Welcome to Part 2 of Life Lessons we can all glean from Cinderella. In today’s segment, I'll focus on the two most important points because a lot of people can relate.
Know who you are
In the previous article, we introduced how Ella's name was changed to Cinderella by her step-sisters. Most people spend the rest of their lives according to false doom prophesied upon them, not who they are. Ella was a happy girl, growing up in an environment where she lacked nothing. Mind you, there are millions of people who grew up with less, yet they yearn for the good old days because they were happy and worry-free. Money is not always a determining factor to measure happiness, although it is essential. After being banished in the attic, Ella is now sleeping by the fireplace to keep herself warm. Despite working round the clock catering for her new family's needs, they give her scraps to eat and deem her not good enough to join them at the dining table. According to the narrator in Cinderella 2015:
"Ella's step-mother had transformed her into a creature of ash and toil."
It's imperative to know who you are because if you come across wicked people, they can call you names as a control mechanism. Their aim is reduce you to nothingness so you can doubt your worth, and accept their limitations. When her step-mother and sisters mock her for the soot on her face after waking up next to the cinders, they start calling her Cinderella. Note how they call her based on the misfortune that they brought along. The Online Dictionary describes cinder as "a small piece of partly burnt coal or wood that has stopped giving off flames but still has combustible matter in it." May we take a moment to point out that although her living conditions were hellish, it never extinguished Ella's fiery attitude to life. Her soul still glowed with kindness and courage, despite her ordeal.
Words have power, either negative or positive, which is you should never allow people to pronounce negative things over your life or endeavours. In a bid to cope with harsh experiences, most people have dimmed their dreams because sometimes, it can be difficult to maintain heat when enemies keep pouring heaps of cynicism to douse your outlook. I know what it's like to keep the heat dialled down. You end up settling, not because that's what you're worth; it's because that's what they can handle. Maybe you've been told that you're too much. Don't be surprised when the very people who ask you to tone it down are busy stealing your thunder! I've seen it happen countless times before. Turn it up. Be unapologetically yourself! Those who know what they know will embrace you with open arms.
It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.
Finding yourself again means reigniting what you lost along the way. Perhaps it starts with doing what makes you tick, not what you're expected to do. I remember when I was growing up under the African sun, I sometimes made a log fire and maintained it while cooking (hated it with a passion). Now that I'm wise, I’m now proud that I can do it. Learnt that fires lit by quality logs sustained heat for more extended periods, even without searing flames. I also discovered that these kinds of fire didn't always die down quickly. One had to pour water on the 'cinders' after cooking, lest they'd reignite. Most people no longer have a zest for life because they've allowed others to pour water on logs that used to sustain who they are. There are so many wet blankets around us, the kind of people who seek joy out of taking the heat from others. Whatever you've been through in life, may I encourage you to find that spark (it never dies completely), and reignite your fire so you can pursue your hopes and dreams.
Remember who you are, and renounce all negative proclamations spoken in your face, or even the words said behind your back. Sweep the ashes, add right fuel (read, eat, love, pray, study, explore, meet new people) and breathe life by speaking positive words into your situations. Have faith. Kindness and goodness pave the way for miracles and watch as God turns curses into blessings. Your enemies will take notice of you trying to bring the fire back into your life, and will most certainly find a way to discourage you. Expect more name calling and finger pointing, lies or any control tactics to keep you trapped. Crank up your prayers, and continue acting in faith. Don't focus on the distractions, it's all about you, and only you can relight the fire!
I love how the prince asks Ella her name when they first meet in the forest. "What do they call you?" Ella's response shows that she didn't accept what they call her, and is classy enough to not even make a scene about her predicament. "Never mind what they call me," she responds. She doesn't use that moment to maim her step-mother's reputation, another class act in my book. She asks him instead, "What do they call you?"
The prince's answer says a lot about who he is. "Don't you know who I AM?" Wow! Ella is disowning what they call her, but the prince knows who he is, and so expects everyone to know. Confident people might come across as pompous, but they are comfortable in their own skin. I'm not referring to narcissists with grandiose beliefs about what they think they are. The prince is highly confident, but humble, to the point of playing down who he is.
"Where do you live Mr Kit?" Ella asks. "At the palace." He doesn't lie or seek to mislead her. I will tell you what the opposite of the prince would have done. His ego would have been bruised because Ella failed to recognise that he was a prince. He would have told her that he's the next-in-line to be king and that all the men on horses were there for him. Kit would have blown his trumpet to prove his worth. Although Ella has concluded that Kit is an apprentice, he laughs it off. "Do they treat you well?" Ella asks. Again, her kindness shines through. She must be thinking that if he is a mere apprentice, then someone is likely to take advantage of him. "How about you, do they treat you well?" the prince asks. "They treat me as well as they are able."
Don't you know who I AM?
To those of you who've been called derogatory names and treated badly, know that it's not you, it's only what they are able to do. Quit expecting them to change, because they won't. Why don't we get ahead of ourselves and jump to how the prince addresses Cinderella when she finally makes it to the ball, against all the odds? "Your Highness!" he says. I could write a four-page article about that reference alone, but we have to move on quickly. Remember that when you finally meet the right person or find a role that suits you or when you connect with the right business partner, they will immediately recognise you for who you are.
Miracles happen when you least expect
Cinderella gallops into the forest to escape the brutal day to day struggles, comes across a 'deer in headlights' and realises that its life is in danger. She doesn't stop to think about her troubles. How many times have we come across people who don't help others, because they too have suffered in the past? Instead, her kindness rises to the fore, as she helps the stag escape the pack of hunters. The first man to appear on the scene turns out to be a handsome looking man. Our Ella defends her actions against a future king. They say that sometimes, ignorance is bliss, but her resolve made Kit think.
Cinderella didn't set off in search of a prince or a king to rescue her. She didn't even care nor realise that she was talking to a prince, as charming as he was. Yes, she liked him, and I love how she didn't feel challenged by him, even though she was wearing her servant garments. Most would start talking themselves out of potentially good relationships because they don't feel like they look the part. They'd be quick to discount potential princesses and princes based on whether their clothes are trendy or not. When the two meet, they're instantly drawn to each other. Even the prince doesn't want his crown to get in the way and asks his captain to call him Kit. Just goes to show that titles mean nothing when you come face to face with the one.
The magical moments are reflected in their eyes, and we see more evidence at the ball. My 77-year old friend who knows a thing or two about relationships also gushes at how the prince looks at Cinderella and says every woman must fall in love with a man who looks at her the way the prince looks at Cinderella. That doesn't mean men should go around staring at women. It would freak us out! Paulo Coelho succinctly put what I'm trying to say in a few words. "Ever since time began, people have recognised their true Love by the light in their eyes." (Brida). Eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, but how many are brave enough to accept that simple truth?
Remember too that God tends to use imperfect people and situations to perfect his will.
Thought it would be helpful to focus on two main points today because knowing the truth can make us or restore what we've lost along the way. That's what we try to do on this website. It takes courage to embrace who you are, especially after going through a period of existence in the attic. It takes immense strength to fight for what you believe, and go against protocols. Oh no, the journey to your destiny won't be smooth sailing!
Happened to listen to T.D. Jakes last Sunday, and what he said about making positive choices after going through tough experiences was so persuasive I had to take some notes. "Feel the fear and do it anyway. Turn your pain into power. Some people want you to stay in your place of struggle because they've created a system around your dysfunction. They don't want you to get well because if you become well, they're afraid that they might not be important to you."
Just like Cinderella's step-mother and step-sisters, weak people use name calling, ill-treatment, manipulation, lies and all sorts of underhand tactics to banish your identity. They want you to be malleable so they can control you, even if it means crushing you. Have courage and be kind. The prince, inspired by what he sees in her, later uses his position and power to bring the lowly girl to the palace.
Remember, when they call you names, leave them to it and focus on who you are.
From books we love to the box office, there is always an intriguing tale that captures hearts and minds.