Fairy tales, folktales, and mythology have traditionally been the messengers of moral lessons. Even the acculturated, modernized, and romanticized versions from Disney can provide some pearls of wisdom. There is nothing quit like a Disney movie to warm my heart and make me cry. I saw the new Disney movie Moana this weekend. Of course, it is full of the movie tropes and scripts that Disney is so well known for. The climax and ending are predictable and the cultural references are blended together and watered down. I won't go into a full critique of this movie as cultural appropriation as many writers have already done so here, here and here. I am just glad that the heroine is a person of color, which is a small step in the right direction.
There is one part of the movie that rang true for me as a helper and giver. Spoiler alert! In a rare moment of vulnerability, the demigod Maui, an egocentric trickster, shared with our heroine, Moana, how he became who he was. He was abandoned by his human parents and thrown into the ocean after birth. The gods found him and made him a demigod. With his new magical hook, he tried to win back the love of the humans that abandoned him by doing amazing feats for them. His identity and self-worth was tied solely to how much he can give and do, not who he was.
This form of self-worth that is dependent on serving others may seem virtuous and admirable at first glance. However, it ebbs and flows with validation and appreciation from other people.
"This form of self-worth that is dependent on serving others may seem virtuous and admirable at first glance. However, it ebbs and flows with validation and appreciation from other people. Without an intrinsic foundation of believing that "I am worthy" and "I am enough," this form of service-oriented self-worth eventually crumbles. In Maui's case, he became depressed when he doubted his ability to help others. I think early experiences of abandonment or neglect is also an important part of the picture. It creates an inner dialogue that says, "I am not worthy or valuable unless I can do something for others."
How do we find intrinsic self-worth? Moana offered Maui this sage advice: change your inner story about yourself. We can rewrite our inner stories in different ways such as talking with our trusted friends and loved ones, giving ourselves the validation and appreciation that we desire from others, and working with a therapist to heal those early wounds.
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