Undressing the part

‘I’m not a princess anymore. I’m not wearing the dress anymore.’

That’s what she stated, rather bluntly, when her brother said that he would protect her with his sword, because she was a princess, he reasoned. They had been playing dress up for several hours, after a hamper full of princess dresses and clompy shoes showed up for her. He was wearing his knight helmet and breastplate, wielding anything longer than twelve inches as protection for his damsel.

She took the wind out of his chivalrous sails when she stated that she was no longer a princess. She had moved on to other things…rolling a golfball across the floor and chasing it, skipping around in her sock feet, playing with her new doctor’s kit. Her purposes had changed, her direction had shifted.

I laughed at what she said, mainly because she was so matter-of-fact about it. She had pranced around in frills and pastels most of the afternoon, and she was clearly ready to change venues. And she loves an opportunity to correct her brother.

But as I started thinking about it, I realized that a princess is always a princess, and all her clothes are always princess clothes. But when playing dress up, changing attire does change who a person is.  Don a red hat, you’re a fire man. Pick up a baby, you’re a mommy. A crown makes a princess and a hammer makes a handyman.

Kinda like labels define people. ‘Recovering’, ‘victim’, ‘former’. Labels can be the tiaras we flaunt, the swords we wield. We hide behind them because we are afraid to truly face what people will think of us. I’m not really a princess, but I want them to think that I own a small country and I’m in control of everything. I’m not really a plumber, but I can fix anything because I’m brilliant.

So what happens when we take off the costumes? It’s a little more persona-altering than putting them on. Facing the real us can be as frightening as truly finding a monster in the closet. We avoid the truth like a boy dreads taking off his superman cape. We want to wrap up in the security of disguise. ‘I was’ is easier to hold on to than the uncertainty of ‘I could be’. ‘He did’ is what we know; ‘I will’ is the unknown.

But costumes get tattered and ripped. Wands get broken and tools wear out. Eventually, the truth shows through. Ugly as it may be, it is real. The longer it is avoided, the harder it is to see it reflected back in the mirror.

The sooner we face the truth that we must live with, the better. The small steps taken as our real selves take us so much farther than those in clompy shoes or fire boots. These steps build our own muscles, our own strength and our own authentic confidence. It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing we will ever do, but it does indeed guarantee the best ‘ever after’.

Take off the crown. Lay down the badge. Look in the mirror and accept the truth. Take a deep, sparkling breath and start the path to happily ever after.

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