What Does the Song, ‘This Is Me’ Mean?

11 August 2023

Hello. This week on Ask a Teacher, we will explain parts of a song for a listener.


I have a song I want you to explain. It is This Is Me from the Greatest Showman.

Masafumi, Japan


Dear Masfumi,

Thanks for writing to us. The song you asked about is from a 2017 movie about P.T. Barnum. He started his circus, a traveling show featuring unusual animals and people, in 1870. He gathered performers of all kinds for the show. One was a very small man. Another was a very tall woman. A woman named Josephine Clofullia had a beard; her face was covered with long hair. In her act people called her a "bearded lady."

In the movie, Hugh Jackman plays the part of P.T. Barnum. One of his lines in the movie expresses his view of the unusual people he employs: "Every one of us is special, and nobody is like anyone else. That's the point of my show."

The actor who sings the song This Is Me in the movie is Keala Settle. She plays the character Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, in The Greatest Showman.

Song meaning

Now that you know about where the song appears and who sings it, let us look at its meaning. The song is about strength in the face of criticism. The singer confirms her individuality and self-acceptance.

Here are the words of the song showing its basic meaning. First, the criticism:

Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are

Next, her resistance to it and self-acceptance:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me

To be "bruised" can mean to have marks on one's skin from a blow. But it can also mean a person received an emotional injury. Another image we can draw from the song's words is the person who hears a "different drummer" and marches, or moves forward, to that beat.

Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

The song uses a common expression about a person who does not follow the expected path. That person is "marching to the beat of a different drummer."

In one part of the song, the singer uses "we" to include all of the unusual performers in the show.

We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

Connection to social issues

I hope this answers your question, Masafumi. You may also find it interesting to know that Barnum was against the practice of slavery before it became illegal in this country. And the ideas presented in the movie The Greatest Showman are being debated today.

Do you have a question for us? Write to us at learningenglish@voanews.com and we will try to answer you in another Ask a Teacher.

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm Dorothy Gundy.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

bruised – adj. injured in a way that causes discoloration to the skin

barricaden. a line of vehicles or other objects placed across a road or open space to stop people from getting past, for example, during street fighting or as a protest