Those of you who know me might be thinking “WTF? Amy has an Inner Princess?” To be honest, I’ve had a real chip on my shoulder about princesses, mostly of the Disney variety, for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, when we are children and adolescents, the process of being okay with who you are, what activities you enjoy, what interests capture your attention, can sometimes mean making others wrong in an effort to feel better about yourself. I did this in relation to Princesses. Anything I thought was associated with being Princess-y like frills, the color pink, ballet, etc. I resisted. I liked soccer, playing outdoors, preferred to be friends with boys and must have adopted some disdain for princesses and anything I deemed Princess-y as a defense mechanism.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life resisting aspects of Princess-ness like the frilly dresses, tiaras, and the waiting to be saved/damsel in distress story lines. Of course, that’s not all there is to being a princess. The only princess I admired as a kid was Princess Leia because she had adventures, a weapon, and hung out with a bunch of guys (and a Wookie).
Somewhere during my childhood, I lived my way into an Either/Or way of thinking about Princesses. I chose to keep myself stuck in my negative viewpoint and was not open to reconsidering. I can be quite stubborn. I also did this with country music during college but that’s another story. Could I like playing sports and wearing fancy dresses at the same time? I believed “no” to be the answer for a long time but as I’ve gotten older and started raising a daughter, I’ve felt compelled to shine a light on some of my old and outdated thinking. Yes, some Princesses are depicted as vain, high-maintenance, and incapable of doing things for themselves. However, that’s not all there is to being a princess. The problem was my narrow view.
My 5 year old told me a few months ago within the same 24-hour period that she wanted to be a Queen and then a Ninja when she grew up. She likes to play in the dirt and has worn her beautiful Wonder Woman themed nightgown to her Pre-K classroom. She can talk about weapons and Shopkins easily in the same sentence. She has taught me that everything doesn’t have to be an Either/Or. It can be a Both/And. She opened my mind to reconsidering princesses for their positive traits. Before we went to Disney World in August, I smugly told a few co-workers that I was not going to wait in any hour-long line to see any princesses! I was in a “Better-than” box about it for sure. Then a week before we left I changed my tune. I started to see how I have an Inner Princess. Princesses like nice things. They are kind. They can use their personal power for good in the world. Aren’t these things that I want to embrace? Yes. Also, I do like dressing up at times. I have many wish lists on Rent the Runway’s website and occasionally become addicted to adding dresses to those lists. I also love shoes and while my high heel collection hit its peak during my 20s, I still love a good pair of heels. I also like wearing yoga pants and sneakers most of the time. I can be both. I want my house to feel clean and orderly. It doesn’t mean I’m “high-maintenance” if I want that.
I did end up waiting in line with my daughter to meet Princess Tiana and Princess Rapunzel at Disney World. I was open to it and excited about it. I was touched by how kind these women were to every single child and adult who passed through Princess Fairytale Hall. The looks of pure joy on the kids’ faces reminded me of the impact that kindness can have and that it feels good to dress up sometimes (that goes for kids and adults).
I have learned that it’s unnecessarily exhausting to live your life:
a) trying to adhere to a label or
b) trying to avoid being defined by a label
I have a complicated relationship with labels. I’ve never liked them. Honestly, I’m still getting over the troublesome reaction I have to the word “Princess” but I’m just going to keep noticing it and seeing what comes up for me.
What if we gave up labels and allowed ourselves to like whatever we like? Even if the things we like clash with one another or don’t “make sense” to anyone else?
I have been interested to learn that Disney has been working on redefining the whole Princess thing with empowering commercials along with tag lines like “Dream Big, Princess” which has made it more acceptable to me and broadened what it means to be a Princess. I love seeing my 5 year old watch that commercial on Disney Junior (to the tune of The Script’s song “Hall of Fame”) and say things like “I’m a good swimmer like Ariel!”
Also, a friend of mine passed along this great article on Glamour.com highlighting the new #DreamBigPrincess photography campaign that Disney started.
“For the series Disney tapped 19 female photographers in 15 countries to create portraits of inspiring women and girls who live in the real world, not in Disneyland—everyone from park rangers in Kenya to a Chinese Paralympian to the author of a coding book for kids.”
Furthermore, Disney is utilizing this campaign to raise money to support girls all over the world.
“Disney has also teamed up with Girl Up, which works with the U.N. Foundation to support girls all over the world. From now until October 11, Disney will donate $1 for every public post of a photo tagged #DreamBigPrincess, or any like of one of those posts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, up to $1 million.”
No, I am not sponsored by Disney! I have just stumbled upon an area where my stubbornness backed me into a corner long ago that I’ve outgrown and no longer believe in anymore.
What labels do you resist?
How do those aspects live in you?