You’ve heard of the Disney Princess syndrome, I bet, right? Where little girls raised watching fairy tale endings (usually a handsome prince falling in love with the princess and making her dreams come true) grow up believing a happily ever after ( i.e. contentment or sense of fulfillment) happens simply by being valued by another person.
Well, shortly after I got married I started noticing with distress that the marriages of many peers were not ending in that dream for happily ever after…but they were just as much “princesses” as I was. I would want to make it all better–but couldn’t–and encourage them with what I know is true: They are complete, whole people without another “half.” They are valuable without a ring on their fingers. They are lovely no matter what anyone else thinks.
And in telling them all this, I realized that at the time I didn’t own it for myself, because I had this deep seated fear of being alone (what if something would happen to my hubby? I couldn’t survive!) and practically smothered my introverted husband and our marriage with my neediness. I didn’t have my own goals or aspirations other than “us”… in part because I liked so many things that I couldn’t at the time hone in one one to pursue it more deeply for the pleasure of expressing myself as I was created to be. But mainly because I didn’t see the unhealthy dependence on others for my own wellbeing and didn’t know how to set up a balanced approach for both family life and discover my own interests and set goals.
Having kids naturally complicated the matter as I floundered in my role, my creativity dying a slow death, buried under clutter, overwhelm, and anxiety. This is NOT the life I had envisioned, I realized as I struggled with my health on top of that. With only a small glimmer of hope that things could get better and then feel better, I kept going thanks to my faith and devouring self help books (which can be exhausting, but also helpful) plus counseling.
My eyes opened to some powerful truths when I read the book Boundaries* by Drs. Cloud and Townsend a few years into my now 10-year-long marriage. It pointed me to another book, Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Both of these were very helpful in discovering some reasons behind why I was struggling with people pleasing. At the heart of people pleasing comes the incorrect idea that our value is wrapped up in people liking us. We may KNOW this is false, but sometimes we LIVE another way. Messed up boundaries happen when we’re always trying to keep people happy and make sure we’re everybody’s friend, etc. Unhealthy ways of trying to get needs met may develop into codependence, which is more complicated than I can cover here, and often linked to trauma (which, for highly sensitive people like me can come from any number of things that “tougher” people may not react to at all, but has a big impact on HSPs).
Seeing my dream of a happily ever after dying at least for the short term in many of my peers’ lives was unfortunately part of what it took to make me aware of my belief in the Disney princess fallacy among others. I think we all have traits we may have to grapple with throughout our lives in greater or lesser degrees. People-pleasing and even feeling performance-based value are a few issues I can name for myself. However sooty life gets, though, we don’t have to be Cinderellas waiting for a fairy godmother or the pumpkin to turn into a coach and whisk us away to a better life, or dreading the midnight gonging. I believe that strength from within, which I personally grow through my faith, and realizing our own innate worth just as we are will help us become our most beautiful, healthy selves in a way that no royal ball or stroke of midnight can enhance or detract from. Blessings to you on your journey.
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