How Frozen and Tangled Reveal the Secret to Reinventing OurselvesDr. Kelly Flanagan
If panic could light up a dark room, my bedroom would have been glowing.
The black hour before dawn surrounded me, but my insides were lit up with a bright white fear. I had set my alarm for 5 a.m., but my terror had sent me an earlier wake-up call.
In five hours, my family and I would get on a plane bound for New York, where my daughter and I would appear the following morning on The TODAY Show, where we would tell a world full of women, “You are beautiful. On the inside.”
But I didn’t feel beautiful on the inside. I felt terrified. As my family slumbered, I laid in bed and thought, “If this anxiety gets worse as the show approaches, I’ll be incoherent on national television.”
Why was I so scared? Because I didn’t feel good enough. Because I felt like I had about 30 hours to reinvent myself for a national audience. Because I had forgotten why I named my blog UnTangled.
Several years ago, I saw Tangled with my three children. Several months later, I started a blog. I called it UnTangled. It wasn’t a coincidence. In the movie, Rapunzel is abducted by a witch, and her original identity is hidden from her. She is then locked in a tower and convinced by her “mother” the world is dangerous and she is not strong enough to handle it.
Rapunzel is royalty, and she is strong, but these parts of her have been buried by the small, shame-full identity bestowed upon her by the witch.
While watching the movie, I wondered, “Who am I beneath all the small identities people have put upon me?’Who am I beneath the layers of shame and fear? Which of my words have I locked upon within a tower, because I’ve been taught I’m not strong enough to handle the world’s reaction?”
While watching the movie, I realized it was time to come down from my tower.
Almost exactly three years later, Disney released another princess movie, Frozen. This time, the princess was locked away inside of a bedroom. Another powerful person of authority, taught to hide her powers, taught to hide herself, and taught to fear how the world might react to her.
In the three years between the movies, I had come down from my tower. I had exposed myself and my words to the world. And I had discovered over and over again, I’m good enough. Messy, imperfect, and hopelessly flawed. But good enough.
It’s amazing how a national television appearance will make you forget everything you’ve learned, how it will send you running for your tower…
Eighteen hours after my panic woke me up, I was lying in a different bed. We had arrived in New York, the kids were asleep again, and I was trying to coax myself to sleep, with the TODAY Show only hours away. Questions raced through my head:
Will I be relaxed enough?
Will I be articulate enough?
Will I be smart enough?
Will I be engaging enough?
Basically, will I be good enough?
And, finally, the questions subsided and an answer emerged — like a still, quiet voice coming from the center of me: “Kelly, you’re either enough, or you’re not—no television show is going to change that. And, Kelly, you are enough, just the way you are.”
A voice of grace, reassuring me: I didn’t need to be cooler or more interesting or more witty. I didn’t need to reinvent myself. I needed to uninvent myself. I needed to come down from my tower, take down all of my protection and pretending, and just be who I have always been.
Just me. Enough. One way or another.
The one thing always within our power to change is our own self-rejection. And the one thing we always have the opportunity to accept is ourselves. Before we ask how to reinvent ourselves, perhaps we should ask, how do we uninvent ourselves?
How do we let go of all the shame and self-rejection? How do we climb down from our tower and unlock our doors, to become the people we have always been — the people we were before other, smaller identities were created for us?
By deciding — we are enough. And nothing we do or don’t do, no way we look or don’t look, no nothing can change that.
UnTangled forever. UnFrozen for good.
Right here. Right now.
Free to be who we’ve always been.
Photo credit: (top) Thinkstock, (bottom) ©Disney