The news that Disney is starting its own streaming service should have surely filled me with glee. I am a Mother to a three year old, and I grew up in a house where the Disney classics were an institution. I have many happy memories cuddled up on the sofa with my sister watching The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, and I thought that being able to share the loved films of my childhood with my daughter would be a really special thing. However the truth is watching them through adult eyes I feel somewhat uncomfortable.
Last year my partner and I went through some problems and separated for six months. During this time we both had couples and individual therapy. In one of my sessions my therapist jokingly asked whether I had watched too many Disney films as a child. He pointed out that it seemed I had been waiting for a handsome prince on a white horse for most of my life, and was a bit perplexed that I had some bloke from Essex sitting opposite me at the dinner table.
As a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist myself this is something I see in my work all the time, but just because this is my career that doesn't mean I am not capable of holding the same irrational ideas as everyone else. Perfectionism is a belief system that I have to work on with the majority of my clients, and I believe is at the core of so many people's depression, anxieties and self-esteem issues. It holds us back in work, as parents, and in this case in relationships.
Perfectionism makes us place demands on the other person based on our own ideals of how they "should" be. Watch for the "Shoulds" next you or a friend have a moan about a partner "Surely if we were in love it should be easier than this, we should be happy", "We have been together ten years he should know what to get me for my birthday by now", "She should understand I need my own time sometimes and not nag me for going out". The demands we place are usually unrealistic or over romanticised. Perfectionism encourages us to want someone to be 100% our prefect person, and when they are not to focus too much on the 20% or so that may not be right, rather than the 80% that is good. These belief systems seem to be laid down in childhood based upon our experiences and the things that we are exposed to.
Disney films seem to have fed my tendency towards being perfectionistic in relationships. In Disney the prince is always handsome, kind and perfect. He doesn't get impatient and shout at you because a toddler has been winding him up all day. This handsome prince tends to have an amazing ability to rescue the princess and solve any problems she has in her life; be it sea witches, being locked in a tower or having been asleep for 100 years. In reality a relationship at times, far from mending your problems, causes extra stress, compromises and commitments in your life. A princess tends to marry her first love and they have the proverbial "Happily Ever After", where in reality people often have failed relationships and marriages behind them, and relationships go through constant ups and downs.
At the grand old age of 33 I think I finally grew up and learned what real love was, and let go of my over romanticized Disney ideals. I realised that love is when it is really hard, and you try and try again, against the odds, to save your relationship and your family. When you are aware of all the imperfections in your "bloke from Essex" but you chose to focus on, value and appreciate the 80% of the person that is good. I found that ironically when you let go of Happily Ever After and accept that the road ahead will be bumpy, you enjoy your relationship more and experience much more happiness together.
When part of me believed that the person I loved needed to be perfect, the flip side of that was for me to be truly loved I too would need to be perfect. Learning that love can cope with imperfection has meant that I can feel loved and loveable despite all my fallibilities. As after all, I am no Disney princess.