This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here!
You weren’t around when I was growing up. Instead, I had a plethora of Disney princess role models who were all strong and kind and incredible in their own ways. I grew up with Belle teaching me to love books, Jasmine teaching me that I wasn’t a prize to be won, Pocahontas teaching me to follow my heart, and Mulan teaching me that I was just as capable and powerful as any man. I will always be thankful for the lessons they taught me, but a part of me will always wish that I could have grown up with you.
Those princesses were smart and fierce and courageous and…pretty close to perfect. And while it’s wonderful for little girls to grow up with an ideal image of all they can be, it’s also important for them to see that it’s okay to have moments when they’re not perfect princesses, even moments when they hurt people—not because they mean to, but because they are struggling with things that feel beyond their control. It’s important for them to know that every princess (or queen, in your case) is flawed, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make them unlovable or unforgivable; it makes them human.
So thank you for giving a new generation of girls something I didn’t have when I was little—a Disney princess who struggled with something internal rather than external, a Disney princess who lived out the conflict women often struggle with between the perfect image we feel we need to project and the messy reality of who we really are. The biggest fight many of these girls will face in their lives won’t be with some terrible villain; it will be with the darkest parts of themselves. And in you, those girls will see a champion, a symbol of their own ability to accept the parts of themselves they feel they’re supposed to hide and hate—and their ability to turn that acceptance into power.
I didn’t have you when I was little, and I wonder how different my life would have been if I did. I first remember getting sick from being anxious when I was seven years old, and the more I tried to hide my feelings of anxiety as I grew up, the worse my reactions were when they finally pushed their way to the surface. And when I calmed down, I always felt ashamed, like I needed to lock myself away in a room until I could present a better face to the world—a feeling you would understand all too well.
But I’ve come to learn that there is no “better face.” The anxious side of me is as much a part of who I am as the enthusiastic side of me, and when I started acknowledging moments when I felt anxious and afraid, I started to feel more in control of those negative feelings. “Conceal, don’t feel” doesn’t work; nobody knows that better than you. We can’t hide the parts of ourselves that we think others won’t understand or accept in some attempt to “be the good girl [we] always have to be.” It’s taken me 27 years to learn this, and I still have a long way to go toward putting what I’ve learned into practice. But I hope that—because of you—little girls growing up today won’t need 27 years to get to where I am. I hope that every time they get to the part of “Let It Go” where you sing, “The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all,” they sing along at the top of their lungs and understand what that line means. Their fears, their insecurities, and their flaws don’t have to control them. They don’t have to be afraid of themselves.
Thank you for being a shining example for girls who might feel controlled by negative emotions that they can learn to control them instead, but they can’t do it alone. Thank you for making the mistake of trying to handle things on your own and then learning from that mistake. Thank you for finally embracing a support system, because all too often we as women are taught that we have to handle everything—especially our internal battles—on our own.
Your story matters. The fact that a woman like you showed the parts of herself she was afraid to reveal to the world and still became a beloved leader matters. The fact that you hurt your sister when you were at your worst but she still loved you enough to risk her life to save you matters. Because it shows that there’s hope. Even when we feel we’ve done unforgivable things—even when we push away and hurt those we love out of fear and self-loathing—we are still worthy of love, we are still capable of doing the right thing, and we are still strong enough to be leaders. All too often, young girls and even older women are taught that we have to be perfect in order to be worthy of leadership positions or the love of good people like Anna. But you ended this chapter of your story with your kingdom and your sister’s love. You weren’t seen as weak for the struggles you faced; you were seen as strong for overcoming them.
I may not have had you to look up to when I was a kid, but I can still draw inspiration from your journey as an adult. And I can still beam with pride and hope when I see young girls sing “Let It Go,” subconsciously learning to accept themselves for who they are—flaws and all.
For the little girls everywhere who just want to know that it’s okay to struggle sometimes; for the teenage girls everywhere who have trouble controlling their negative emotions and feel ashamed of themselves because of it; and for the women everywhere who want to believe they can be open about their flaws and still be loved and respected—thank you.