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Why does Elsa, in the animated film, Frozen appeals to us so much? Read on about Elsa and what she says about the magic of self-acceptance.
It has been a year since the Disney movie ‘Frozen’ was released and we were enthralled by Elsa’s magic. On the streets, in the malls, at sleepovers – the little girls can’t stop chanting the ‘let it go’ anthem. Frozen has crossed almost $1.2 billion worldwide. The soundtrack has topped the Billboard charts for 13 weeks and is 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 has performed way beyond the initial speculations of the critics and analysts. When such a phenomenon happens beyond cultural boundaries, the reason lies somewhere much deeper; not in the business logic, clever marketing, release timing, animation quality or another good story line.
What was it about Elsa and the song ‘let it go’ that connected with each one of us across the globe? Wasn’t Elsa just another princess from a Disney animation movie 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 help would appear in the form of a Fairy Godmother or prince. The prince mesmerized by her beauty and heart of gold would rescue her to live happily ever after. When the show ends, the little girls watching the movie gasp, “Oh! I wish I could be like her.”
However, here was princess Elsa who could be no one’s aspirational self. Well, how could she be? She is the one with flaws, the 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 way or the other 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 epitomes of perfection, resulted in the outburst – namely, the Frozen anthem ‘let it go’.
The moment of her self acceptance in the movie; I’d call it the ‘let it go’ instance; 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.
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 the 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. They questioned why someone should be a villain just because she’s in a very difficult situation and repressed. From there on, Elsa’s character took on a more symbolic nature as a misunderstood individual and the world identified with her!
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 how valuable we see ourselves to be, our sense of worth; however, self-acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is. Self-acceptance is critical to happiness. In a study by a psychologist (March, 2014) who studies happiness, self-acceptance was found to be the habit that most strongly predicted happiness; but it was also the one that was least practiced.
Self-esteem is about how valuable we see ourselves to be, our sense of worth; however, self-acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is.
Why is self-acceptance the least practiced trait? I think it is because we have been conditioned to be self-critical. We fear that self-acceptance might halt self-improvement. We want to be our own self-improvement dictator who pushes the little child in us to do better all the time. But believe me, the frightened child would not respond favourably 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.”
In a relationship, knowing our own limitations and problems enables us to have a more compassionate attitude toward others’ 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 words – “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Pic from promotional material for the movie
Sophia is the founder of Soul Cafe, a mom, a travel and life enthusiast. She
You have provided an insight which every human (especially woman) should understand and practice, to nurture life and be happy.
Many women, fail to accept themselves, for even small mistakes, and tries to rise to the ‘ideal’ of girlhood, womanhood, wifehood, sisterhood, well you can add on, but we are just hooded in the guilt of non-acceptance of self, which warps our energy. I realised something, when I analysed this and also read in another women’s blog, that ‘girls are brought up to be future daughters-in-law and boys as providers to the family’.
Hence a girl should be infallible, as you may not know how many different personalities she needs to face in her in-laws’ house, and how she can cope with the pressure. So, the only way the girls’ parents thought was to prepare her from babyhood. Marriage was the ultimate aim and culmination of the woman, and irrespective of the education and worldly knowledge she gets, she is taught to be humble, accept being emotional trash, smile at the face of all abuses, so that she keeps up the ‘name’ of the natal family. A boy need not keep up the name of his natal family, as nobody is going to blame his natal family. (he is staying with his parents and the parents know about his drawbacks, and tend to accept him with his mistakes. Btb, they will not blame themselves for the upbringing of their son !!! The girls’ parents will not raise their voices against their sons-in-law, as they feel that it will impact the daughters).
The girls also fall prey in striving to be an ‘ideal’ in everything. She also need to stop seeing that women need marriage, and men do not. It is need for companionship from both sides, and need to be mutual love, and not ‘need-based’, which tilts the angle always in favour of men. This is the reason women’s parents need to play host in marriages, whereas the men’s parents are the guests, and can even annul the marriage, if there is any thing amiss in the marriage arrangement.
The future generation girls should be given more option other than marriage, so that they can be their own self, and make others accept them for what they are, and not ‘WHAT OTHERS WANT THEM TO BE’
Thanks for reading the article and spending the time on leaving a detailed comment. Feels good! Human beings are meant to err..can’t be perfect at everything – men or women. You are right – usually the pressure is more on women to be this “all flawless & perfect” and that pressure isn’t healthy at all.
Very good article Sophia. And i also admire the comment by Chintu. As a woman, we strongly need to be aware of our strengths, otherwise it’s just too difficult in our society because of the constant pressure of being the ‘best’. We are very rarely encouraged, and mostly criticised. In such a society, it becomes important that women learn to let go of their shortcomings, and evolve on their own. Hope to hear more of your thoughtful articles soon! 🙂 All the best
Thanks Sophia and Swati..
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