortly afterward, he wrote the song to incorporate his budding Hindu beliefs.

In the song, he encourages his listeners to look within themselves to find love. He postulates that the only way to find yourself is to look within, where you’ll find who you truly are.

9. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” By Billy Joel

How better to find yourself than to decide to be happy with who and where you are in life? Billy Joel addresses this in “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” from his 1977 album The Stranger.

Joel sings about several blue-collar workers toiling away at making their lives better in the way they’re “supposed” to: move up the ladder and make more money. He punctuates each verse by asking if it’s all worth it.

For Anthony’s part, he decides that he’s happy being himself, so he leaves the rat race for a quieter life. The self he finds is more satisfying than a life of reaching.

10. “I’m Still Standing” By Elton John

A worldwide Top Ten hit in 1983, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” leaped off his Too Low for Zero album as a song, at first glance, about surviving a breakup.

But it’s more than that. In the early days of MTV, and also during a time when John’s sexuality was the subject of rumor and innuendo, “I’m Still Standing” and its accompanying video look (especially in hindsight) like a declaration from the Rocket Man.

The song’s theme is that someone may have hurt him, but he’s past it and stronger than ever. And you know what he found in the process? His own strength. He’s moving on.

11. “Englishman In New York” By Sting

For Sting’s second solo studio album, he wrote “Englishman in New York.” It’s about Quentin Crisp, essentially the 20th-century version of Oscar Wilde. Crisp was a British gay icon famous for his wit and storytelling.

In the song, Crisp, the Englishman, finds himself in a foreign place. But his nationality isn’t the only thing that makes him stand out. He’s got manners, he’s well-dressed, and he’s an island of calm in the roiling sea of humanity that is New York City.

The Englishman in New York continues to be himself, having found the self that makes him happy. He’s not letting that go for anything.

12. “Brave” By Sara Bareilles

Broadway darling and Tony-winner Sara Bareilles is a lot of things. She’s a singer, writer, actor, and awards show host extraordinaire. But she’s also pretty darned confident. At least according to “Brave,” her 2013 Top Ten hit from her album The Blessed Unrest.

Her lyrics talk about deciding who you are. Be something remarkable, or be a shrinking violet that doesn’t assert herself. She exhorts the listener to be brave. Making conscious choices about life leads to better living.

Sometimes, finding yourself involves taking chances. So, as she says in the lyrics, “Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out.” Be brave.

13. “WE ARE” By Jon Batiste

TV personality Jon Batiste wrote the Grammy-winning 2021 album We Are mostly in his dressing room when he was the bandleader for Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show. Hard to believe, yes, because it’s a great album. One of the songs there is “WE ARE.”

The song is a celebration of self. Batiste acknowledges that there are problems in the world, but there are also wonderful things that form us into who we are.

In the lyrics, he references the ghetto and a grandmother. It means that who we are is a result of who takes care of us and where we come from. What better way to find who you are than to look inward and embrace the formative forces?

14. “Hell On Heels” By Pistol Annies

Sometimes, finding yourself doesn’t mean becoming a better person. That’s the case with “Hell on Heels” from the self-titled debut of this Miranda Lambert-led country songwriting trio, Pistol Annies.

The lyrics tick off a long list of men the singers have used and abused. They rack up cash, real estate, cars, and boats from hapless would-be romancers who fell for the scam.

Sometimes, finding yourself is about embracing your strengths. The singers say that the devil made them intelligent and beautiful. What else should they be doing with these gifts?

15. “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” By Chicago

On the surface, “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” is about Chicago frontman Peter Cetera’s marriage breaking up. The song was one of the 12 singles in the album Chicago VI (Expanded & Remastered).

In the recounting of the breakup, the narrator admits that the relationship’s demise is best for everyone involved. Discovering this about himself, he realizes that he’s a stronger person in the wake of the split.

When we can acknowledge the formative life events that come at us, we can find who we are and stand as stronger individuals as a result.

16. “’Heroes’” By David Bowie

Up next is the 1977 song “‘Heroes'” by David Bowie. The song’s title has quotation marks around it because Bowie wanted to include some irony in it.

On the surface, it’s a song about lovers, one from East Berlin and the other from West Berlin. They feel threatened with separation by the Berlin wall. But it’s also a song about facing whatever comes our way. We find out who we are through the discovery of how we act in the face of those things.

There’s also an element of enjoying the life that we have while we have it. And if that’s not a solid dimension of self-discovery, not much about that process would make sense.

17. “We Are Finding Who We Are” By King’s X

Missouri hard-rock trio King’s X was riding a wave of newfound fame when they recorded “We Are Finding Who We Are” in 1990 for their fourth album, Faith Hope Love.

This song with “finding who we are” in the title echoes much of the band’s lyrical content to that point. It’s about self-examination and a quest to become a better person.

The song’s lyrics lay out a simple vision of what happens when you discover your true self: you can see forever. Maybe not literally, but when you know who you are, you’re ahead of most people in the world.

18. “Extraordinary Machine” By Fiona Apple

There’s a difference between telling everyone how awesome you are and recognizing your value. Fiona Apple’s song (and album of the same name) “Extraordinary Machine” sits firmly as doing the latter.

The song is less a road map for how people can find themselves than an enunciation by Apple about who she is. She declares that “I’m good at being uncomfortable,” which alludes to the idea that she can take on anything. It makes the case that what makes her Fiona Apple is that she’s always in motion and ever-changing.

If you’re always in a state of flux, finding yourself can be tough. That is unless that unceasing evolution is who you are.

18. “All You Need Is Now” By Duran Duran

Our next on the list is a song with “find yourself” in the lyrics. When Duran Duran released their 13th album, All You Need Is Now. Many critics hailed it as their best work since 1982’s Rio. The title track, “All You Need is Now,” is proof of that.

This is, in a very meta way, a song about finding yourself, and not just because of the lyrics. The whole album is a return to the 1980s Duran Duran without being an uninteresting retread. Those never work.

The song is about living in the moment as the only real way to be who you are and embrace what you bring to the world. This ends up being exactly what the band does in the song itself and on the whole album.

20. “Find Yourself” By Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real

From the fourth album of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, “Find Yourself” is a little more of an accusation. Nelson offers his hope that the one who hurt him gets her act together.

The second verse of the song mentions “find yourself,” which the singer wishes for his lover. Otherwise, he might find someone else to replace her.

On the other hand, the song is also about him realizing that he deserves more in life than he’s allowed himself to accept in the past. Realizing one’s self-worth is a big step toward self-discovery.

21. “Breaking Hearts (Ain’t What It Used To Be)” By Elton John

Finding yourself sometimes unearths some ugly truths. On Elton John’s 1984 album Breaking Hearts, the Rocket Man sings in the persona of a man who’s spent a lifetime toying with the hearts and emotions of those around him.

As he ages, he finds himself forced to look inward. He asks himself why he’s lonely. Or why he’s always getting left behind?

The answer, he discovers as he realizes who he is as a human being, is that it’s all his fault. His self-examination reveals that he’s been the architect of his unhappiness all this time. It seems that finding yourself doesn’t always end in sunshine and rainbows.

Summing Up Our List Of Finding Yourself Songs

Now that we are at the end of this list, we hope that the songs above aided you in your quest to know yourself a little more.

Perhaps you’ve resonated with one or some of the songs on our list. You’ll find out how alike we can be with these singers in terms of experiences and learning.

While there are many songs about finding yourself, the songs here solidly represent what it means, even if what you find isn’t what you hoped for. And to be able to accept that, that’s one step closer to you finding yourself!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.