The “Cinderella” narrative continues to be ubiquitous throughout our culture. We see it over and over in stories and movies, classics like Dirty Dancing, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty Woman. Why does this centuries-old tale have such staying power, and what unites the story to real-world experience? Read more about navigating the world of human connection in How to Fall in Love with Anyone.
In every case, some essentially good person is noticed—and ultimately loved—by someone who is not merely extraordinarily attractive, but who in fact has the highest social status in the whole hotel, or ship, or rustic Catskills resort. Thus the hero/ine not only wins romance but also disrupts the entire class system and gains the social (and often financial) standing he or she deserved all along. We love the Cinderella story because we all have fantasies of being recognized, and because it’s easy to see ourselves in protagonists who are overlooked not in spite of their goodness but because of it—because their defining attributes are modesty and loyalty and a willingness to put others’ needs before their own.
The Cinderella narrative is so ubiquitous—and so integrated into how we think about love—that it’s easy to dismiss. I spent years thinking someone would notice me eventually as long as I dedicated myself to being good and sweet and modest and basically unnoticeable. When I started my first serious relationship, I didn’t notice that my boyfriend’s goal was to become an interesting person through having interesting experiences; whereas I hoped to prove my worth by being loved by the most interesting person I knew: him.
The only person we have to prove our worth to is ourselves. We hope you don’t need reminding, but in case you do, here’s why you should love yourself.