When I first heard the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen, something really resonated with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first.
I was invigorated by Elsa’s passion, which grew little by little along with the volume of her voice, until she was literally shouting at the top of her lungs.
I could also relate to her sense that people were telling her, “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know,” and wondered where that sense comes from. Everyone I know has felt pressure to “conceal, don’t feel,” but I don’t think anyone could, if they really thought about it, name a person who actually uttered those words in their presence. I’ll return to that idea in a moment.
I used to put real effort into trying to be who I thought people wanted me to be. I remember one time as a young woman I put on a deep, adult voice when I auditioned for a choral group, then felt sad when I made it in because I didn’t know whether they would have let me in if I sang like myself. I always resented it a little when people told me what a good person I was, because I thought that if they really knew me, they wouldn’t be so sure.
In 2013, I worked hard to get away from living like that – always trying to meet the standard I imagined others had set for me, rather than keeping my goals and God’s plan for me in proper perspective.
I am really intense and care deeply about everything I care about, but I always do my best to communicate in ways that conveyed a non-judgmental and supportive spirit. Considering this, I felt it was fair to work on sharing my thoughts courteously, when I felt the time was right, and when there was a potential to help someone with what I knew. I began to do this without apologizing for feeling the way I felt or pressuring them to adopt my philosophies.
I also stopped stressing so much about what visitors would think about the condition of my house. Instead, I focused my energy on making the best of the time resources I had, balancing my efforts between housekeeping and child-rearing in a way that made sense for me.
Then I realized that I didn’t lose any friends by being myself.
I was surprised when friends who seemed to always come over when my house was the messiest kept coming back to visit. I was puzzled when a woman I accidentally hurt still offered to help with my children as she had before my thoughtless mistake. I was delighted when friends invited me to bring my children to play with theirs so I could write my book, Crystal Puzzle, and prepare it for publication.
I was intrigued to see how letting go of my obsession with appearing to be better at life than I actually was opened my eyes. Moving my focus away from the mundane details of my life allowed me to see that my friends were even bigger and more charitable people than I had previously given them credit for.
So the line, “Well, now they know,” really did something to me.
As I pondered experiences in 2013, I also realized why “Let It Go” bugs me a little. After Elsa builds her ice castle and creates herself a new flashy dress, she boldly proclaims, “the perfect girl is gone!”
It seems that in our society these days, people see perfection as either an unattainable goal or an unworthy one.
Those who want to be good are sure others see them as not good enough, and torture themselves with their guesses of how “people” think of their mortal foibles and quirks.
Those who do not want to be good see “nobody’s perfect” as the excellent catch-all excuse for lazy living and bad behavior.
I think the devil is behind both lies.
The devil wants good people to find misery in doing good. He smiles as we agonize over whether our efforts to make a difference really matter, or whether the gifts we give will be received the way they are intended. He points out all our flaws, and taunts that if we just had better self-control, we could be flawless – perfect. He whispers, “Conceal, don’t feel,” and when we look to see where the voice came from, he blames the “people” around us for pronouncing the words.
At the same time, he wants lazy people to find comfort in doing bad, or not doing good, rocking us back and forth in the false security of platitudes such as “Nobody’s perfect,” “I’m my own person,” “I don’t care what other people think,” and “You gotta do what you gotta do,” like waves of the sea. In time, these phrases become great big red ejector seat buttons we can push every time guilt for misdeeds or hopes of greatness sneak into the cockpit of our lives.
“The perfect girl is gone” moment could be a wonderful moment. It could mean that a good person has decided to do what she knows is right no matter who says it is foolish or even impossible. It could mean that a good person no longer worries about looking just right, or wearing the most socially acceptable outfit for a given occasion. It could mean that a good person has refused to continue measuring every step and word against her perception of how those around her will receive them.
My concern is that it could also mean that a person who had been trying to be good has finally decided she will never arrive at perfection and that it is therefore no longer worth the effort to pursue that end.
Brad Wilcox, an ecclesiastical leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compares the effort involved in seeking perfection to a child learning to play the piano:
“’But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.’ Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. …
There should never me just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. … (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).” From a devotional address given at Brigham Young University on Juky 12, 2011. For the full address, visit speeches.byu.edu.
The part of Elsa’s song that wasn’t true for her, is that “the fear that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.” Her excitement only masked it. That fear followed her all the way up that mountain, and continued to control her for most of the rest of the film.
Before everyone found out what she was capable of, she was afraid that she would not be accepted if they found out, and that she might hurt somebody. Once they found out, she ran away and stayed away because she was afraid she would not be accepted, and that she might hurt somebody.
Her enemy – your enemy and my enemy – was not perfection, expectations, unreasonable standards, or even anger.
It was fear.
By the end of this inspiring song, Elsa had let go of her queenly wardrobe, her crown, her family, her place in the kingdom, her responsibility to rule, her potential influence on others, and her formerly-held anxiety toward both unleashing her freezing powers and striking out on her own.
But she was still afraid.
She seemed happier, at first, but she was still afraid. And it wasn’t until her fear was defeated that peace returned to the kingdom.
Last year was a difficult journey, and I learned to let go of many important things through my struggles:
1) I let go of negative body thinking and talking. Or, in other words, I let go of my fear of not measuring up to the impossible standard of perfection the media holds women to.
2) I let go of the grief and fear I associated with the birth of my oldest child. Or, in other words, I faced the fact that each time I remembered it I felt afraid that I was helpless against the possibility that it might happen the same way again, and learned instead to prepare myself and turn the rest over to the Lord.
3) I let go of blaming others for my mistakes. Or, in other words, I let go of the fear of looking my weakness in the face and admitting I need a Savior to help me improve and grow.
4) I let go of my obsession with failure. Or, in other words, I faced my fear of succeeding.
In preparation for this post, and in the spirit of spring cleaning, I listed the things I wanted to “let go” of in 2014:
1) Clothing I don’t love to wear
2) Negative thoughts about my appearance
3) Harmful foods
4) Negative words describing my ability
5) Candy books
6) Candy toys
7) Unhealthy music
8) Fear of disapproval
9) Fear of success
Then I realized when I got to #10 that there was really only one thing, the umbrella that covered all the others:
Finally, as I composed this post, I realized that selfishness is really fear – fear of placing God’s will ahead of my own – fear that maybe, if I don’t look out for myself, at least a little bit, that He might not catch me when I fall.
If I want to do the impossible, which I do, then I need to perfect my faith in Him; His power, His timing, His plan for me and my family, His might to save.
So now I only have one resolution: Let go of fear.
Won’t you join me?
Who could we be and what could we do for ourselves, our siblings, and the world if you and I truly were not afraid of anything?
I am excited to see.