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Who's That Wearing the Emperor's New Clothes?

We can gain modern wisdom by revisiting an old story...


By Mindy L. Hitchcock


When my kids were little, I used to spend money I didn't have, just to load them up with Christmas presents and prove that I loved them. Where did I get the idea that a buying frenzy was proof of my love? From the retailers and advertisers, of course. And if I hadn't, I would have been a failure as a mother. I was wearing the Emperor's New Clothes.

 

The Emperor's New Clothes is an insightful story by Hans Christian Anderson about a gullible Emperor, who is fooled by two swindlers pretending to be weavers. Coming to his city, they told the Emperor they made the finest cloth imaginable. Not only were its colors and patterns exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes possessed the remarkable quality of being invisible to anyone who was unfit for their office or "unpardonably stupid."

 

The Emperor bought their story, thinking that such clothes would not only look great, but would be a handy tool for determining who was or wasn't fit for their job. So he paid them a lot of money to get started at once.

 

The con men set up two looms and pretended to work, but did absolutely nothing. After a time, the Emperor wanted to check their progress, but was a bit nervous because of the magical quality the cloth had. So he sent his ministers out to give him a full report.

 

The ministers, of course, visited the site and saw not a speck of cloth on the looms. But they were so afraid this meant they were either too stupid or unfit for their jobs, that they pretended to see something and raved about its beauty.

Soon the whole town was caught up in the frenzy and talked of nothing but the wonderful cloth. The Emperor himself went to see it and like his ministers, saw nothing. But he too was afraid of looking dumb or unfit for his office, so he pretended to be amazed with the beautiful fabric.

 

The story of the Emperor culminates with a grand procession, wherein the Emperor marched proudly down the street, head held high, dressed in nothing but his skivvies, with his ministers behind him, pretending to hold up the train (of his clothes) that did not exist!

 

Not one person in the crowd had the courage to say what they really saw. They were too afraid of being called stupid or incompetent. But a little child, unconcerned with what "they" might think, cried out, "But he has nothing on at all!" And the crowd murmured in agreement, as the Emperor and his ministers kept up the charade to the bitter end, marching regally down the street, carrying the train that did not exist.

 

How many times in my life have I worn the Emperor's New Clothes! In my 20's, when I used to think that thinness would make me acceptable and lovable, I dieted down to an incredible 85 pounds. Recently, I found my weekly weigh-in chart. If I gained a pound (from 86 to 87 on my 5'6" frame), I would write remarks like, "Lose it, Pig!" I was so obsessed with what "they" would think of me that I refused to see the skinny, underfed person in the mirror.

 

When my kids were toddlers, I was a "workout-aholic." They used to say, "Mama, you're a Barbie®!" And so I was. Right down to the teased blond hair and high-heeled pumps that I now refer to as "instruments of torture."

 

What is behind the phenomenon of the Emperor's New Clothes? I believe it is a lack of confidence and not loving the self. Whenever we look for love and acceptance outside ourselves we will never find it, because we are looking in the wrong place.

 

We need to listen to the voice of the little child within, telling us that we do not need to be anorexic in order to be beautiful. That the car we drive or the money we spend does not determine our value as an individual. That we are fine, wearing whatever makes us feel good, whether the fashion designers agree or not.

 

We need to be able to laugh at ourselves, for falling for the swindler's tricks and say "No more!" We need to set ourselves free. It really only takes a little willingness, to learn to love who we are, exactly as we are. The Universe will take care of the rest.

 

Louise Hay, in Empowering Women, says that she would like to see a campaign started. Every time women see an ad in a magazine or on television that tries to make us feel inferior, instead of saying "Oh, if only my hips were smaller, like the model's," we would write to the advertisers and say, "How dare you try to exploit me! I will never buy your product again!" You can be sure the ads would soon change.

 

Learning to love ourselves as we are, will give us the power to clear our vision and see with the honesty and clarity of a child. We will learn to make choices that truly benefit us, instead of being manipulated.

 

Recently Gerri Magee, director of advertising and public relations at phenomeNEWS, shared an anecdote that demonstrates the power of this kind of honesty. It happened back when she was a 19-year-old bride-to-be. Attending her first holiday dinner with her fiancée's family, she was surprised to find all the men sitting at the table, while the women stood around in the kitchen. She asked why the women were not eating and was told that, in their house, the men always ate first. The women's place was in the kitchen, waiting until the men had finished. That was the way things were done in their house.

 

Although she was shy and a little timid, Gerri felt offended by the innate unfairness of this. So she marched out and, being refused a seat, proceeded to sit on her fiancée's lap and eat! Thus she changed the course of dinners in that family from that day forward.

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Why not start today, by being willing to love you as you are? Listen to the voice of the little child within and take off the Emperor's New Clothes. You know they don't fit.

 

Affirmation: I love and accept myself just the way I am. I rejoice in my uniqueness!