Empowering songs to pump you up after a break-up (or anytime)

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What's on your self-esteem pump-up playlist?
What’s on your self-esteem pump-up playlist?
I recently ended a relationship that had become toxic to my overall self-esteem and confidence. I have developed a wonderful coping method to help get me through the aftermath, and I wanted to share: I am running while listening to self-affirming music.

I would love if readers could share their favourite empowering running music.
— Marsupup

First: I’m so happy to hear that you’re no longer in a toxic relationship. And running to empowering music sounds like a great coping method, indeed! Even if you’re not using it to run, empowering, upbeat music could help get you through something like a breakup (or a job rejection, or almost any disappointment where your self-esteem takes a hit) and remember how awesome you are. This kind of music is more about loving yourself, surviving, independence, or feeling powerful, and less about hating an ex. I’m going to share some up-tempo, self-empowering songs, then I’ll open it up to the Homies and see what they suggest.

I tried to keep these songs upbeat for working out and diverse in genre, and I included some of my “guilty pleasures” for y’all. (I actually don’t believe in being “guilty” about liking any music, so don’t be shy with your suggestions!) It just happened that the list is all women artists, but feel free to throw in whatever pumps you up!

Spice Girls? The Supremes? Share your pump-up, self-affirming tracks!

Comments on Empowering songs to pump you up after a break-up (or anytime)

  1. Fucking Perfect by Pink (pretty much anything by Pink)
    Pretty much anything by ABBA
    There is Life Outside Your Apartment from Avenue Q
    One Girl Revolution by SuperChick
    I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (more of a cool-down song)
    Mr. Brightside by The Killers
    If I Could Have You Back by Aly & AJ
    Long Gone by Lady Antebellum
    Take Me As I Am by Sugarland
    Chainsaw by The Band Perry
    Freckles by Natasha Bedingfield
    Brave by Sara Barielles
    Roar by Katy Perry
    Take Me or Leave Me from Rent

    And if you like Christian music, check out Fireflight. A lot of their songs would be good for running, and they’re mostly all about overcoming toxic things. Check out So Help Me God

  2. While I totally respect your decision to omit Beyonce’s Flawless, I just want to say that I REALLY enjoy being drenched in sweat, making an ugly face, listening to the chorus “I woke up like this / I woke up like this.”

  3. I have a similar palylist, it is peppered with rousing movie scores and songs that make me feel like a bad ass (like O Fortuna) but here are some of the ones that may suit your needs:

    Black Friday Rule – Flogging Molly
    Lose Yourself – Eminem
    Born this Way – Lady Gaga
    Stronger (what doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
    I want it all -Queen
    I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
    Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore
    Defying Gravity – Wicked
    We Remain – Christina Aguilara
    Hey Brother – Avicci
    Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill

    and my Current everyday anthem:
    Level Up – Vienna Teng

    Also, you are awesome. 😀

    • Oh! I forgot some:
      Girl Anachronism – The Dresden Dolls
      Sing – The Dresden Dolls
      Grey Street – Dave Matthews Band
      Dare You to Move – Switchfoot
      Walk On – U2
      Breath (2am) Anna Nalick
      She – Green Day
      It Gets Better – Fun.
      Us of Lesser Gods – Flogging Molly
      Brave – Sara Bareilles

      Cool Down Songs
      In my mind – Amanda Palmer
      Where are you going – Dave Matthews
      Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
      You Found Me – The Fray
      Falling Slowly – The Swell Season

      I love it when you guys do posts like this, I’m going to spend the rest of my day discovering new music while I pretend to work WOOT!

  4. So many great songs! I’ll add a few that are on my workout list:
    Boys Wanna Be Her — Peaches
    Hit ‘Em Up Style– Carolina Chocolate Drops
    New Shoes– Paolo Nutini
    Guarded By Monkeys — Cracker
    The Happiest Lamb — Audra Mae
    Free Me — Joss Stone
    Pot Kettle Black –Tilly and the Wall
    Wannabe — Spice Girls (I know, but no guilt here! )

    And every once in awhile I need to blast I’m Awesome by Spose.

  5. Love this question! So I went through my running playlist, and I don’t know if all of these are “empowering” but all of these make me think “I’m a badass mofo and I can keep running through anything,” so I thought that was affirming enough.

    That’s Not My Name – Ting Tings
    Ways to Go – Grouplove
    I Love It – IconoPop
    Ball and Chain – Social Distortion
    My Body – Young the Giant
    Not Your Fault – AWOL Nation
    Get Over It – Ok Go
    This Too Shall Pass – Ok Go
    Needing/Getting – Ok Go
    One Girl Revolution – Superchick
    Remember the Name – Fort Minor
    All I Do Is Win – DJ Khaled
    Run the World (Girls) – Beyonce
    Heaven Knows – Pretty Reckless
    Work Bitch – Britany Spears
    Fancy – Iggy Azalea

  6. “You Can’t Handle This” by Five Iron Frenzy is my personal nerd empowerment anthem. It contains the lines “Leonard Nimoy can’t stand up to this/And Captain James T. Kirk bows beneath my mighty fist/And I am awesome, awesome, I am the awesomest.”

  7. This is not a music suggestion. Instead, it’s a movie suggestion for what to do when a man breaks your heart. (LGBT disclaimer: I would say this is a good fit for any break-up, but it works SO much better when it’s someone of the male persuasion).

    Years ago a nice young man broke up with me and it hurt a disproportionate, crazy amount. I visited a good friend, who promptly made cupcakes and asked me what chick flick would make me feel better.

    Here’s the rub: chick flicks, on the whole, do not help after a break up. The boy and the girl always seem to end up together, the conflict seems worth it, and romance tends to be the point of the film. I scrolled over “Emma” and “10 Things I Hate About You” and even “Bridesmaids” and the romantic relationships made me want to vomit.

    We watched Silence of the Lambs, and it was AWESOME. I went from devastated to laughing. [SPOILER] Essentially every man in that movie is awful and lecherous. The main character, a woman, gets hit on and sexually assaulted and physically threatened and totally rises above all of it, relationship-free and badass as hell. The secondary female character (a “big girl”) holds a tiny dog hostage; states her requests and boundaries clearly, haha (“get me the fuck out of here!”); and eventually wins her freedom. I walked away feeling like I didn’t need a relationship to be powerful at all. I was also a little grossed out by men, which probably isn’t healthy and I’m generally not a fan of misandry, but it really helped over the next 24 hours.

    As for music, I’m a fan of Mika. It’s like gay disco pop was made for running after a break up:

    Grace Kelly – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CGVgAYJyjk&feature=kp
    Lollipop – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6md5RSnVUuo
    I only love you when I’m drunk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQKVH7QEbjA&feature=kp
    Elle me dit – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiHWwKC8WjU
    We are golden – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEhutIEUq8k&feature=kp

    • Ha ha! I totally did the movie thing after a break up and my Friend gave me a movie choice. My choice? Battle Royale. Nothing like watching a load of kids killing each other to put your breakup in perspective and out of your mind!

  8. I have been waiting for this post all of my life, it seems. I have what I call a “torch song” playlist on my iPod that I made after a very similar experience and found it really helpful. My playlist includes:

    – Here Comes My Man, the Gaslight Anthem
    – Shake it Out, Florence + the Machine
    – The Fairy Tale of New York, the Pouges
    – Old White Lincoln, the Gaslight Anthem
    – Infinitesimal, Mother Mother
    – Better Days, St Lawerence Warehouse Company
    – I Need Some Fine Wine and You Need to Be Nicer, the Cardigans

    I don’t know why some of these make me feel great about myself, but they do, and other works through the bitterness of ending a toxic relationship (ie- the first Gaslight Anthem song and the Cardigans song specifically). Good luck!

  9. I definitely had an “I Hate Men” playlist the last time I got dumped. Inspired by the song from Kiss Me, Kate, of course. Possibly not the most positive, but still fun.

    When I’m feeling down, I play Malinky, especially the songs off their 3 Ravens album. (They’re a Scottish folk band, and one of my favorites.) I also love Tarja and Rhapsody of Fire, both power metal.

    And that song from Rocky. How can you not feel pumped listening to that?

  10. OK, these aren’t so much “relationship/self-esteem” songs, but they’re on my running playlist and always make me feel “Fuck, YEAH!” at the end:
    Party Hard – Andrew WK
    Uprising – Muse
    One-Armed Scissor – At The Drive-In
    Lover I Don’t Have To Love – Bright Eyes
    and, erm, Greased Lightnin’, from the Grease soundtrack, because it fits my running pace perfectly and if “Go, Greased Lightnin’, you’re burning up the quarter mile…” doesn’t get me going, then nothing will!

  11. ‘Famous Last Words’ by My Chemical Romance. It’s my go to soundtrack when I’m feeling crushed. It’s rebellious, anthemic and one of my favourite bands.

    ‘Living Is A Problem’ by Biffy Clyro is another good one. ‘Pretty Handsome Awkward’ by The Used too. I like songs with attitude to pump me back up 😉

  12. Some notable highlights on my gym playlist – I can’t run for toffee but I hit the gym for that same “I’m awesome” boost when my OCD is threatening to spiral out of control!

    Just a Girl – No Doubt
    Shut your Mouth – Garbage
    Orpheus – Ash
    She’s a Rebel – Green Day
    Kick out the Jams – Presidents of the United States of America
    You need me, I don’t need you – Ed Sheeran
    Hella Good – No Doubt

    Plus another vote for some Gaga and some Mika!

  13. Titanium- Sia
    Heavy Cross- Gossip
    Clarity- Zedd

    I love Bif Naked and love that she’s on here. My songs are great for running. The truth is that for pumping myself up when I’m feeling low (and I want to feel purposeful) I always listen to “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel.

  14. From my “Dancing with myself” playlist… (I tried to grab a selection that hadn’t been mentioned yet…)

    Stella Project – Underneath My Skin
    MIA – Bad Girls Do It Well
    Santogold – Creator
    Azealia Banks – 212
    Ke$ha – Boots and Boys
    Eagles of Death Metal – Cherry Cola
    Stone Temple Pilots – Big Bang Baby
    Brandi Carlile – Raise Hell
    Jet – She’s a Genius
    Sleigh Bells – Riot Rhythm
    Does It Offend You, Or? – Let’s Make Out
    She Wants Revenge – Tear You Apart
    Hot Hot Heat – Bandages
    2NE1 – Follow Me
    The Chain Gang of 1974 – The Devil is a Lady
    Little Mix – Salute

    Also, anything by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Veruca Salt and there should probably be some PJ Harvey in here too but picking songs is hard and this is long already.

    ALSO everyone should youtube some DOLL$BOXX and BABYMETAL, because adorable J-Rock and J-Metal makes me want to PUNCH ROBOTS AND LOOK CUTE which I feel might be an appropriate mood

  15. Super happy to see OK Go and Mika listed above.

    The Corrs’ “I Never Really Loved You Anyway” got me through a bad breakup awhile back. Really that whole record (Talk On Corners). Also Ani DiFranco’s album Dilate.

    Umm if I may be so bold, I wrote an “I Am Awesome” kind of song. It’s called “Rockstar, Bitch!” I was upset about something and my friend said “what do you care? You’re gonna be a rockstar, bitch!” And then she declared I should write a song about it. It’s available on all the digital music platforms and you can stream it from my website, http://www.rachelschain.com.

  16. Not sure if these have been posted but my break up/cheer up choices are:
    Mr Blue Sky – ELO
    Anything No Doubt
    Anything Kelly Clarkson
    Anything Pink
    You Oughta know – Alanis Morrisette
    Robbie Williams – Karma Killer
    Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus
    Stronger – Britney Spears
    Hold On – Wilson Phillips
    Blu Cantrell – Hit em up style
    Mya – Return of the Ex
    Take That – Never Forget

    So I do tend towards the cheesy side of things….haha

  17. I often play pump yourself up music when I’m painting and jogging, here are some of my favorites when I need to feel a little indestructible.
    Work – Iggy azalea ( I also dance party to this in my studio when I’m not feeling so art confident)
    Change Your Life- Iggy Azalea (another in studio pump up my self esteem song)
    Fuck Love & murda bizness- Iggy Azalea
    Pursuit of Happiness (Cover be Lissie) nice cool down
    Electric Lady- Janelle Monae
    Angel Haze is one of my favs, great tracks by her: A tribe called red, Battle cry, Echelon, New York, Werkin Girls
    Best of Me- Morningwood
    Q.u.e.e.n- Janelle Monae
    Stupid – Brendan Maclean (also his loner dance party of a music video for this song makes my day every time)

  18. From the “screw you” section of my workout playlist:

    Angry Johnny – Poe
    Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
    Billie Jean – Breathe Carolina
    Bye Bye Bye – NSync
    Dead and Gone – T.I.
    Defying Gravity – Wicked (original Broadway Cast recording)
    Don’t Want You Back – Backstreet Boys
    Fairytale – Sara Bareilles
    Fuck You – Cee Lo
    Natalie – Bruno Mars
    Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
    Raise Your Glass – Pink
    Since You’ve Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
    Stronger – Britney Spears
    This is War – 30 Seconds to Mars
    What Goes Around / Comes Back Around – Justin Timberlake
    You Can Do It – No Doubt
    You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

  19. Not necessarily empowering, but they make me feel better when I’m down 🙂

    Just a Girl – No Doubt
    Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
    The Lovecats – The Cure
    Eloise – The Damned
    Trash – Suede (or The London Suede if you’re from the US)
    Russian Roulette – Lords Of The New Church
    Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
    I want to Break Free – Queen

  20. Queen: Killer Queen
    Queen Latifah: Unity
    L7: Fast and Frightening
    Bikini Kill: I Like Fucking/Rebel Girl
    Nancy Sinatra: These Boots are Made For Walking
    TLC: Unpretty
    Social Distortion: Dear Lover
    The Misfits: Attitude
    Poe: Not a Virgin Anymore
    Salt n Pepa: Ain’t Nuthin But a She Thing

    I could keep going on and on, fun thread! Not sure if others would consider these empowering. Most are kinda more “take no shit” than “feeling awesome about me” music. But I’m ready to kick some ass just writing this list!

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