"The Disney Princesses ruined my expectations for love and life."
Yeah, okay so maybe there were things that happened in their stories that were a bit unrealistic, but there's still more to these girls than meets the eye (granted, they're a lot for the eyes). I grew up immersed in the Disney culture and 20 years later, I still look up to these women, and I plan to raise my future daughters respecting them too. Although they didn't always make the right decisions, here's why I think the Disney Princesses set great examples for womanhood, confidence and love.
Snow White: “When the raindrops come tumbling, remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine.”
Snow White sets the example of optimism. At the simple age of 14, Snow faced more than any young princess should have: her mother died, her stepmother plotted to have her killed, she was lost and homeless and she had to wear a dress with ugly puffy sleeves. With every attempt that the Evil Queen had to try and kill Snow, the young princess never wished ill on her stepmother. Similarly, when Snow says a prayer (the only princess to do so) before bed, she prays for Grumpy -- the one who likes her least! Instead of doing the normal girl thing and being sassy and talking crap about Grumpy or her stepmother, she prays for them. And throughout it all, she remained hopeful that one day, her prince would come. Notice, she didn’t say that her prince would come to save her but rather that he would just come. Never once did she worry that she would be forever alone, but trusted he would come when the time was right. And he did, and he was looking for her too.
Aurora: “From this slumber, she shall wake. When true love’s kiss, the spell shall break.”
The quietest of all the princesses, Sleeping Beauty taught me to believe in true love. With the least amount of screen time and the fewest lines, Princess Aurora shows us that as women, we’re worth saving just as we are, and that’s all there is to it. Prince Phillip adored Aurora and would do anything for her, even slay a dragon. When he first met Aurora, he found himself falling in love with who he thought was a simple peasant girl from the woods. He fell in love with her for who she truly was; she didn’t have to do anything to change herself for him -- I mean, she was asleep for most of their relationship. We all fall into slumber. We become distraught when we can’t seem to find Mr. Right or even when we struggle with issues of self-esteem, but the story of Princess Aurora reminds us that we’re worth loving just the way we are.
Cinderella: “Well there’s one thing. They can’t order me to stop dreaming.”
Besides proving that a good pair of shoes can change your life, Cinderella set the example of faith. Surrounded by people who not only told her that she wasn’t worth anything and that she couldn’t live the life she dreamed, but people who also did everything in their power to make sure that her life was filled with as much torment as possible, Cinderella still held on to the glimmer of hope that life would not always be this way. This strength in faith allowed her to celebrate rather than become skeptical when she was greeted with by her fairy godmother, reminding us that miracles happen and dreams do come true.
Ariel: “What makes someone special? I suppose it all depends. It’s what’s unique in each of us.”
To be honest, Ariel is my least favorite Disney Princess. I always thought she complained too much, but still there is much to be learned from this young woman. Princess Ariel sets the example of open-mindedness. Like most of the princesses, she was different from the girls around her. She never got along with her older sisters because they didn’t accept her for who she was, forcing her to be lonely and isolated. Ariel, on the other hand, saw worth in every creature. She couldn’t help who she fell in love with. Sure, there were probably plenty of handsome and eligible mer-men more suitable for Princess Ariel than Prince Eric, but she knew that she owed it to herself to follow her heart’s desires. Had she judged rather than sought the good in others, she may have never found her true love.
Belle: “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.”
One of Princess Belle’s most defining qualities is her compassion, but it’s also important to recognize her thirst for adventure, and who could blame her? In a small town where your father is disrespected, men only see you for your looks and therefore you are despised by all women, who wouldn’t long for a more meaningful life? Through her example, we are reminded to never grow complacent and take the most that life has to offer. Belle was fully aware of the heroism within her, and thus she knew she deserved more than a simple life. We’re all destined for so much greatness and we should never settle for anything less.
Jasmine: “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”
While flying around on a magic carpet (swoon), Prince Aladdin asks Princess Jasmine, “When did you last let your heart decide?” Ironically, Princess Jasmine only makes decisions with her heart, characterizing her with the virtue of self-loyalty. Unwilling to compromise her virtues and principles, she defies the wishes of her father to marry for the sake of marriage rather than for love. Too often we as women feel as if we are incompetent or not good enough. Princess Jasmine shows us that imperfect as we are, we have a duty to be true to ourselves. No one should ever have to force you to do anything that you don’t want to do.
Pocahontas: “You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you.”
Walking a mile in another person’s shoes is probably one of the hardest things to do, especially if you’re not used to wearing shoes and the strange Englishmen’s shoes are pointy and uncomfortable. Seeing beyond skin color, Pocahontas reminds us to be righteous. With the rise of social differences and injustices, it’s hard to always act lovingly towards one another. The example Pocahontas sets for us is to stand up for what’s right. In recognizing our own self-worth, we must also recognize the worth in those around us.
Mulan: “You’re at peace because you know it’s okay to be afraid.”
Okay do I really need to explain this one? Mulan as a kick-butt role model is pretty obvious, but here's something you probably didn't think of. Marked by her bravery, Mulan is the boldest of all the princesses; however, it is important to note that her actions were not in the absence of fear, but rather motivated in spite of it. We all have dreams and ambitions and sometimes the road to them can be a scary place. Mulan was scared. She doubted, but she knew that it was her duty to defend both her family and China. Amidst her fear, she was at peace knowing that she was acting honorably.
Tiana: “There’s been trials and tribulations, you know I’ve had my share, but I’ve climbed the mountain and I’ve crossed the river and I’m almost there.”
Princess Tiana (MY FAVORITE) brings us the example of passion. Tiana not only worked hard but did her job well. In contrasting her upbringing with that of her best friend, Charlotte, we understand that Tiana’s drive is not for money or wealth. Instead, her drive stems from her passion for cooking. No matter what happened, Tiana always picked herself back up reassuringly, telling herself that she just needs to work a little more. Also, in being one of the few characters that experiences a change of heart, we see in Princess Tiana’s example the dangers of working too hard. Diligence and determination are important but not to the point that you stop taking care of yourself and lose sight of love. Had Tiana not learned to listen to her heart’s desires, she would have never realized her love for Prince Naveen (thank goodness because he’s a hunk.)
Rapunzel: “Let your power shine […], heal what has been hurt”
Though Rapunzel teaches us so much about staying faithful to your dreams, a lot of her example as a role model comes from her relationships with others. She shows us a thing or two about trust and relationships and proper hair care. In her relationship with Gothel, Rapunzel is faced with the harsh truth that not everyone is sincere. Some will deceive you and that’s just a fact of life. In her relationship with Flynn Rider, Rapunzel learns that not every guy starts off as a Prince Charming, nor is it fair that we should hold any guy accountable to being a prince. None of the princesses were perfect either, but that’s not the point. The point is trying to find a guy who treats you like a princess and to behave in a way that makes him want to be your prince. The very human relationship of Rapunzel and Flynn show us the importance of giving chances.
Merida: Hi, do I need to explain this one? #GirlPower #RespectYourMom
C.S. Lewis says that, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” When that day comes, this is what I hope you’ll learn: You are not a damsel in distress; you are a woman. You don’t need a man to save you, but you’re worth saving. Prince Charming’s out there and I hope he treats you like a princess because guess what? You are.