In the final scene of 8 Mile (SPOILER ALERT), rapper Rabbit (played by Eminem) battles his arch-nemesis, Papa Doc. Though he has been plagued by failures and setbacks throughout the film, Eminem has persisted to make it to the final rap battle. The odds are stacked against him, and tensions are running high.
Realizing that he is likely to lose in a head-on verbal assault, Eminem takes a different approach to confronting Papa Doc. Eminem begins to recite all of his failures and misfortunes, from living in a trailer park with his mom to getting beat up by Papa Doc’s gang.
Eminem also connects with the crowd by getting them to throw their hands up if they represent his area code. He then explains that Papa Doc does not share their area code or their collective struggle because he went to private school and comes from a stable home.
As the beat finishes, Eminem continues to rap a cappella, finishing by throwing the microphone at Papa Doc and saying, “Now tell these people something they don’t know about me.” He wins the battle as Papa Doc stands speechless on stage.
There are two powerful lessons in this scene. The first is the power of owning who you are, and the second is using your failures and vulnerabilities to relate to others.
So often, we feel that we have to hide our faults and our flaws, our past mistakes and our regrets. In a heavily mediatized society, we have come to expect that we should present our perfect face to the world at all times.
Ironically, it is our failures that make us most human. It is our imperfections that allow us to connect with other people.
When we own our past, no one can use it against us. When we own our flaws, no one’s critique will surprise us.
Eminem wins the rap battle because he doesn’t allow shame to cripple him. He could feel ashamed of his home, his friends, or his weaknesses. But instead, he proudly shares his story and uses it to inspire others.
Shame stops us from living our true selves and using our failures and flaws to help other people. When we turn that shame against ourselves, we often engage in negative self-talk or self-destructive behaviors to avoid or escape the shame. But if we own and claim whatever makes us feel ashamed, it can no longer hold power over us.
So I challenge you to own your past in 2015 and use it to help other people. Connect with others through your story and what you’ve learned from the setbacks in your life. You might just find that helping people realize they’re not alone is the most powerful story of all.
Click Here to watch the final rap battle from 8 Mile (NSFW language).