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Weekly Doses of Pop-up Psych

We all make cringey mistakes and deserve to move on, rather than feel confused or regretful after an icky social situation. Each week, I will dissect a murky social, life cycle, or pop culture topic to help you understand, learn, and move on. As a former academic, I am a super-picky consumer of research (and you should be too) as well as the content I create and share, so those new solutions, data and/or additional resources have certainly met my approval.

“Take the Song and Make it Your Own!” Lessons Learned from Pop Culture

When American Idol first aired in 2002, the seminal three judges were Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul. Each judge had a diverse but prominent music career with impressive accomplishments. The hopeful contestants would perform a cover tune and the judges would give them feedback.  Feedback varied from technical vocal advice to stage presence and the judge’s delivery was very true to his/her brand and personality. 

It was common for contestants to try and imitate the artist of their song, rather than sing it their way. Paula, who was very kind in her feedback delivery, would frequently say, “Take the song and make it your own,” to the point that it seemed like a catchphrase. Meaning, put some personal flair (aka branding) and bring a sense of individual uniqueness to the song performance.


Beyond Music


“Take the song and make it your own” is simple and applicable. The phrase resonated with me because at the time, I was a newly minted doctor and young professor. I had almost 10 years of training, teaching, leading, and public speaking under my belt and was teaching a graduate-level class with content I knew well, but probably delivered like a robot with my power points and suits.  I taught how I was taught, not necessarily how I wanted to teach.  We have our role models, but we should learn from them instead of emulating them.


I wasn’t confident enough to be authentic. I needed to grow into the shoes of that role to figure out what did and did not work for me. As time went on, I found how to do it my way. The content didn’t change, but the way I delivered it did because as I came into my own, the course evolved and improved.  I taught it in a way that was different from my peers, because my individuality shined through, like it did for them. We all took the principles of teaching research processes and made it our own.


Experience is the Best Teacher


Whether it’s practicing medicine, teaching ballet, or building a house, every craft requires confidence, which doesn’t come overnight.  Like when Van Halen covered Dancing in the Streets by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas they put an authentic spin to the music and made the song their own. They were 10 years into their career when they covered that song. If you listen and compare, they are very different.


Coming into your own requires grace.


Do you learn better from success or mistakes? Or a combination of the two?  You are going to experience both, so let them teach you how to do things in a way that works for you.  You are going to have your wins and cringe moments, so be humble and gentle with yourself.


Coming into your own requires time.


Nothing happens overnight.  Seasoned professionals will admit they are not the same person they were when they first started because they had to learn and grow. Expect to be rusty and bumpy for a few rounds.  Be observant as to what is going well, what needs to change, and refine your craft from there.


What about you?


  • Which activities have you authentically come into your own?

  • Which activities do you still have to cultivate to make your own?

Hi Beautiful Readers and thank you for reading this! I'm Dr. Joanne Broder, Media Psychologist, Author, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Please consider me to help you write your memoir, blogs, speeches, e-books, as well as coach you on your dissertation or thesis.  Click here so we can connect!

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