Growing up, I absolutely adored watching Disney movies about princesses and their fairy-tale endings.
Then, sometime later during my childhood, I became a staunch feminist—and I decided that princesses and girlish fantasies weren’t for real women.
A little later still and I, thankfully, realized that being a strong woman has, in fact, nothing to do with disowning my femininity—that, actually, I have to own it and claim it if I’m to truly be a powerful force in our fight for equality.
Now, in my early thirties, I’m a mother, a wife and I still consider myself a staunch feminist—and I’m typing this with my daughter’s brand new stuffed Cinderella doll in my lap.
At almost three, my tiny lady is already showing signs of being her own kind of girl.
She’s interested in her dad’s passion for mountain biking. (Videos of sick trails and jumps are one of the only things that she wants to watch.) Yet she also loves clothes—and, trust me, that’s not something that she’s getting from me (although I’m not saying that clothes are necessarily “girlie” either).
My point, however, is rather simple—unlike this complex view of gender, and of life.
At this stage in the game of parenthood, I’m adamant that raising a healthy female means allowing her to choose from a list of choices that are labeled both “pink” and “blue”—in order that she might one day stand a chance of growing up colorblind.
So I sit here writing, with a plush princess perched sweetly in my lap, and I can’t help but contemplate all of the things that Cinderella has taught me over the years.
Some I learned from watching Cinderella and wanting desperately to emulate her, while others I, admittedly, decided I was better off doing my own way.
Without further ado, here are ten things that I learned from Cinderella:
1. Discover that you’re already royalty before you look for your prince.
That whole thing about needing to love yourself before you can fully love someone else is, fortunately and unfortunately, true.
Learning that you already possess magical qualities and that you, indeed, have the ability to stand firmly on your own two feet, rather than waiting for someone to come sweep you off of them, is probably the best way to ensure that someday you will meet your match—because you won’t know who the right partner is if you don’t know who you are first.
2. Wear the right shoes.
That iconic glass slipper held more than just the foot of a future princess—it offered a lot of insight into the importance of finding a good fit.
This is true for everything from marriage to jobs.
I’ve watched people stay in fields that they hated until retirement, bitching and complaining for much of their lives, and I also watched my husband go back to school for a second Master’s degree—and a gutsy career change—in order that he might live his life to his fullest, and most joyful, potential.
If you think that your goose is cooked and that you can’t change something you strongly dislike, then you’re right.
3. Yet understand that even fairy tales aren’t perfect.
While I absolutely believe that lesson #2 is valid, I also suggest that you expect there to be bumps on the road to your castle.
If you think that marriage and jobs and everyday life, for that matter, won’t hold imperfect stops along the way then you’re more disillusion than Cinderella’s wicked step sisters.
Keep in mind that just because your prince occasionally snores or leaves wet towels on the bedroom floor (not my prince, mind you), that this doesn’t mean he’s still not charming enough to hold your hand—because you’re not perfect either.
Come to think about it, nothing in life is perfect—and that’s what makes our stories unique and worthwhile.
4. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
I know that how we present ourselves to the world matters. I won’t pretend that what you choose to wear or how you choose to behave mean nothing, but I will additionally offer to you that people will surprise you.
My husband’s extremely wise grandfather used to say that—and it’s true. Both negatively and positively, people will surprise you.
Be especially prepared to be surprised if you live your life based on a superficial level of assessment and attachment.
Just like you shouldn’t be waiting for your prince, you also shouldn’t be waiting for anyone else to tell you how your story goes. We make our own stories. The end.
6. Don’t let other people tell you who you are—or aren’t.
Cinderella had some pretty awful people telling her what her real value was—and yet she never believed them.
Remember that because someone says something about you, this doesn’t make it true.
Much like we write our own stories and happy finales, we also have the ability to decide who we are—as well as who we aren’t.
7. You are capable of rising beyond limitations.
Sure, some obstacles are harder to overcome than others, but when you decide to give up, you’ve already lost.
It’s okay to lament your circumstances and honor that you possibly have setbacks that not everyone has—we all do—but don’t think for one second that you can’t become who you want to be. Easier said than done, I know. Still, I sincerely believe that the will and passion and desire to accomplish a goal mean that you’re more than halfway there.
8. Find people who believe in you.
Oh, how I longed for a fairy godmother growing up. Someone to grant all my wishes and sing Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo. While I might not have found someone to necessarily do either of these particular things, I have found people to surround myself with who believe in me, who believe in my potential, who don’t judge me by my cover, and who are dedicated to helping me rise above my hindrances to success.
These are the people that you want within your life.
For one, who you choose to be around says something about who you think you are, and, for another, the energy and words that you continually hear impact you on a deep and profound level.
Choose people who believe in your worth.
9. Don’t forget to sing.
It didn’t matter if Cinderella’s life brought rain—she always found the rainbow waiting around the bend.
All of us experience foul weather from time to time, but learning to sing in the rain really does make all the difference in the world.
10. Nice gals win too.
I loathe the saying that the nice guy always loses—it’s not true. Do you know what I think this is? An excuse to be an asshole.
Life gets hard, and it’s easy to harden; to close off and stop caring about other people and about the world in which we live.
Don’t choose the easy way out.
Sometimes, it’s the nice person who wins—and I know from personal experience that it takes a lot more energy to be mean than it does to extend a smile and a kind heart.
I certainly don’t have the naivety anymore to believe that all dreams come true, but I can’t help but believe that life can still be perfect, even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned.
What is perfect anyway?
Perfectection is a myth. Perfection is a fairy tale.
Perfect, according to Merriam-Webster, is “corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept.”
So maybe perfection does exist—we have only to adjust our perspective.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise