Few words have uglier connotations to me than “princess”; for life ain’t no fairytale and if you are desperately waiting and hoping for a white knight to rescue you, you’re just setting yourself up for misery and disappointment, sister.
Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo – I call bullshit. Personal power comes from a healthy self-esteem whereby you take responsibility for your life and make positive, empowering life decisions. You and you alone are responsible for your own self-care and happiness. Repeat after me: I am no one’s prize; I am nobody’s princess!
However, the princess myth and Cinderella-worship is so powerful and pervasive in modern-day culture, it’s everywhere we look: it’s rife in movies, women’s magazines, clothes, books and little girl’s fashion accessories, for starters.
And witness the public’s endless fascination with the real-life fairytale of modern-day princesses such as that of Mary Donaldson and her Danish prince and Kate Middleton (pictured at right), aka Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, with the couple recently welcoming their second child, Charlotte, into the world.
I felt a cold stab of fear in my feminist-heart recently when my Cinderella-loving three-year-old daughter announced that she too wanted to “grow up to be a princess.” I allowed myself a small lecture to her about being in charge of her own destiny, before happily handing her her mock diamante tiara from the dress-up drawer and letting her indulge in the age-appropriate fantasy.
So, why is the princess myth so damaging to adult relationships? I turned to Brisbane psychologist Kobie Allison, 31, for her interesting insight into the issue. The psychologist/director of a private practice – which specialises in children, teens and families and acute and complex trauma – says the wish of wanting to be taken care of or “rescued” by another can stem from co-dependency.
“Co-dependency is a learned behaviour which can be detrimental to relationships as it affects an individual’s capacity to have a healthy, balanced mutually satisfying relationship,” Kobie says.
“One symptom of co-dependency is that one partner is generally the caretaker, fixer, rescuer, controller or safeguard. Thus, the partnership is built on “caretaking” instead of a love sharing. A healthy relationship helps each individual grow their self-esteem, self-confidence, sense of self-worth and self-reliance, which are all part of developing a healthy sense of self-love.”
To ensure both you and/or your daughters don’t fall prey to the princess myth, here are the psychologist’s top tips for healthy relationship behaviours.
Top five signs of an co-dependent and/or addictive relationship
- A feeling of not being able to live without the partner.
- Loss of self-control and low self-esteem: looking to partner for validation and affirmation of self-worth.
- Making fewer decisions or plans: waiting for the partner to tell you what to do.
- Rushing things, like sex or marriage, so as not to lose the partner.
- Using drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.
Top five signs of mature love
- Develops gradually through learning about each other.
- Sexual attraction is present, but warm affection/friendship is central.
- Characterised by calm, peacefulness, empathy, support, trust, confidence and tolerance of each other – there are no feelings of being threatened.
- Is based on reality not a princess fantasy of being “rescued.”
- Partners have high self-esteem and can make strong, independent decisions; each has a sense of self-worth with or without the partner and feels complete even without the relationship.
Top five important qualities to look for in a prospective partner
- Is not involved in other love relationships and is open to being in a relationship with you.
- Is well over heartaches and has not just recently broken up with someone else.
- Has time to devote to the relationship and is close to you geographically: in your city or state.
- Has high self-esteem; treats himself and others well, even if they are strangers.
- Is compatible with you in terms of social values and beliefs.
Images via theatlantic.com, marissabracke.com, hercampus.com