It’s important for girls to have inspiring female role models, and we Disney fans found no lack of them in the movies that dominated our childhoods. The many dynamic ladies of Disney showed us that we can achieve any of our dreams if we only give ourselves permission to fight for them. Today, we’re looking back at all the lessons they taught us about girl power. If you need a bit of daily lady inspiration from some of the coolest ladies we know, read on, and then rock on:
There is no wrong way to be a girl.
Are you traditionally girly like Cinderella? Athletic like Merida? Bookish like Belle? Whatever your answer is: good. Just like each of those princesses is special in her own way, you’re wonderful the way you are, no matter how you like to dress or what you like to do. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
Girls can do absolutely anything.
If anyone ever underestimates you, just remember that while Mulan’s entire village was busy assuming she was a failure because of the Matchmaker debacle, she actually saved China. An entire dynasty: she saved it. And she used her strengths (clever strategizing, quick thinking, bravery) to do it—she didn’t need to become someone she wasn’t, or “be a man,” to succeed. Your potential is limitless. Don’t forget it.
Other women are your allies.
Let’s not forget who orchestrated the saving of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. Sure, Phillip’s kiss woke her up, but who protected her when Maleficent cursed her as a baby, kept her safe and happy for sixteen years, freed Phillip from Maleficent’s clutches, and handed him the weapons he needed to defeat the forces of evil? It was the three good fairies. Everywhere in Disney movies there are examples of females collaborating and building each other up, and that’s an important lesson to carry with us.
You don’t need anyone to complete you.
Merida doesn’t want to get married, she wants to stay single and let her hair flow in the wind as she rides through the glen firing arrows into the sunset… and that’s beautiful. Merida demonstrates brilliantly that it’s okay if finding romantic love isn’t your priority. All that matters is following your own heart, wherever that may lead you.
Forget others’ expectations, and choose your own course.
Those poor provincial townspeople expected Belle to make a nice wife for Gaston, but in her own words, she wanted “so much more than they’ve got planned.” Rather than try to change to fit in with them, she eventually found a place where she could be herself.
Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.
For another princess who refused to limit herself based on what others expected from her, look no further than Ariel. She taught us that it’s okay to be “bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand.” That adventurous spirit and desire to explore is something we can all channel.
Seek out and treasure advice from women of every generation.
Pocahontas accomplished some remarkable things with the help of Grandmother Willow’s great advice. We have plenty to learn from our mothers and grandmothers. Mother figures don’t need to be related to you, either—there are real-life (perhaps secretly-fairy) godmothers out there who can guide you through all of life’s ups and downs.
Cultivate your strengths.
Just like you don’t have to be “girly” to be a girl, you don’t have to be a tomboy to be a strong woman. Look at Rapunzel: she’s naive and quirky, but incredibly resourceful (with a frying pan, no less). She may not be all that athletic, but she didn’t need to outrun Maximus or fight the thugs at the Snuggly Duckling to get what she wanted. Instead, she used her talents of negotiation and diplomacy, succeeded wildly, and we got a rolicking song and dance number in the form of “I’ve Got a Dream.” That’s called a win-win.
You don’t need permission to go after what you want.
You have hopes and dreams, and you don’t have to wait for permission or assistance to chase them down. You are an active agent in your own destiny! Not, as Jasmine so beautifully puts it, a mere “prize to be won.”
Use your voice to stand up for what’s right.
Esmeralda taught us that we should call out injustice when we see it, and actively work to make the world a better place. Follow her example and stand up for others–and don’t forget to also stand by them when they stand up for themselves.
You don’t need saving.
Hercules is an actual Greek god, and who saved his life? That would be Megara, the fast talking, no-nonsense, human heroine who gifted us with the phrase, “I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this.” Let her example remind you that if a problem falls into your capable hands, you have it covered.
Follow your instincts and explore.
Jane Porter was expected to be proper and ladylike, but she never let that get in the way of her desire for knowledge and her passion for discovery. She entered a difficult profession that required hands-on work and traveling to unknown places, and she threw herself into it wholeheartedly. Add her love of both science AND art to the mix, and we have a recipe for a very inspirational Disney lady.
Sisters are everything.
Nani and Lilo showed us that having a sister is like having a best friend who knows everything about you, good and bad, and will still always love you unconditionally. Nani was only nineteen when she suddenly became Lilo’s sole guardian. Her love for her little sister inspired her to stay incredibly strong in the face of tragedy, and she gave everything she had to creating a happy home for Lilo. Is there anything more powerful than that? (Remember, even if you don’t have a biological sister, girlfriends are really just sisters you get to choose.)
Falling in love doesn’t mean sacrificing your dreams.
Tiana wished on a star not for love, but for her restaurant. Her unquenchable drive to make her restaurant a reality was the very first thing we learned about her, and that core passion never changes throughout her movie. Even after she met Naveen and fell in love with him after they inspired each other to grow, Tiana didn’t give up on her dream. She showed us that being in love just meant having another person to support her on her way to her dreams—and that’s exactly how it should be.
Being emotionally vulnerable doesn’t mean you aren’t powerful.
All her life, Elsa attempted to “conceal, don’t feel…” and it nearly destroyed her until she learned to let it all go. Her ice powers are just like her emotions: something to harness, not something to fear. In the end, it was sisterly love that saved her and Anna—and as an icy Arendelle learned, love is the most powerful magic of all.
Who’s your favorite Disney heroine? Tell us in the comments!