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The Line From Shawn Mendes's New Song I Can't Get Behind as Someone With Anxiety

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Shawn Mendes’s latest single is called “In My Blood.” I like the song, I like him, but… there’s one line I can’t get behind — and it’s at the very the core of the chorus.

It isn’t hard to commend Shawn Mendes, or any other artist for that matter, for speaking out about anxiety, depression or other struggles often associated with a mental disorder. And while I love him for writing the first single of his new album, “In My Blood,” a part of me struggles with the third line in the chorus: “It isn’t in my blood.” The song speaks about Shawn’s struggle with anxiety, how immobilizing it can feel when it overtakes you and the numbness you sink into when you realize there may be nothing you can do about it.

He sings, “Sometimes I feel like giving up / But I just can’t / It isn’t in my blood.” It isn’t in him to give up, to give in to this obnoxious, outside force. As a listener, what I hear is a young man who asserts his power over his anxiety. He is telling us he has the strength in him to not give up or give in. Rolling Stones in the article, “Hear Shawn Mendes’ Raw New Song ‘In My Blood,’” praises his resilience, and describes the song as one that “charts a course from victim to victory.”

And that’s awesome. If you have the ability to not let a debilitating emotion like anxiety take you down, it is a blessing. But unfortunately, for so many people struggling with anxiety, that is not the case. They remain victims of anxiety because they don’t know how to handle it, how to survive it, how to overcome. 

Shawn’s war cry that it isn’t in his blood to give up, while laudable, doesn’t give me what I need to feel better about my own anxiety. His simplistic method of dealing with his anxiety is a hard one to practice for most. It isn’t in my blood to give up, thus, I’m not giving up. Cheers to those who have the sheer will like Shawn professes with that single line. 

In a way, the line alienates those who try every day with every ounce of themselves to gain the will to live, to continue on, to survive — but just can’t. Those who can’t get out of bed, who can’t step outside, who are stuck in their own minds, who think, if only they could cry out like Shawn Mendes, “It isn’t in my blood!” And when they can’t, the line transforms the chorus from a tangible reality into an unlikely dream.

And even if for the first, second and third time, they are able to defy anxiety and roar, “It isn’t in my blood!,” there is always the chance that for the fourth time, a single line of defiance won’t do the job. 

And with the proclamation of Shawn’s resilience and strength to fight this anxiety, one might beg the question, “Is my blood weak and feeble because at times I have given up?” You might think I wish I could be like Shawn Mendes, but I don’t think have it in me.

You’re following the song and it talks about “laying on the bathroom floor… I’m overwhelmed and insecure… give me something I could take to ease my mind… no medicine is strong enough, someone help me… sometimes I feel like giving up…” and you’re like, “Yes! Yes! exactly how I’m feeling!” And then he throws you a curve ball and declares, “It isn’t in my blood!!” Brick wall. The connection between Shawn Mendes, the victim and the anxiety-riddled listener is severed.

You ask yourself again, what if it’s not in my blood? What if I’m not strong enough? Is there something wrong with me if I can’t fight it and be like you?

I truly believe it was every intention of Shawn Mendes to present a honest depiction of himself — all fans appreciate honesty, especially an honesty they can relate to. But I can’t get behind this song 100 percent. 

It is not a song of inspiration — however, don’t know if it was meant to be. Shawn keeps saying he was only trying to bring raw honesty into his music which is great. I just feel like when you’re dealing with such a delicate matter as anxiety and considering the thousands if not millions who struggle with it, who might have listened to this song, harping that you’ve overcome it through sheer will isn’t the best approach to helping those millions through their own anxiety.

Again, I don’t think Shawn was trying to give advice through this song, but I almost feel like people with anxiety or depression or other mental conditions (particularly if you are a public figure) have a responsibility to others to make sure whatever it is you are expressing about your own problems does not make others who also struggle feel like they are doing something wrong, and you are doing everything right. His “victory” over anxiety as Rolling Stones calls it, is singular to Shawn and Shawn alone, but that won’t prevent others who feel anxiety from comparing Shawn’s triumph to their own failure.

And once again, I know Shawn Mendes didn’t mean to imply any of this when he wrote his song. He wrote what he felt. He was being honest. He just happens to be one of the luckier ones, where he can will away the urge to give up. He says so. It’s in his blood.

But as a person who has past experience where sheer will or the stubborn rejection of surrendering to an overbearing monster of emotion was not enough to fight off that emotion, I want people to know the ability to just say, “No, I won’t give up,” is a skill that can be learned over time. Don’t be disheartened if it is something you can’t conjure up right away. And some times will be harder than others.

I think if there is anything we can learn from “In My Blood,” it’s that we do all possess the power to not give in to hopelessness and defeat. We all do. It might take some longer to get there, but it is possible.

So maybe instead of singing, “It isn’t in my blood! It isn’t in my blood! It isn’t in my blood!” we say, Sometimes I feel like giving up, but give me a second to breathe and I’ll work on it.

Lead photo via Shawn Mendes Facebook page

Originally published: April 30, 2018
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