There are a couple of quotes that I love about fairy tales:
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman
While many adults find fairy tales to be irrelevant to living an adult life, I disagree. In fact, I think the way that fairy tales impact us is often more subtle than we imagine. I hear it weaving in and out of conversations about dating. Our terminology for finding our soulmate or twin flame so often has a striking resemblance to some fairy tale prince or princess. We even seem to cast ourselves in the tragic role of the damsel in distress waiting to be saved, as if someone else coming along and loving us will suddenly make us and our lives brilliant and meaningful simply by virtue of his or her presence. It’s not that we mean any of this literally, but the undertones are there, and those undertones may actually impact our decision making processes.
Take the fairy godmother, for instance. Many of us feel like if we just change certain factors about ourselves, we’ll be sure to feel worthy of love. Maybe we need to drop some weight or dress better. Maybe we try to develop the “right” interests or go to the right places. Maybe we try to invent a different past or direct ourselves to a different future. We seem to think that transforming ourselves into something other than what we are is the key to attracting another. It doesn’t seem to occur to us that it doesn’t matter if someone loves us for what we project if that’s not who we are.
But let’s take it a step further. We don’t need a fairy godmother; we need to learn to channel our own inner fairy godmother. The fact that we want to improve upon who we are is admirable. We should all have areas that we’d like to work on. That’s fine. But our inner fairy godmother doesn’t need to give us a disguise to make us better. No, this inner wise woman (or man) needs to be the one to point us to our most authentic selves, that core of who we are that we’ve worked so very hard to hide. Instead of transforming us into who we think we should be, we might want to try actively working to be the best version of who we really are.
So if we want to lose weight, fine. But the inner fairy godperson doesn’t go with the fad diets or buy a truckload of Spanxx. No, this fairy godperson starts making healthy choices: healthy eating combined with regular exercise. The inner fairy godperson doesn’t care about making us seem more interesting; instead, he or she points us toward expanding our interests, reading more books, and generally trying new things. Our inner fairy doesn’t give a damn about trapping someone with our manufactured wit when we can let our “vibe attract our tribe” by being real and genuine and honest about what we like and don’t. And our inner fairy godperson isn’t about bettering our circumstances through relationships. We find, instead, that we become better so that we can enjoy our lives right now. Everything else will fall into place.
It’s okay to want relationships, but it’s not okay to make them the thing that saves us. It’s easy when we’re lonely, and we feel like the entire world has already found what we’re still looking for. It’s easy to sit dejected in the wilderness and hope someone comes and saves us from all the things we fear about our future. But the truth is that we have everything inside us already to save ourselves. We are more brilliant and resilient and capable than we can even imagine. We have all this illumination and magic inside us if we just choose to tap into it.
The fairy tales of our past aren’t meant to hurt us. They aren’t meant to tell us what we should be doing or how our lives should unfold. They are clever, and they have so much meaning. Unfortunately, our culture has retold these tales in ways that seem only to perpetuate learned helplessness, misogyny, and a victim mentality. Of course, the new telling of tales has empowered many protagonists to be something other than just damsels in distress waiting on their happily ever after. We should adjust our stories, too. We may find that we already have everything we need to create a happily ever after right now.