On her newest single, Alicia Keys is reclaiming the negative connotations associated with the word "Underdog." Released on January 9, "Underdog" is from Keys' forthcoming seventh full-length album, and as she explained to Teen Vogue, it's a song focused on finding your voice, recognizing your power, and defying any and all odds that come your way.
Below, Alicia shared her thoughts with Teen Vogue on recognizing the power of your inner-Underdog, and how anyone is truly capable of accomplishing all that they dream of.
One of the biggest struggles that I deal with is being able to have my own voice, opinion, and individuality without feeling like someone doesn’t approve of it. And then, if someone doesn’t approve of it, I struggle with feeling like I have to shift or adjust what someone expects or wants for me. That’s been a really big learning process for me, and even to this day, I still have to remind myself all the time to ask myself, ‘What is it that you really want for yourself?’
Especially as women, we tend to be nurturers, problem solvers, the fixers. We’re the ones that go out and get things done, and that’s what makes women amazing. In that process, because we’re always wanting everybody else to be OK, we sometimes lose track of making sure that we’re OK.
I recently have started to ask myself another question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ I used to feel super guilty about thinking like that, but that’s a really powerful barometer to find out if something is good for you. There’s nothing wrong with making sure that whatever is in it for you, and whatever decision you’re going to make, is benefitting you.
We all have these moments in our lives where we feel like we have to defy unimaginable odds. That’s the meaning of "Underdog"; someone who defies the odds. Underdog is an extremely empowering word. It’s hard to — against all odds and against everyone’s judgment of you — keep going.
In any creative space, and in life in general, there’s going to be doubters. Some people see a possibility or a light in you and it makes them insecure. Sometimes, the world doesn’t know how to deal with the things they’re going through, and the best way they try to cope with that is by bringing you to a place that matches how they feel.
When I encounter comments or people that are super negative or discouraging, I realize that it’s not about me. It’s about whatever they’re going through, and it just so happens that negativity is the only way they can express that. That doesn’t necessarily make things easier, but it does give a perspective for me. It reminds me that it has nothing to do with me, and in a way, that makes me a little bit more empathic as opposed to angry.
Stay away from people that don’t encourage you, that don’t have positive things to say about you, or that don't have your best intentions at heart. You can recognize that type of person — there’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach, or a worry that you have about being with them. They’re the type of people that, no matter what you do, you feel nervous or unsure around.
Nobody wants to be alone, and we all want to have friends, but I would rather be alone than be with somebody who’s going to completely bring me down or make me feel doubtful of myself. I keep an inventory of who is around me and how their energy affects my energy.
It’s important to know what you want for yourself. If you have a dream or something that you aspire to, know that it may take sacrifices. You’re going to probably have to put in more hours, miss out on things that other people go to, and maybe sacrifice people that you had hoped would encourage you, but aren’t. But that time you put into what you want for yourself, returns itself. At first, it can get discouraging, and you feel like, ‘Is it ever going to happen?’ But, I know for a fact that if you don’t stop, something happens. It might not happen exactly the way you thought in your mind, but it’s going to happen.
At a certain point, you can’t live for everybody else who approves of you. You have got to approve of yourself. You’ve got to say, “This is what I want. This is what I feel. This is what I love. This is what I believe, so I’m going after it.’
You don’t always have to be strong. You could totally be weak, You can have a good cry, and be down. It’s OK. Everything is never going to be perfect at all moments, and we’re perfect when we’re vulnerable when we’re off and a little bit down. When you cry about it, let it out. That’s a big transformation moment, so allow yourself the time of peace.
Whoever is listening to “Underdog,” feel the possibility, that celebration of choosing to keep going.
People may underestimate you because you're young, and people underestimate you because you're old, people underestimate you at all walks and crosses of life. That doesn't really matter. That focus is a distraction because everybody has something in them that changes something because we're all energy and we all receive energy. Your energy is absolutely able to create something and it just depends on what you want to create with it.
There is no limit to that or there is no age that you can start that, that happens from the minute that you're conscious. You can create whatever you want. Ignore those people — especially in regards to doing good things for people. There's never a limit on that. That will always help create a shift. That will shift the energy in the best way possible.
I mean, sometimes it can just be you smiling to somebody when you walk down the street, or in your school, or when you're driving past them in a car, that alone changes their energy and changes yours too.
As told to Lauren Rearick
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue