I think Disney may have screwed me over a little...well, maybe a lot.
Looking back, I can’t hate all of it. "The Little Mermaid" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" filled my childhood with mermaid tails, fake wands and much more. The Disney universe and all of its characters will forever hold a special place in my heart. However, the sad reality is that Disney gave me more than memories.
Disney movies perpetuated a host of problematic views and ‘ideals’ in subtle ways inconceivable to a young mind. For now, I’ll put aside a majority of those views in an attempt to keep this from becoming a book. However, each issue in that pile deserves many articles of its own.
The persistent issue that the hopeless romantic in me can’t seem to correct is my view on and of love. Disney taught me pretty much everything that I thought I knew about love. My school and family didn’t see value in teaching a kindergartener about love, so I learned first from Disney. Men are supposed to save women. Women should wait for a man. People should be willing to give and sacrifice for love. Those were the lessons I learned.
I also learned pretty early and harshly that relationships don’t work that way. No man could save me, unfortunately, from a paper I had to write on the Renaissance. The horrifying reality that I may wait an eternity for a man also set in. But, I still somehow struggle with the last one. I always seem to give more than I have.
Zooming out from a single heterosexual relationship, I’ve noticed that I enjoy giving and sacrificing for the people in my life. I’m a people pleaser. I’m sure some of you can relate. Making other people happy gives me so much joy. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. As the oldest sibling, I’ve been conditioned to share and give since my sister arrived without a return receipt. The problem is, though, that you can’t give what you don’t have.
I don’t love myself. It’s the truth. Until recently, I didn’t realize that it was important or even necessary. However, I can say that I am falling in love with myself. It’s not exactly a love at first sight situation, which is perfectly fine. Personally, I prefer taking the friend-zone-to-relationship route.
The first person that anyone should love is themselves. No, this isn’t narcissistic or selfish. In fact, it’s the bare minimum; it’s foundational.
We’ve been taught to believe that love between people trumps all. Love between a couple, siblings, or friends saves the day. I’m all here for that feel-good storyline and strongly encourage you to lean on others and find strength in them if you need it. However, I’ve come to realize that the love you have for others is built and modeled upon the love you show yourself. You are the most important person in your life, so how can you love others in healthy ways if you can’t love yourself first?
Loving yourself is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat that. Society often doesn’t value or teach the importance of self-love. It’s also not as straightforward as we’d like it to be. Self-love is a relationship with yourself, so naturally, it has the ups and downs of a relationship too. The emphasis on healthy self-love also holds importance.
What can toxic self-love look like, you ask? I can’t speak for everyone and I’m definitely not an expert, but I can speak for myself because I’m the expert on her. Toxic self-love for me has looked like this. I love you because you’re so fit and your butt looks so good in that dress. I value you because you’re smart and successful.
My self-love subtly read: “I love you as long as…” The love I had for myself was riddled with loopholes that allowed me to think it was okay for it to be conditional. I can’t say that my self-love is unconditional right now, but it does look a little different.
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I love myself because you strive to eat healthy and work out even when there are temptations. I value you because you get up and work even harder when you fail.
With this mindset, I’m making failure acceptable but that doesn’t mean I’m making excuses for failure. I’ll have you know that I’m working my butt off to lose that quarantine weight and raise my grades. However, my self-love now doesn’t depend on something. It’s unconditional self-love: the kind of love that does trump all.
In the early 2000s, Disney taught me three lessons. Since then, life has taught me three more. Save yourself. Wait for yourself. Give to yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to love you, save you, and heal you. Become your own Prince Charming if you have to.
Emily Maceda is a Trinity first-year. Her column usually runs on alternate Thursdays.