When I was a little girl, I watched the royal wedding of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.
I bought into the excitement and the promise of the fairytale. And yes, I wanted to be a princess. So, I woke up at four in the morning to catch the internationally televised coverage of the epic event and live vicariously through it. There I was, with a bowl of cereal in hand, watching that gilded carriage pull up, carrying the young Lady Diana Spencer and her father. And when she stepped out of that carriage? That incredible extravaganza of a wedding dress! Over the years, I heard people discussing that moment, likening it to an exquisite creature emerging from a large chrysalis.
Yep, that’s about right.
As I watched the 1981 wedding and years later, the 2011 royal wedding between Prince William and Princess Katherine, I noted how the power of the fairytale continues to hit us hard. We still want to buy into the belief that if something appears beautiful, it’s perfect, pain free and “happily ever after.” I know I certainly bought that concept. It spilled over into my food, weight and body image issues until, years later, I found myself in the grips of disordered eating. I believed, wrongly so, beauty, a/k/a being thin, would make my life perfect and fairytale “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, I discovered that wasn’t the case. In that promise’s place, instead, were harmful, miserable compulsions, thoughts, self-hated and spiritual disconnection with God. Certainly, there was no reassuring feeling I was a beautiful, valuable princess.
And it’s not entirely lost on me the profound nature of the word “princess” in the “thinspo” movement. This destructive force has taken off now, largely due to the internet. With a proliferation of websites, blogs and social network sites, devoted to the encouragement and instruction of developing and maintaining eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, “thinspo “ has seeped into our consciousness. And, of course, it targets young girls and women, promising them a perfect, controlled, beautiful life, if only they could be as thin as possible. Therefore, disturbingly, often the term “princess” is used to describe those females who victoriously keep their eating disorders going and their weight numbers down.
Since writing the book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder,” I encounter many young girls and women, at various stages in their disorders and recovery. And yes, some of them claim to be “princesses.” I often get asked if I am one as well. I tell them I’m pro-recovery, not pro-eating disorders, but I don’t know how much of that registers. They still seem to have “princess”- a thin princess, anyway- on the brain. Some things don’t change, do they? Fixating on that perfect princess, in one form or another, can follow us in life.
Princess. Yes, most little girls want to be princesses. Think about it: fairytales, dress up, costumes, wedding days. All princess stuff. We’re groomed to desire the pink girly dreams, seemingly, right from the start.
What is a princess then? Is she beautiful? Sweet? Lovable? Let’s be honest, do you and I feel like those traits every single day? Didn’t think so. And is this princess the reflection staring back at us? Most of us would probably answer “no.” Whether it’s seeking that ideal through beauty and size, even to the extremes of eating disorders or looking at a tangible female role model to embody that image, “princess” is never far from our thoughts. And still, we have difficulty accepting our inherent value in God’s eyes.
So, let’s look at the late Princess Diana. She was, after all, more than that breathtaking bride in the fairytale wedding. Years after her death, we continue to see her impact. In the 1980’s, she educated the world by touching and hugging people with HIV, something unheard of from a royal family member at the time. She sent the message that loving human touch is safe and vital to anyone who is suffering. And that included the mystifying disease of AIDS.
Sounds like a princess to me.
And just before her death, she also brought attention the anti-landmine cause worldwide by walking through Angola, dressed in protective gear. Is that act becoming of a princess?
And, of course she raised two young Princes, William and Harry, both who continue her legacy of charity and service.
Attributes of a princess?
Look at her life; look at who she was, apart from her title. Yes, she was beautiful, glamorous and, by royal title, indeed, a princess. But she was also a daughter, a friend, a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother.
And she was imperfect also. That imperfection surfaced as she dealt with her own eating disorder of bulimia. Yes, a princess had an eating disorder. That wasn’t in the perfect fairytale, was it? Did that reality turn us against her, make her any less appealing? No. In fact, we connected with her vulnerability and her humanity. Those of us dealing with eating disorders and recovery also empathized with her struggles. Being a princess didn’t prevent her from experiencing those painful challenges.
When she passed away in 1997, she was named “the people’s princess.” But that title had more to do with her compassion and her kindness expressed to others. It didn’t hinge on physical appearance or weight. It was about her heart.
So, are we, like her, princesses in our worlds? What does that mean to us? Is there the association of “thinspo” attached to it? Is there unrealistic beauty pressures attached to the definition? Are we only princesses, only valuable if we reach and maintain a certain criteria? What about our hearts? Where does that factor into the princess designation? Look around at your loved ones, your family and your friends. We just don’t get how much we’re loved and valued by others, do we? We just don’t get how much we’re loved and valued by God!
“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”
“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
No matter who you are, what you’ve been or done in your life, God has a soft spot for you, in which He sees you as His Princess. He sees ALL of you, every facet; you are this wonderful jewel!
So, the challenge, I suppose, is for each of us to view ourselves as a “princess,” recognizing that the word speaks to our uniqueness, not a crown on our heads, not ever changing beauty trends, not “thinspo” pro-eating disorder mindsets.
I have a different definition of the word. Yes, then. I’m a Princess. You are too! Walk with your head held high; you are a child, a princess, of the Most High God!
Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse