Beast Before Beauty

Cinderella

My dear friend and I spent last Friday night carving pumpkins and watching the pumpkin carriage sweep Lily James to her destiny in the most recent Cinderella remake. We swooned as the prince twirled her in a cotton-candy-colored dress of dreams and gasped as she made her getaway back into reality. And although we all know this story from “Once upon a time” to “Happily ever after,” something caught me off guard.

Just as our heroine is discovered in the attic and ushered downstairs to meet the prince, the evil stepmother grabs her arm and hisses,

“Just remember who you are, you wretch.”

Just remember who you are, wretch.

How often have we heard this poisonous voice in our heads? The voice that promises if we strip away all pretense, what’s left will be nothing of consequence. 

That we are small. We are empty. We are a waste of space.

Yet even after hearing the sneer of her stepmother’s wretched words, Cinderella does not turn back to hide in the safety of her attic. She straightens a little taller and moves forward.

As Cinderella glides down the stairway, the narrator asks, “Would who she was, who she really was, be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take: To be seen as we truly are.”

Friends, this resonates, echoes, and resounds deep within my soul. It is the question that continues to haunt me.

Beauty and the Beast. 

“There’s this nasty voice inside my head, Kim,” I confessed to my brilliant friend. “I’m letting it talk to me in ways I would never talk to anyone else. And it’s beating me. It’s beating my courage and confidence. What do I do?”

Her answer surprised me.

“That voice is there for a reason: to protect you. It’s our survival mode.”

“So I can’t get rid of it?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “And I don’t want to. The way to take away its power is to respect it.”

My eyes widened. “Respect the jerk inside my head?”

“Yes.”

“The one that constantly yells ‘You’re not enough’ like a broken record?”

“If you don’t acknowledge it, the voice will only get louder,” she warned.

I looked dubious.

Kim continued, “Thank that voice for looking out for you. Then, get to the bottom of the fear. Once you know what you’re actually afraid of, you’ll have the tools to move forward.”

“So,” I grasped, “If the Beast in my head tells me I don’t deserve to be a part of the cast of a show I’m in…”

“Ask it ‘why?’” She nudged.

“…It would probably say because I don’t have anything to add to them.”

“Is that true?” She asked.

“No…?”

“No. What do you bring to a group?”

“I’m a great listener, and I’m sunshine?” I asked.

“That’s right. Go into the situations that make you nervous knowing what you can give. When you’re focused on giving, that takes the pressure off of you and it makes you attractive to people. You have to feed the Beast to get the Beauty.”

Those strange, profound words resounded in my head in a way that offered me freedom, and a new, loving way to deal with myself.

Next time the Stepmother/ Beast character in your head barks, “Remember who you are, wretch,” don’t shut the voice out. Don’t retaliate. And definitely don’t agree.

Try saying, “Thank you.” 

Remember that you’re not perfect. Remember that you’re human and you make mistakes.

And remember who you really are. Remember what you give to others, and remember that it brings you life to be light to others, whatever your style may be: humor, baking, helping, laughing, or listening.

Just as Cinderella was enough as a “simple country girl with no parents or connections,” so are you enough simply and wholly as you are.