*Some spoilers, so tread cautiously*
There may be a bit of a love-hate relationship when it comes to Disney princesses. Some of us have fond memories of re-watching The Little Mermaid for the billionth time while others always thought this or that story line was silly.
Some may argue that Disney princesses, at least in the older films, are not the best role models for young girls. The movies can even be criticized for their portrayal of love or women. However, I believe that there is something that can be learned from everything, and that includes the beautiful princesses most of us grew up loving and admiring.
Old or new, these princesses are stronger than they may seem, and they all have at least one lesson to give you from their stories. Here are those very lessons below!
Do not catch the infection that is other people’s evilness (Cinderella)
Cinderella is a very patient and kind soul. Although she bathes in toxicity everyday with the noxious stepsisters and stepmother, all their evilness just washes over her rather than seeps in under her skin to consume her. This is a lesson we all need to learn. It’s easy to give in to temper and snap your mouth around the bait dangling before you from someone who is looking for a fight or wanting to feel better about themselves. However, learn from Cinderella: do not stoop down to their level. This doesn’t mean to never defend yourself, but to stay true to your own kind nature no matter how hard the wind blows to bend and break you. Stay hopeful for a better future and stay happy merely because you choose to do so, no matter the circumstances.
No one else has ownership of you (Merida from Brave)
Merida is one of the most independent Disney princesses, and she proves time and again that only you can own who you are. You have singular ownership of your body and soul. Take that epic scene where the men are all fighting for her hand in marriage, so she steps up herself with bow and arrow to compete and show that nobody but she can own herself. I love that sense of independence and free spirit that I think many people need in their lives. Too often we are insecure or dependent on others, giving pieces of ourselves away until sometimes we feel like we are no more. There is nothing left to chisel off. Take a page from Merida’s book and fight for your own honor of being you.
Challenging yourself is finding yourself (Mulan)
Mulan is my favorite Disney movie and princess. I did write a whole Op-Ed on the casting for the live action so you know I feel strongly about it, and I think what I admire a lot is that she really puts herself out there. She is searching for her identity and knows that she can’t do it within her limited surroundings, so she forces herself out there and pushes the boundaries. People find their true selves (the bad and the good), the largest scope of their abilities, and more when they are pushed to their limits. That is why it is important to challenge yourself, which is something I personally struggle with a lot. That’s probably why I love and admire Mulan so much. Who else could risk so much, even life, just to find herself?
Be mindful and respectful of the universe (Pocahontas)
Pocahontas got mindfulness down to a T before it became trendy for self-care. Instead of mining the world for everything its got, like all of its useless riches and wealth, appreciate the world for everything it is right now. Pocahontas teaches this valuable lesson to John Smith, that the true beauty of the universe is the miracle of its being. Rather than being selfish and wanting more for the future, be grateful for what the universe gives you right now. Respect that it can be still and calming or unpredictable and treacherous. Mindfulness is all about being aware of your surroundings and appreciating them at this moment in time rather than scheming for the future.
Don’t let others, especially yourself, hold you back (Elsa from Frozen)
When I say you can learn from anything, I truly mean it. I am all aboard the Frozen is way overrated train, but I still think there is merit behind Elsa’s development as she flings out her power confidently and freely. The lesson here is to never let yourself be held back, whether it’s by people telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something or you holding yourself back. Don’t be your own biggest obstacle. Push away whatever fear you may have and let all your abilities and power surge forth. Learn from your mistake and forge on rather than shrinking away from the possibility of making the same mistake again.
Don’t… take food from a stranger… (Snow White)
I haven’t watched Snow White in a while but thought this was a pretty legitimate lesson to tell all of you. In case… your parents didn’t already tell you. Be careful of what you consume, especially when it comes from a stranger. And maybe don’t live with seven strangers who are weirdly okay with you just cleaning their house and mothering them.
Believe you can do what you set your heart on (Moana)
I love this movie! Do you know that epic scene near the end when Moana, who has been confident all this time, suddenly feels a dose of self-doubt and wants to give up on her journey? The whole time, she has been repeating her name and her goal with as much conviction as she can muster, but she eventually loses belief in herself. However, she realizes that once you give up, you have truly failed, so she musters up the courage once again. The destructive Te Fiti is her foil, showing what happens when you lose sight of who you are and what you can do. Rather than believing she can cultivate beautiful green earth and life, Te Fiti folds in on herself and believes she can only cause destruction, and so that’s what she does. What you believe is what becomes reality.
Hard work always pays off (Tiana from The Princess and the Frog)
I admire Tiana because she is the only Disney princess I know who truly believes in getting her hands dirty in the grit of hard, mundane, daily work to make a living and fulfill a dream. I admire this. It’s something much more relatable to the struggles of real life. Her dreams are more attainable. I mean, not all of us can save a country. She shows that hard work pays off. All you can do is go all in, keeping in mind the dream you want to come true rather than idly waiting for it to come by.
Be optimistic as you chase your dreams (Rapunzel from Tangled)
Okay, I love this movie, but that “I Got a Dream” song or whatever it’s called was just ridiculous. Still, it is a recurring theme in the movie. I really love Rapunzel’s optimism as she chases her dream with no fear, only wonder and excitement. Chasing your dreams can be scary. Tiana shows the reality of the hard work that goes in to achieving a dream, but Rapunzel is all optimism about it. She claims that you should never give up on your dream and that you should always be dreaming rather than settling. We need a bit of both Tiana and Rapunzel in all of us.
Always be curious and bridges will be built (Ariel from The Little Mermaid)
This movie is interesting in that it shows two contrasting worlds that could never really mingle, but Ariel, with her inquisitive nature, wants to build a bridge between these two worlds and even cross over to the other one. I think this says a lot about cultures even in modern society. One culture is deemed too different from the other, but if you try to really get to know the people and learn about their lives, bridges can be built. Always be curious, always be learning, always be traveling. We are not as different as we may seem, regardless of our backgrounds.
Know that people are more than they seem (Belle from Beauty and the Beast)
Going off that, people are more than they seem. Maybe this is Pride & Prejudice‘s Disney version. There is a superficial layer to it, like the Beast not knowing the old hag is a beautiful witch and Belle being thrown off by the Beast’s appearance, but it goes beyond that. The Beast is intimidating and angry, but Belle learns that he is scared and lonely. She tries to get past that first layer, and they are able to connect when he shows why he is the way he is with the help of her understanding and patience. So let’s all be more understanding and patient! And let’s all feel more comfortable about opening up and letting others in.
Open your mind for a larger perspective (Jasmine from Aladdin)
Jasmine is a princess who is tired of being sheltered in a grand palace. She wants to go out into “the real world,” but she gets a dose of heavy realism beyond the walls of her palace when she sneaks out. It isn’t as freeing as she had thought it would be, rather quite dangerous and limiting, especially for people of the lower class. I think that like her, we all get stuck in a phase of self-pity, thinking, “Life would be better on the outside.” We forego gratitude and forget perspective as we keep yearning for more, for different, for better when we could be appreciating what we have, especially when other people do not have even that. It’s a moment she recognizes her ignorance and becomes more mature, and she opens her mind to all of the problems outside the walls, very much like Buddha. She has the power to do something about it, and so she stays rather than escapes.
What other lessons have you learned from Disney princesses? Let me know your favorite movie below!