Olivia Rodrigo Traitor
2022 / February 2022

Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor

Traitor by Olivia Rodrigo

Traitor by Olivia Rodrigo
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Did you ever get told at school “you’re only cheating yourself”? I think it’s one of those phrases when you immediately feel like saying, “well, no, actually I’m cheating you!” But what does it really mean to cheat ourselves, and does it really matter?

This week’s song, Traitor by Olivia Rodrigo, is about a messy romantic break-up where the suspicion is someone was already planning a new relationship before their old one was over. Hence, we get the lyric:

Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.

I think it’s a really catchy lyric (and catchy song actually), because it succinctly spells out that cheating ourselves or others is not about the technicalities or our actions but our heart and our intentions. In the song, the person had not technically cheated on his girlfriend as he didn’t get together with the new love interest until after they had split up. But, as the lyrics explore throughout, that was only really a technicality as he must have intended this choice all along, cultivating the new relationship and leaving his ex-girlfriend feeling betrayed.

But enough of the (anti)love story. What about cheating ourselves? I think the song raises an important concept for us more generally. When we are concerned about the appearance of things being right, we can sometimes loose sight of the fact that this doesn’t make them so.

For example, we can technically follow rules we set ourselves or others set us, such as spending time prioritising self-care every day. Perhaps we put time aside in our diary when we sit and have a coffee and read a book. But it’s easy for that to become a task which we then start to combine with something else. Such as the book becoming about work rather than enjoyment.

Equally, we might recognise that phoning someone we care about every week might be a good way of maintaining or developing our relationship. But when we continue to do this whilst doing another task and not really spending the time listening to them, we miss the point.

This leaves us all with a question it is worth asking ourselves from time to time. Are we doing the things we do for the right reasons and giving them the right intention and attention, or are we just trying to cheat ourselves with a veneer of doing right?

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