Are you a fairy tale fan? Do you have a favorite story that includes adventure and mythical creatures and suspense and drama and a little bit of magic? What’s not to love, right?
Especially when we were kids – when we were innocent and impressionable and spent so much of our time in our own imaginations.
Have you ever stopped to consider that fairy tales are actually excellent advertising tools for kids? When you think about, yes, fairy tales are entertainment- just like a lot of commercials are entertaining.. But really, fairy tales are cautionary messages of morality to teach kids and warn them and, dare I say, brainwash them to think and behave in a certain way.
And, without the fairy tale device to deliver those messages, I don’t think it works as well.
Using Fairytale Concepts to Explain
What kid is going to sit quietly and listen to a lecture on morality, or expected behavior? What kid is going to listen to advice about how to act or who to watch out for unless there’s some hook keeping them engaged and invested in the message?
Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have anything against fairytales. I loved them as a little girl, and I love them now, so much, in fact, that I’ve started using some common fairytale concepts to explain things in a memorable way to myself as an adult – so that’s what I want to share with you in today’s episode.
Most of the elements I want to tell you about are cautionary. I do want to warn you away from some of the thinking dangers I have noticed in myself. I hope I’m making them memorable and interesting enough so that you think about them later, as you’re going through your day-to-day activities.
I want you to be on the lookout for 4 familiar fairytale characters: a knight in shining armor, a fairy godmother, a villain and a hero.
Knight in Shining Armor
Back when I worked in a corporate setting, I remember frequently thinking that things weren’t going as they should be going. Other employees weren’t doing what they should be doing. Bosses weren’t acting according to their responsibilities.
Sometimes, in my disappointment about how things weren’t going the way I knew they should be going, I would wonder “who can fix this? Who can make this right? Who can put things back in order?”
Basically, what I was hoping and wishing for was a knight in shining armor to ride in and save the day. I wanted some strong authority to come to my rescue in this situation that was unfair or unjust or just not the way I thought it should be. Sometimes, I thought it should be HR, or sometimes I thought it should be a different manager or a different department. I just knew that this, what was happening, wasn’t right or fair, and someone should fix it.
The Biggest Problem
What I didn’t realize, at that time, was the biggest problem was not what was happening, what the other people were doing or weren’t doing, or how the project was or wasn’t progressing.. The biggest problem was my resistance to reality. My resistance to what was actually happening.
I was telling myself “this shouldn’t be happening,” but, now I know, of course, it should have been happening because it was happening. That’s reality.
Back in those days, or, once upon a time, if you like, I created a lot of stress and frustration for myself with my resistance. And with my mistaken belief that whatever I thought the problem was could, or should, or would be fixed by someone else.
At that time, I never referred to my need to have a situation fixed as “a knight in shining armor.” I only came up with that metaphor recently. But if you would have suggested the concept to me at the time, I probably would have agreed with the metaphor. I would have believed that it’s what was needed, what was called for.
Towards the end of my corporate career, during the time that overlapped with me learning about thought work and mindset and self-coaching, I started to notice this pattern in myself. I started to notice that I would get frustrated about a situation and because of what I was learning, I was now able to notice that the frustration was coming from my thought that “this shouldn’t be happening.”
Someone Should Legislate This!
At the time, I used the mental phrase “legislate” – I remember telling myself- “Oh, you think this is wrong, and you’re expecting someone to legislate this for you” and for some reason, using that phrase on myself reminded me that no one was going to legislate it for me. No one, necessarily, thought it was a problem like I did.
Bosses didn’t behave the way I thought they should. Other employees did things I didn’t expect them to. And no one was going to legislate that. No knight in shining armor was going to swoop in and save the day. Now I know, I never have to keep thinking this shouldn’t be happening.
Instead, I learned to recognize my resistant thoughts and feelings, and practiced accepting what was actually happening. Then, from a place of acceptance, instead of resistance, I could decide how I wanted to proceed.
That’s the first fairytale character I want to introduce you to. Someone you might notice yourself wishing for you in your own life. Have you ever caught yourself thinking “someone should come fix this or solve this, because this shouldn’t be happening?” Or in other words, were you ever expecting a knight in shining armor?
The second character I want to introduce you to might show up, not when something has gone wrong, but when you want something to go especially right. You might notice yourself wishing for something- and wouldn’t it be amazing if your own personal fairy godmother could just wave a magic wand and grant that wish for you?
Do you feel entitled for something to work out for you or to benefit you magically, and then, when it doesn’t happen, do you feel disappointed?
I see this in situations where someone might say or think: I “deserve to get this job” or I “deserve to love working out or “I should have a great relationship”
This opening for a fairy godmother might also appear when you want things to happen instantly, or magically or easily. And I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong or a problem with imagining a fairy godmother, or a magic wand, or a genie in a bottle. I love the idea of manifesting, which may seem similar to this concept.
Are you Abdicating?
What I do want to call attention to, is when the wish, or the entitlement, or the deserving causes you to abdicate your own power and responsibility. Are you closing off your creativity, and resourcefulness and problem solving abilities?
Also, if you’re wishing something would happen magically or instantly, are you believing the future will be better than the present? Are you convinced that after the wish is granted, you’ll feel differently than you feel now?
My question to you is, why would that be better? What’s the problem with the current state, with reality? What are you resisting in this moment?
I think wanting something to happen for you magically is good from the standpoint of opening your mind to a possibility and believing that it is possible, instead of shutting yourself down and telling yourself it’s not possible.
Why are you Asking That?
When I think about the phrase “why can’t this just be easy?” Or “why can’t this just be done already?” It brings up a few thoughts for me. It makes me think the person asking those questions has some desperation or urgency. Wanting something to just happen magically also suggests to me that there is some delegation of power or ability.
If you wish something was just easier or could just happen – is it implying that you don’t want to do it yourself or can’t do something or that you don’t see your ability to do something as possible, even though you see the outcome as possible?
And even the phrasing of the question “why can’t this be easier” implies that it’s not easier – so in that sense there is a little bit of close mindedness. For example what if, instead of asking “why can’t this be easier,” you were asking “why is this or how is this easy” and put your mind to work looking for ways that this is easy.
And the other example “why can’t this be done already” could translate into “how is this already done?” And if your brain has to answer that question, you might come up with some very creative and different and out of the box answers.
So, maybe you don’t need a fairy godmother to make things happen for you after all! Maybe you’re just not currently noticing how you can make them happen, or already are making them happen for yourself.
Another fairytale character I want to re-introduce to you is the villain. This metaphor came to light for me when I realized I was being cast as a villain in someone else’s story. I started to notice a pattern (well, what I thought of as a pattern) when someone I was close to would tell me I was to blame for something bad that had happened. Or, that it was my fault that this unfortunate situation occurred.
In one case, specifically, where this happened, I could so clearly see that I had nothing to do with it. I could not have impacted the outcome in any way, so I wondered, why is this person pulling me into their narrative? I realized.. Oh, maybe it’s more convenient and comfortable to blame someone else for what happened than to accept their own responsibility, or just to accept that sometimes, bad things senselessly happen. Maybe they’re so frustrated, they just want someone else to be at fault.Or, maybe blaming someone else, a villain, is a self-preservation mechanism. Have you heard the quote by John Wooden? “You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes.”
So in the context of casting someone else as a villain, when you blame someone else, is that actually creating the danger of then identifying yourself as a failure? And if that’s the case, then are you closing yourself off to any growth or improvement opportunities?
A Helpful Realization
Realizing that I was being cast as a villain turned out to be so helpful. First of all, because I didn’t think I had any culpability – so I was not defensive and could calmly point out- “No, this just happened. It had nothing to do with me.” I liked noticing that even though I was being confronted (and some might exaggerate to say attacked, or accused?) I could answer from a place of confidence and peace, not defense.
The other benefit of noticing myself being cast as a villain came when I wondered, “do I ever cast this person as a villain in my story? Do we do this to each other? Or, do I ever cast anyone else as the villain in my story?”
And I realized..sometimes, I do.
Who are you Casting?
My question to you is: who are you currently casting as the villain in your story? Who or what is ruining everything for you or standing in the way of what you want?Who is to blame for what has happened?Why is that person a villain? Because you’re casting them in that role in your narrative.
Is it a political party (or an elected official?)
Is it a family member?
Is it a pandemic?
Is it the creator of a social media site or an online retail platform?
And, as I mention those, you.. And I.. might feel justified as casting those characters as villains. It might feel necessary and moral and responsible to hate or dislike or fight or argue against.
What do you get when you do hate and dislike? What do you get when you do fight and argue?
Is that what you want for yourself? Is it beneficial for you to classify someone or something as a villain in your story?
I really don’t have a moral or a suggestion about a villain here for you, except, just to point it out to you. In case you find yourself casting anyone or anything in your life in the role of the villain. If it puts you on the defensive, or in a victim role, that casting thought might not be helpful to you.
The last 3 characters I described were what you can watch out for in your own real-life fairy tale. If you’re looking for a knight in shining armor, a fairy godmother or if you’re noticing that you’re dealing with a villain in your life, you might have some thoughts to re-frame, some stories that you’re telling yourself to check and edit and rewrite.
The next character I’m going to describe is someone I do want you to get imaginative about and believe in. Make this part of your self-created fairytale real for you!
Whenever we think about a fairytale, there’s always a central character, a hero.
You are the hero of your own hero’s journey. You’re the star! And you get to decide how you travel on your path, how you react to the people and the situations that you encounter. You also get to decide what you make everything mean. Of course you’re going to go through trials and tribulations while you’re on your journey. Of course sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose – or learn – is maybe a better way to phrase that expression.
Your Fairytale Journey
Think about your own journey so far, what’s happened? How do you tell the story of your past to yourself? Think about the path you’re currently on, is it one that you have intentionally chosen for yourself?
Think about the central figures in your favorite fairy tales.Did she have a hard time? Or was everything handed to her from the start? Did she ever feel abandoned and alone? Did he ever feel like an imposter? Did he see something he wanted, but it seemed impossible for him to get, at first, until he figured it out?And how did those characters get through those challenging situations? How did they deal with their disappointment, and find their way out of being lost and alone?
Maybe they used their own cleverness and adventurous spirit. Maybe they got help from unexpected friends? Maybe they sang, or whistled, or made believe until they made it through to the other side.
You decide what you think, how you feel and what you do. You can find guides to offer you insight and advice. Maybe you can find a coach, or a mentor, or a teacher. You can remind yourself that you are on a journey and this – this current moment- is just one stop along the way. Just one scene in the production. Just one chapter of your whole story. Your fairy tale.
My hope for you is that you’ll consider if any of these characters show up in your fairytale. Then, that you’ll live intentionally ever after!