What Elsa and Anna taught me about life

Frozen II was the last movie I saw in an actual theater, back before the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut down theaters along with everything else. A Disney film fan from way back, I collected all of the soundtracks so that I could listen to my favorites whenever I needed a pick-me-up. Looking back, this was probably the start of my love affair with musical theater.

More recently, I’ve truly embraced the self-help/personal development lifestyle. So maybe it’s all of the books, podcasts and motivational speeches that have changed my perspective, because I was honestly struck by how many of the Frozen sequel’s musical numbers spoke to me as distinctly inspirational and motivational.

For any of you looking to get a running start on living your best life, let me share with you how four Frozen songs can change your life.

Let It Go – Come on, we can’t venture into this topic without mentioning the first film’s hit single. In the original Frozen, after a newly coronated Queen Elsa loses her temper and uses her magical powers in public, she journeys from an icy Arendelle while giving us a catchy tune about moving on from the past. The theme hits a nerve deep down with so many of us – I’m not going to lie, I legitimately broke down in tears watching this number play out on the Broadway stage last year. The four-year-old next to me was not amused.

Letting go is simultaneously one of the most recommended and most difficult things to do. For me, letting go of anything has always been one of my greatest struggles. I could probably recite word-for-word every criticism I’ve ever received, starting in kindergarten. While I totally understood and supported the theory that I’d be a much happier person if I could just let all of that go, it was the practice that constantly evaded me. It seemed like this grand notion that was only every talked about in vague terms that I couldn’t figure out how to apply in my life.

My turning point was realizing that how other people behave has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have at the time…No matter how much you may want to believe otherwise, pretty much no one is actually trying to single-handedly ruin your life. Viewing past situations through a lens of compassion and empathy changes everything. What good will come of you punishing yourself forever because someone else didn’t know how to handle the situation any better?

When I used to think about negative people or events from my past, the feelings would return as if I was still in the moment. I felt upset, hurt, even straight-up angry. Now when I look back on those same things, they don’t hold the same power over me. I’m not upset, hurt or angry at all. And there it is, that’s the key, y’all. You know you’ve let something go when you can think about it and not have an emotional reaction to it.

Into the Unknown – While Elsa is being summoned one night to delve into the unknown by a mysterious voice in the sequel, she belts out how she’s not looking for any additional adventures. She’s good, the first movie was enough for her. You can stop calling, you’ve got the wrong number.

Elsa is happy with the way her life is currently and isn’t looking to rock her proverbial Arendelle boat. Elsa is living in her comfort zone and is none too pleased by this voice trying to lure her out of it. Sound familiar to anyone else? It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, it’s where we feel comfortable, safe and secure. But it’s also where growth is stifled and creativity goes to die. The unknown can be scary, it’s not easy to leave what you know for what you don’t. But just as it did for Elsa, it can lead to some absolutely incredible things if you’re brave enough to take the risk.

When I moved from Houston, I really did have an ideal life there – a good job with coworkers who were like family, an actual family who loved me and a group of friends who genuinely wanted the best for me. Then why would I blow that up to move to Seattle to work at a new job in a new city where I knew no one? The same reason Elsa ended up following that mystery caller. She knew in her heart that there was something else out there for her. If you’ve ever felt an inkling in your heart or a little voice in your head, you’ve experienced it too. Sometimes our dreams are too big to be played out in our current lives, so we have to level up to make room for them.

Just like Elsa, I had a track record for tackling challenges. By the time I moved to Seattle, I had done so many things in my life both personally and professionally that I never in a million years thought I’d do. So, I had complete faith in myself that I could figure out whatever the next challenge threw at me.

Show Yourself – After finding out the mysterious voice luring her out of her comfort zone was her mother’s, Elsa hits us with another showstopper that lets us in on her own self-doubt and insecurities. Her magical powers have made Elsa feel like she’s never quite belonged, like she’s had to hide who she is. Preach, girl!

You and I may not be able to use icy magic to build a snowman, but we absolutely all have our own superpowers. There’s a quote flying around on the internet (usually attributed to Alert Einstein, but I can’t validate that), “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Imagine living your life as that fish, believing you’re supposed to be able to climb a tree.

The moral to all of this is simple…Be you. You’re worthy just the way you are, no matter what anyone else says or does or thinks. As we talked about earlier, that’s about them and not you anyway.

I used to worry so much about what other people thought of me that I diluted myself down to basically flavorless water. I thought that if I was essentially non-existent with no opinions, thoughts, feelings or ideas of my own, that I’d never conflict with someone more important than me (whether that was a teacher, parent, boss, or some other authority figure). I didn’t feel like my opinions or feelings were valid, they didn’t deserve to be considered when making decisions. It was never worth fighting for my own needs or wants.

After recognizing what I was doing and deciding that I’m just as worthy as anybody else, I’ve been able to share how I feel or what I think without being hung up on whether it impacts anyone’s opinion of me. I’ve also chosen to focus on my own needs and wants. For so long, I didn’t even know what brought me joy in life…It had never even been a question because it hadn’t mattered. Once I determined what I enjoy doing, it’s been easier to turn down those things that don’t qualify.

The Next Right Thing – When Princess Anna believes her sister and snowman bestie Olaf to both be dead, she’s obviously crushed and wants to lay down and give up on everything. What is she supposed to do now? Well, as the song so melodically lays it out for us, she just needs to do the next right thing.

When things seem impossible, when you feel like giving up, when you don’t know what to do next, follow Anna’s lead. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to know where the entire staircase is headed, you just have to take that next step.

This is such a big one. So many of us become stricken with analysis paralysis in times like this. Having too many options can keep us from choosing any. So, we never move at all. We tend to want absolute certainty in our decision-making. And the thing is, we can never 100% know how any decision will work out for us. It’s just not possible, so make the best decision based on what you know and move on. Remove regret from your vocabulary…If there’s no right decision, then there’s also no reason to ever regret a decision. The key is to just keep going.

When I packed up my life in Seattle and drove across country for a new job in NYC that ended up making me wish I could spend all day in bed instead, what’d I do? The only thing I could do, I continued the job search until another opportunity came along. And on a day-to-day basis, I just took it one day, hour, sometimes minute at a time. It went against most of my being, but I continued to go to Broadway shows and explore my unbelievable new city. I didn’t let the fact that my job was sucking the life out of me Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or, more like 9 p.m.) keep me from enjoying the other hours in my day.

By not just lying down and giving up, I ended up finding a new opportunity that was a much better fit – and allowed for a work-life balance that meant I could continue exploring the city and hitting Broadway. The first job may not have been the right fit for me, but it still served an incredible purpose in my life – it brought me to NYC and allowed me to reawaken and deepen my love of musicals and even attend the Tony Awards. To think that taking the job was a mistake or to spend any time regretting my decision would be a waste of energy and time. When I got the job offer, it was the next right thing for me, so I accepted. And when I got there and knew I didn’t want to stay at the job, I just did the next right thing again. Rinse and repeat.

There you have it! These four songs can turn your day, relationships, career or even life around if you let them. For Disney to weave motivational messages like these into movies that children (and let’s be honest, some adults) will watch over and over again is truly encouraging for a 40-year-old woman who didn’t figure most of this out until she was in her 30s. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the songs themselves are so good that they get stuck and play on repeat in my head.

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