This article explores the magic of self acceptance and its significance in relationships through the character Elsa from the biggest animated film of all times – Frozen!
It has been a year since the Disney movie “Frozen” was released and we have been enthralled by Elsa’s magic. On the streets, in the mall, sleepover – the little girls can’t stop chanting the “let it go” anthem. Frozen has grossed almost $1.2 billion worldwide. The soundtrack has topped the Billboard charts for 13 weeks and still counting. The movie has become the biggest animated film and fifth biggest film of all times. This movie is certainly a phenomenon of our times and performed way beyond the initial speculations of the critics/analysts. When such phenomenon happens beyond cultural boundaries the reason lies much deeper than the business logic, clever marketing, release timing, animation quality or another good story line.
The Elsa phenomenon & the “let it go”anthem
What was it about “Elsa” and what was it about the song “let it go” that connected with each one of us across the globe? Wasn’t Elsa one more princess from a Disney animation movie that was added to the already long list of her pretty predecessors? Usually a princess character becomes our aspirational self – someone who is perfect – in her looks and in her very nature. Someone anyone could fall in love with. She might face hardships with all the villains in the plot, but there would appear help in the form of a “Fairy God Mother”or the “Prince”. The prince mesmerized by her beauty and her heart of gold rescues her to live happily ever after. When the show ends , the little girl watching the movie gasps – “Oh! I wish I could be like her.”
Here is the latest princess Elsa who could be no one’s aspirational self. Well how could she be? She is the one with flaws, one with her own complexities and internal struggle, one without even a smile. She just opts to shut herself out from her sister and the whole world as she has been asked to conceal her flaws.
“Conceal don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”
Most of us in some or the other way related to her inadequacy and her struggle to conceal her inadequacy. We saw ourselves in her struggle for self acceptance. This princess wasn’t a girl’s aspirational self but she personified a bit of each one of us. The reluctance to accept ourselves as we are, the societal pressure to conceal the flaws and the standards set by previous princesses – the epitome of perfection resulted in the outburst, namely the Frozen anthem “Let it Go”.
I call “let it go” instance in the movie the moment of her self acceptance – Elsa accepting herself as she is with her flaws. It’s the moment when she pulls her gloves of pretense out and decides to tackle the true villain of the movie – her own guilt and shame head on. Our internal struggles might be different with respect to our age, lifestyle and cultures we belong to, but we all felt a moment of liberation with the “let it go” instance in the movie. That universal connect made it a phenomena and not just a blockbuster.
Disney revealed that in the initial stages of the script, Elsa was the villain of the story – an evil snow queen. But as the script progressed, they questioned the stereotype on why should someone be a villain just because she’s in a very difficult situation and is repressed? From there on, Elsa’s character took on a more symbolic nature as a misunderstood individual and the world identified with her!
Self Acceptance – The key take away
The key take away of the movie was “self acceptance”. But self acceptance is a term commonly confused with self-esteem. Self esteem is about the how valuable we see ourselves to be , our sense of worth while self acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is. Self acceptance is critical to happiness. In a March 2014 study by Psychologist who study happiness, self acceptance was found to be the habit that most strongly predicted happiness. But it was also the one that was least practiced. Why is self acceptance least practiced? Because we have been conditioned to be self-critical. We fear that self acceptance would halt self-improvement. We want to be our own “self improvement dictators” who pushes the “little child in us” to do better all the time. But believe me the frightened child would not respond favorably all the time. On the contrary, self acceptance is about having self-awareness which provides us insights on why we are the way we are and as Carl Jung said – “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
Self acceptance and relationships
In a relationship, knowing our own limitations and problems enables us to have a more compassionate attitude toward other’s limitations and problems. Self compassion brings in compassion towards others. When we are aware and have accepted ourselves as we are, we tend to present our authentic self in a relationship – with our vulnerabilities and imperfections. In essence self acceptance becomes the precursor for authentic, compassionate relationships. I truly believe in Brene Brown’s quote – “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.”