It’s a tale as old as time. Beauty and The Beast first came out in 1991 and I personally cannot remember the number of times I watched that VHS tape growing up. Belle wasn’t your average Disney princess. She had her nose in a book from the start for one. Besides telling hundreds of young girls growing up that it’s perfectly okay to want to read (or be an inside cat) instead of following the crowd, Belle had a lot to offer in terms of life lessons back in 1991 and even more so today.
Let’s not get into the absurdities that are preventing fans (both old and new) from watching the updated adaptation – instead, ponder on the petals of wisdom (see what I did there) that Belle still has to offer.
Beauty is on the inside
In a world where outer appearances rule, inner beauty still shines through. A lesson we’ve relearned on-screen and off, Belle reminds us that looks can be deceiving and your innermost self is what makes you beautiful. She was shocked when she first saw Beast, but over the duration of her capture (Stockholm Syndrome alert?), she realised that Beast was more than how he seemed on the outside.
Bonus Lesson: When you recognise someone’s inner beauty, it teaches you to embrace differences. It is our differences that set us apart yet tie us together in our human race. One should never dismiss someone else because of their background or any perceived barrier – you’ve got something to learn from everyone you meet – and this is ever so important in today’s global workforce.
Look beyond what you can see
Remember the saying don’t judge a book by its cover? Belle teaches us to look beyond that. Take her father, for example, Maurice was an inventor but the whole town missed his genius and instead referred to him as “crazy old Maurice”. This perception hindered their ability to take him seriously even when he tried to warn them about the Beast. Belle was never ashamed of her father, she encouraged him and shared in his triumph when his invention worked.
Most people are like onions; they are made up of different layers. It’s easy to label someone and put them in a box but people are more than they seem or how they appear to be. It’s the thoughtful ones who acknowledge this difference and make the effort to dig a little deeper.
Bonus Lesson: Belle’s loyalty to her father also teaches us to stand by our families. Sure, no family is perfect but at the end of the day, Maurice cared for Belle the best way he could and she, in turn, did the same for him. That’s what it’s all about.
Just like how so many of us are still curious about what Belle does for a living (besides reading fiction). Belle’s longing for a life outside her village, her reading habits and her curiosity (exploring the Beast’s castle even when she was told to stay clear from a certain wing), teaches us that life has many curiosities in store for us to uncover. Rather than stay in a bubble, we should take a page out of Belle’s book and let our curiosity guide us (to a certain extent). When it comes to trying new things at work or at home, learning new skills, trying new types of food or picking up a language even. Staying curious is a way to embrace learning and life.
Stand up for yourself
Have you ever seen Belle apologise for reading? No. One of the reasons many girls still identify with Belle is because of her strength of character. Belle never apologized for being herself. Not to Gaston, or to the Beast. It takes gumption to stand up to people (what more the Beast) but Belle does it anyway when she refused to eat a meal with him in the early days of her captivity. Like Belle, we should strive to never apologise for who we are. In a world that’s busy trying to categorize you, being your true self is a final act of “rebellion”… Or so we’ve read.
Standing up for yourself requires you to know your true self. Be it in your personal or professional lives – what are the core values that you live by? Do you shape your behaviour accordingly? Consider how Belle declined Gaston’s attempt at a marriage proposal when it was something the other girls in her village would cry for. She knew who she was, what she would stand for and made a firm decision. You know what they say, “he who conquers himself, conquers all.”
What are some of your favourite lessons from Belle? Share them with us in the comments below: