Wear a dress.
Fix your hair.
Put on makeup.
Look nice. Act good. Be perfect. Smile. Don’t show your emotions. And my favorite:
“Don’t dress, act, or speak in a way that might be a temptation for the boys.”
As if boys were too weak to resist the sexual temptation of bare shoulders.
This was my experience growing up Mormon. An experience that, I am sure, is not exclusive to growing up Mormon, but is also something to which many other ex-Mormons can relate. My perfectionism runs deep. First-born girl, Mormon, critical mother, abusive father. The ingredients to the perfect recipe for my particular brand of crazy. I was taught that you don’t reveal your true emotions. You put on a show. Whatever you’re truly feeling or experiencing, you just fake it and make it look good.
My first marriage didn’t help things in this department. He lived a secret life while I slowly drank myself into oblivion. No one knew about his life, no one knew about my drinking. We made sure that everything looked great on the outside. Beautiful suburban home, new cars, good jobs. Fancy vacations to the Bahamas and the Greek isles made our deception complete.
Which is why I felt my heart ache with familiarity when I watched “Frozen” for the first time and heard Elsa sing:
“Conceal, don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”Lyrics from “For The First Time in Forever” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
And when I listened to “Let it Go” for the first time, my heart soared with the feeling that someone out there understood me.
By the time I heard Elsa sing all my innermost feelings, I had already ‘let it go’ – let go of the religion and the pretending and the perfectionism. Seven years previously, in rehab, I sat in group therapy recounting how horrible my life had been and wasn’t everyone sorry for me, when my counselor said, “Oh, just stop it.” I looked up, shocked and offended. But when she went on my defenses crumbled.
“Just stop with the act,” she said, with head in her hands.
That was it. I had been acting through my whole life. Putting on a show. Wearing the right dress, fixing my hair, and putting on a smile for the benefit of everyone else. I was Elsa, holding in a lifetime of negativity, worry, criticism, fear, and loneliness.
I’ll never forget the experience I had watching Elsa sing that iconic song. Soon after, I became pregnant with my first born girl. I vowed to raise her different. She would not feel the pressure to be perfect, or to put on a show. She would feel free to express and be and do whatever she wanted to be and do.
It’s hard now for me to remind myself that Elsa is fictional, she feels so real. I’m sure many people can relate. Disney might be the Evil Empire, but they managed to strike gold with this one. Finally, a princess (and a queen) who is not rescued by a man. Familial and self love instead of romantic love, two flawed but strong heroines, and the “handsome prince charming” is (Spoiler Alert) really the villain!
They continue to break molds with Frozen 2. I took my wild, precocious 4-year-old daughter to see the new movie the day it was released. I don’t know who was more excited to see it. I watched with heart overflowing as Elsa discovered more of herself, and Anna developed into a deeper and more confident person.
<<SPOILER ALERT>> Plot spoilers for “Frozen II” are ahead.
I absolutely loved every single minute of that movie, but the part that brought the tears flowing in happy relief was the song “Show Yourself.” Elsa’s journey was complete. The genius lyric skills of Kristen Anderson-Lopez shine through here in the use of the word ‘show.’
It all begins with “putting on a show” in the first movie, and reaches a fantastic conclusion with “showing yourself” in the second. Elsa’s journey was my own.
The beautiful character arc of Elsa’s journey is one that many of us share. My own experience is the result of growing up in the Mormon church. But this message is for anyone and everyone who felt some pressure to hide part of yourself for the benefit of others. In some way, it was communicated to you that you had to ‘put on a show.’ You were forced to ‘conceal, don’t feel.’
But that all ends in the phrase:
“Show yourself. Step into your power. Grow yourself, into something new.”Lyrics from “Show Yourself” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Wow. Even just writing those words gives me chills and makes me want to cry with joy. And the fact that Elsa’s late mother, Iduna, is singing those words with her makes it cut to the heart even more.
Because those are exactly the words I needed to hear all those years. Those are the words you probably need to hear right now.
Step into your power. Grow into something new. No more hiding, no more pretending or ‘putting on a show’ for the benefit of others. All of the things that have been hiding within you can come out and see the light of day. And now, not only do you have the power to show your powers to the world, the world is ready and accepting and needs those powers. Show yourself.
Some people say this song is a coming out anthem for LGBTQ. I agree, but I want to take it one step further. It’s an anthem for anyone who feels as if they have had to conceal their true selves to please others.
If you’re out there, show yourself. I see you.