What does Man in the Mirror mean?

Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror Meaning

Album cover for Man in the Mirror album cover

Song Released: 1988

Covered By: Adam Levine (2011)

Man in the Mirror Lyrics

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favorite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin' My Mind
I See The Kids In The...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Apr 14th 2011 !⃝

    This song is about the purest and simplest fact, stated right in the lyric; If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change. This was my cousins favorite sing before she ended her life due to bullying. All she wanted was for the world to be a better place. She used to ask us all the time "Why are people so mean?" We could never give her an answer because we didn't know. Michael knew how to get his messages across through his music and to say he was nothing but a drug abuser and a child molester is a complete degradation of a great man who only wanted what was best for the world. He lived through all of the vile things people said about him in hopes that they would one day change. I'm sorry Michael, that people were and still are blinded by their own ignorance. Those of us who understand and get it, are still trying to make the world a better place.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Mar 13th 2011 !⃝

    In a nutshell:
    The main idea of this song is before you
    make a change in the world you have to change the way you act.

    The first verse is about how he sees people suffering but he ignores it. The chorus talks about how in order to change the world it is important to change your actions, because if you don't act the way you think the world should be, how can you change the worlds? The next verse speaks about how he is selfish and pretends that these people "are not alone" phisiscaly and mentaly. The next verse is about their suffering.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Oct 7th 2005 !⃝

    The message in this song is simply that, "If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change." Basically, if you want to change the world, change yourself first.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 16th 2022 !⃝

    I think he thinks that we think that they think we need to change... . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. . . . . . . .

  5. anonymous
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    Feb 22nd 2021 !⃝

    The message of this song is to change the world but to take a look at ourselves first and make the needed corrections. If we all did this the world would be so much better and so much more people could be helped. Just like Michael states, “Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs.” I know when I was a kid I’d always carry a dollar or maybe a few to help those who need it more. I’d feel so sad and I wanted to help but if we all put in the work and give up that “selfish kind of love” we could be of help to so much. We should follow the message Michael put so clearly because in the end we are left with ourselves and the ones we love and in order to really take in what the world has to offer, we should look at ourselves and make that change.

  6. anonymous
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    Feb 15th 2021 !⃝

    This song is about a man who resolves to (or is trying to alter his ways) before he starts changing the world. He speaks about how certain situations he has seen has really affected him (e.g. the impoverished children in the streets) and how he desires and feels that to make a really major change, he must start with himself (the man in the mirror.) This song focuses on self-reflection and the inner struggle of one individual to become better, more upright and more moral. It brings about questions such as, “What is the individual’s responsibility to society? Can we change the world by changing ourselves? What is the power of one person to create change?” The audience is in general subjective and perhaps not specific as the song is basically to inspire others to help themselves before they help others.

    In the first verse, the writer begins by creating a winter setting by using visual imagery. The writer first wears his “favourite winter coat”, turning “up the collar” as he leaves his home. The writer then uses personification in “This wind is blowing my mind” – given the wind a humanlike quality because of the word “blowing” and also serves as an image to portray his state of mind by telling the audience that in the chilly weather is not affecting him physically, but mentally because he is greeted by the sight of “kids in the street, with not enough to eat”. This juxtaposition of the writer’s wealth and the children’s poverty shows that they are from different classes; while the writer has the luxury of choosing coats, the children are not even able to get sufficient food. The writer then rhetorically questions himself “who am I, to be blind?” Firstly, this is a metaphor and hence an instance of figurative language as though the author might not be physically blind, he compares himself to one that is blind. This shows that it is probably not the first time the writer has seen the poor children outside on the streets however; he has always been oblivious and too carried away by his own personal life to “see their needs”. Hence, it is only on that day that that he realized that he has been very selfish as he kept all his money for himself.

    The writer continues by using imagery in “A summer’s disregard, A broken bottle top, And one man’s soul/ They follow each other on the wind ya’ know” to convey his feelings to the audience. In the image of “A summer’s disregard”, as summer is usually a time when people are carefree and on vacation, and disregard means “to pay no attention to, to ignore” it might be the writer trying to portray those times of loneliness and depression he suffered because of his problems. The image of “A broken bottle top” hints that he may have had emotional issues and therefore he resorts to drinking away his sorrows or venting out on items. Besides, as a broken bottle top implies that there will be something leaking out of the bottle as the top is spoilt, the writer could also be trying to say that (given the theme of the song) he felt hope and happiness was leaking out, not only from him but from the people who were suffering physically. Also, in “they follow each other on the wind ya’know” – as the wind is very inconsistent and moves around aimlessly, he tells the audience that he was a man who was lost in his problems, but now he has found light and wants to start by changing himself to help others.

    Lastly, in “a widow deeply scarred, someone’s broken heart, and a washed out dream, they follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see” the writer once again uses imagery to further highlight the plight of many of the people. “A widow deeply scarred” brings to mind the image of physical scars, hurt and abuse, but we understand that the writer is more so speaking about the emotional and mental hurt the widow might be going through, the stress, the pain of perhaps losing her husband, and hence financial stability. “Someone’s broken heart” – we know that technically one’s heart cannot be broken, but the author uses this painful image to bring across one’s anguish and despair – perhaps, given the theme of the song, it could be referring to the broken heart of a mother when she sees her children having not enough money to survive, or a broken heart of a child not able to pursue his ambitions due to financial constrains. Lastly, in “a washed out dream” – we think of many clothes being washed again and again till they are faded, and likewise the writer uses this effective image to bring across how an individual’s dream is faded. It evokes a sense of sympathy for the poor people out there who are unable to live normally and healthily. Rather they are swamped by such problems and it results in them being broken individuals.

    Although the tone of the poem starts off self-reflective, and also with a hint of despair and gloom, yet all the more it inspires one to work towards being a better individual especially when we are much better off and more privileged than most. It is peppered with imagery – even “Man in the Mirror” is an image and a figurative language of speech to indirectly refer or show us that the “man in the mirror” is not anyone else, but ourselves. Most of the imagery paint very glaringly the pitiful plight of the less-privileged and less wealthy and causes us to examine ourselves – why should we be wallowing in our insignificant and minute problems when there is a greater cause out there which we can aspire to?

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 30th 2020 !⃝

    Siedah Garrett, the lady who wrote the song, said that she had written man in the mirror sometime before. One day while working on another song (and I'm paraphrasing) the co'writer of the song got called away from what they were doing. She happen to be going through her notebook and saw the phrase and came up with lyrics. (check out 25 anniversary of Bad for the actual commentary)

    The song can mean anything you want it to. But at its core it is about change. Who, what, when, how is up to the individual. For me, its means before you expect others to change, I have to start with me. we are all here together, we need to make the most of it.

  8. anonymous
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    Mar 8th 2019 !⃝

    Was Michael feeling guilty about his OWN actions? Was this song him actually telling us (the rest of the world) that HE needs to change what he is and what he been doing? He knows the only person that can stop him from doing what he has been IS HIM?!?!

    Is this song an admission of guilt?

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  9. anonymous
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    Nov 1st 2018 !⃝

    It's about a hairdresser.

  10. anonymous
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    Jul 14th 2018 !⃝

    reflections/ its never to late to make a good impression.

  11. anonymous
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    Feb 6th 2018 !⃝

    It's about a hairdresser.

  12. anonymous
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    May 9th 2017 !⃝

    He wants to make this world a better place and so people can see that we should come together as one and a big family even though we have are different in every way possible god makes us each unique in are own way.

  13. anonymous
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    Mar 10th 2017 !⃝

    A mirror reflects who you are. To change who you are you must change from the inside. All this time he has seen the same man in the mirror. But he looked around and saw others - and decided that the man in the mirror must change to change the world around him. He is alone and they are. He must change that. He is rich they are without. He must change that. If he doesn't he will continue to be alone. Into SELF. He needs to become selfless not selfish. Make that change and you can change the world.

  14. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 19th 2016 !⃝

    Just be the one to make that change in the world.

  15. anonymous
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    Oct 30th 2014 !⃝

    The lyrics are beautiful and meaningful, and self-explanatory. The part about a summer's disregard refers to how ppl, especially students, often just waste their summers relaxing when they could be studying, working, or volunteering.

  16. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 9th 2014 !⃝

    You gotta start with you, you are the man in the mirror, you gotta change the world, change it for Michael, but the only way we can is by looking at yourself and changing like he says. It starts with you, and to that comment about the cousin being bullied; I am truly honestly sorry, i may not know how it feels, but pleas understand this, I know how you feel, maybe not to that extream, but I know, I may not have the words to make you feel better, but I have the heart to help, pleas know I am always praying, you are not alone, if I could I would go to where you are and give you a hug if that would make you feel better, and again I am deeply very honestly sorry.

    MJ lives in our hearts

  17. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 2nd 2014 !⃝

    My guess on this song is he's looking in the mirror, asking God to change him. So he could go make a difference in the world. Jesus said for us to go out and make disciples, and Michael Jackson wants God to change Michael Jackson so he can do that. He wants the world to be better, and is asking God to help him do that. I mean, it's not like becoming a Christian means no one is going to harm you or pick on you. It just means that you have fully understood God's promises with you and that you want this world to be better, like Michael Jackson did.
    This is why I love this song. Not just because of who sang it, but because of the message it sends.

  18. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 25th 2014 !⃝

    We can guess just by its title. Man in the mirror. Just look at yourself and ask "what do I give to the world?" This is the person I am. If I want a better place, I can't wait for miracles to happen. I need to do something, I need to CHANGE. WE need to change. Mj just wanted us to realize how the world's problems aren't only others fault. It's society, everybody together created this world. Now, if we want change and find solutions, we need to change ourselves.

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