Everywhere we look we are surrounded by a culture of positivity. Magazines, TV shows, celebrities, blogs, books, pretty much everything that has any significance to pop culture at the moment tells us over and over again that the single most important thing in life is to accept ourselves the way we are. True or not, I am not speaking to you today to debate that. My question is: can we define a limit to this acceptance or should we always and under all circumstances just love ourselves? What if we are just a horrible person? What if in the story of our life we are… the villain?
I am a diehard Disney fan. Well, maybe not that diehard, but I do watch a lot of Disney productions and listen to a lot of Disney songs pretty much… all the time. This is a sign of my generation, I think, all of us obsessing over either cartoons or games from our childhood. And as a child of my generation I have always wondered where my place would be in an imaginary Disney world. Would I make a good Sleeping Beauty? I am a blonde, after all, and I cherish nothing more than an afternoon nap. Or maybe Mulan: strong, independent and totally a bestie with a dragon? Yet the longer I wondered and wondered, the more I realized there is really no place for me among this cheerful crowd. As much as I hate to admit it, if I was a Disney princess, I would be a villain.
My villain story
You see, I don’t think I am a bad person. Not a really bad one, at least. I am always polite. I have never missed telling the bus driver Hello, with an obligatory huge smile as well. The only time I broke the law and crossed the street where I shouldn’t I got fined straight away (just my luck). I have never really intentionally hurt anyone physically and it has been ages (I am not a silly teenager anymore) since I attempted any psychological attacks too. I pay all my taxes. I help charities. I have never refused to aid anyone in need. There is nothing I can really blame myself for.
This unnecessary self-flattery notwithstanding there is just something… odd about me. Something that makes people unsettled. I have struggled to identify it for years now and I am pretty sure I will never grasp it in full – but it is definitely there. This sense of je ne sais quoi, this… vibe I have that automatically classifies me in the villain category in most people’s books.
Adults’ books. Kids and pets love me more than I actually want (well, kids do – cute kittens running around me all the time are actually a pretty neat thing). My dad always says that animals and children recognize good people and I am sticking to that, believe me. This little saying has carried me through a lot of self-doubting moments. You see, it sucks to be a villain. I’ve seen enough Disney movies to know that.
I have searched long and high for a reason why but it seems that I am destined not to find it. I had a few good hypotheses on the way and some really really bad (and not very good for my self-image; trust me, you don’t want to go down some of the routes I took). But at some point I realized I am just walking around in circles, chasing mirages I cannot grasp and just confusing myself more and more.
I realized it was a time to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.
Can everyone be a hero?
You see, I flipped my mind-set completely. Instead of wondering over and over again about what it is that causes me to be perceived as a cold-blooded villain, I started to question whether being an… unpopular type is such a bad thing.
We all know some heroes. People who just shout joy with their every step, these who cannot be resisted, the friend of everyone, masters of the first impression. Sickly sweet at times, yeah, but in general we just admire them – their confidence and style and ease that they have in contact with other people.
My question is: should we really all aspire to be like them? Because that is the vibe I get from most positivity articles around. Be who you are, love yourself and the sunshine lifestyle will come. Everyone will fall at your feet and adore you. You will become a true Disney princess if you only believe in yourself.
I can already hear the little voices in my head saying: but that is the whole idea, isn’t it? Loving yourself no matter how ugly you are, let it be on the inside. Yet this process of embracing ourselves is meant to lead to fitting ourselves into a particular pattern – a happy, satisfied cut-out of a hero-like person that everyone finds extremely comfortable. If one is by nature a moany grump, would one not lose the very essence of oneself in the process?
What are the limits of loving oneself?
There is always a BUT to everything I read online – and this time I’d say it is a big one. You see, I am all for accepting oneself the way we are. Really. It may not seem this way, true, I have spent a considerable amount of time today bashing the whole idea, yet I want to stress: being yourself is generally quite a good thing.
Generally would be the key word here.
We have all been there, I think, at least once in our lives. At the very edge of destruction. Whether who we are was hurtful to ourselves or others, it does not matter. The very essence of ourselves was out to ruin, not build, to hate, not love. Should we really embrace ourselves at these points in life too?
One could argue that loving ourselves the way we are would make us happier, but the moments I am referring to are not the sad ones and have nothing to do with a lack of confidence. No. These are our triumphs, times when we just let our dark sides roam freely and do as they pleased.
An example. I remember when I used to be a rather mean girl back at school – I did a lot of borderline bullying that I am not particularly proud of. Borderline, I think, because as far as teenage standards go I was almost as innocent as a lamb. At this time of my life I was a true villain – I enjoyed teasing other people and expressing my superiority towards them. Should I have embraced that and loved myself for that?
The thing is, this whole positivity and acceptance movement is blinding us slowly but surely. It makes us unaware of our flaws. It destroys the concept of self-development because what is there to correct if we just love ourselves exactly the way we are?
Why I am ok with being a villain
I have come a long way ever since I realized I may not exactly be what people would describe as a perfect companion. But these were two staples of that journey: the realization that not everyone can fit the perfect mould and making sure that regardless of the whole ‘just love yourself’ mantra I am still ok with everything I do and represent.
Finding a balance between the two – staying true to myself while combating the things I am not happy about in myself – was quite a hard battle; and I am still not sure I have won it completely (or ever will). Yet I have reached a point in which I can say quite honestly: I am fine just the way I am. A villain or not a villain.
I may not be the friendliest person in the world. I may lack empathy or seem cold and distance. I may be the cattiest cat of them all. Hey, I may even suffer from severe RBF syndrome. It is ok. Not everyone can be a beaming ray of sunshine.
But in my villainess I make sure I follow more of the modern Disney pattern for the Evil Queen – the misunderstood goodie. Like Regina from Once Upon a Time, or maybe even Elsa if I am so lucky. I do not hurt people and I do not hurt myself by clinging on to feelings or behaviours that cannot do me any good.
Because, after all, although wicked may not win, it at least can get a good night’s sleep.
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