Once there was a Princess who lived with her parents in an enormous castle. Everyone in the Kingdom adored her. She had a big room full of toys. She got to pick out pretty clothes, had her hair done just right, and wore the cutest shoes. Everywhere she went people told her how cute she was. Her parents told her every day that she was a princess and could do anything she wanted. Every day her mother kissed her and said to her “I love you, Princess.”
As the girl grew up, she started to leave the castle for a few hours at a time. She was a little afraid the first time she climbed into her big yellow coach, but her driver smiled at her and said “Good morning, Princess, how are you today?” This made her feel better. The girl would go in the morning and return to the castle before lunch. As she grew older, the time away got longer and longer. Every time she went out the door, her mother would say “I love you, Princess.”
Over time the girl started changing. Her voice sounded the same, but she started using different words. She looked the same, but she felt different. And because she was changing, she was scared. Her friends and family thought she was the same princess, but she didn’t. She would tell people she was “fine” or “good” but deep down she knew she really wasn’t. She didn’t feel special anymore when her mother told her “I love you, Princess” before bed every night.
One day some people outside the kingdom were in a circle whispering to each other and looking over at the girl. “Look at her clothes! Who wears clothes like that? And did you see her hair? She is definitely not a princess.” The girl heard the people and started to believe them. It wasn’t long before she doubted she was a princess. What they said about her made her very sad.
So the girl decided to move out of the kingdom. She found a little bedroom to move into with a local man and woman. She told herself she’d only live there until she proved to everyone that she was a princess and could move back into her castle.
It wasn’t long before the local man and woman started asking the girl to help out around their house. They gave her chores to do, made her take care of her own things, and gave her rules to follow. “These people don’t know who I am!” thought the girl angrily. They certainly weren’t treating her like a princess! One day the girl got so angry about how she was treated that she yelled at the woman “You’re not my mother!” The woman said “I certainly am your mother, and you’d better mind what I say, young lady!” That made the girl cry.
At first the girl thought that if the right person came along, they could kiss and she would turn back into a princess. So she tried to find a prince, but it was too hard to tell if she ever found one. She felt like a princess when they were kissing, but the feeling didn’t last very long. She wondered if the people outside the kingdom were saying to each other “Look, she kisses people who aren’t princes. That proves she’s not a princess.”
The girl didn’t really didn’t know where she fit in anymore. She didn’t know who she was or where she belonged. The people that cared about her didn’t think she was lost or that she’d changed, but this didn’t help at all. It just made the girl feel all alone in her loneliness, more confused in her confusion and even more lost in her search. And she was angry, because simply wanting to know where she belonged didn’t seem like too much to ask.
It took a long time for the girl to give up, but she eventually decided that she wouldn’t try to be a princess anymore. After all, nobody was treating her like she as a princess. The man and woman she lived with weren’t the king and queen. She didn’t live in a castle or have a kingdom. But after she got used to the idea that she wasn’t a princess, she started to get a little happier.
As she got happier, she started to get more friends. People started to like being around her. So she got even more friends. She had to get a job to pay her rent and buy her food. She would get very tired by the end of the day, and sometimes she would be grouchy. If she was grouchy, people didn’t want to be around her. It wasn’t like when she was younger. No one told her how cute she was every day. No one tried to make her feel better or feel special. She went out on a few dates, hoping a little that she’d find a prince one day. None of the people she dated were princes, but she kissed a few of them anyway (just to be sure).
One day the girl was walking home from work when she saw a man with an armful of packages trying to open the door to his apartment. He dropped his keys and tried to bend down but couldn’t reach them. He looked like he could use some help, so she stopped and picked the keys up for him. He said thanks and smiled at her. She was left with a funny feeling. She started to feel special inside. She started to feel important. She hadn’t felt this way since she was a little girl. She was glad that she had helped him.
The girl noticed that when she was nice to other people, it made her feel better. She started smiling at everyone, saying “please” and “thank you” and really meaning it when she told someone “Have a nice day!” If she were tired after a long day of work and didn’t want to help someone, it made her feel especially good if she did it anyway.
The more nice things she did, the better she felt. And the better she felt, the more the girl wondered that if she really was a princess after all. And if she were a princess, maybe she should act like one. The next day at work, she stopped outside a door. “What are you waiting for?” asked the man behind her. “I’m waiting for someone to open the door for me because I’m a princess.” said the girl. “Yeah, right” said the man. He laughed and walked right past her.
Once again, the more the girl started acting like a princess, the less she got treated like one. The less she got treated like one, the worse she felt. She wanted to be treated like royalty but she didn’t know how to make it happen. It was too confusing, so once again she gave up acting like a princess. When she gave up the act, she started to treat people nicely. And that made her feel good again.
Sometimes after she did something kind for someone, that person would say something really nice about her. At first those words made her feel like a princess. But the girl learned to just smile and say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” and go on like nothing happened. She would feel good inside, but she didn’t act like a princess anymore. She figured out that just because someone calls you something, it doesn’t mean that’s what you are.
The girl kept being nice to others and they kept mistaking her for a princess. Then a funny thing began to happen. As the girl got nicer and nicer to other people, other people started looking like royalty to her. Soon everywhere she looked there were dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, princes and princesses. It was easier to be nice to people when you looked at them like they were important, and the more she was nice the more she was convinced that everyone around her was someone special.
One day the girl went back to the home where she was raised and knocked on the door. She was amazed when the queen, the real live queen, answered the door! “You ARE the queen!” she said excitedly. “You were the queen all along! How come I didn’t see it before?” The queen hugged her and led the girl into the kitchen to make her a cup of tea.
The queen sat down with the girl and smiled warmly at her. “Princess,” she explained, “How we treat other people says more about us than it does about them. Remember how you feel about other people when you call yourself a princess? If you treat others like they are your subjects, it doesn’t mean you are a princess. It just means you treat people like you are better than they are. You won’t feel good inside if you do this.” The girl stirred her tea, thinking about what the queen had said. The memory of the man laughing as he walked past her through the door flashed through her mind. She looked up when the queen spoke again.
“Remember how you feel about other people when you are nice to them and help them? If you treat people with dignity and respect it doesn’t mean they are respectable, it just means you treat people nicely. The reason people look like royalty to you is because you treat them like they are special. And you feel better when you do!” The girl sipped her tea, trying to understand what the queen was saying. It was starting to make sense why she felt nice when she did nice things for others.
“How others treat you says more about them than it does about you” the queen continued. “If someone calls you a princess it doesn’t mean you are royalty and worthy of adoration, it just means they called you ‘princess.’” The girl thought back to man who drove her big yellow coach and smiled fondly. “If someone treats you rudely it doesn’t mean you aren’t worth being nice to, it just means they treated you mean” said the queen. The girl thought back to the people who made fun of her clothes and hair. Instead of feeling sad or angry, she felt sorry for them. “You don’t have to feel bad when people are mean to you. How they are treating you says more about them than it does about you” said the queen.
Suddenly the girl knew where she fit. She didn’t feel alone or confused or lost. She felt safe inside. She understood that the way to FEEL like a princess isn’t ACTING like one, it’s by treating others as if they were important people. How she acted made her who she was and how she should feel about herself. How she acted made her what she was inside. Treating others nicely helped her feel better about herself and helped her see other people in a better way. It didn’t matter what they did or said to her in return. She wasn’t a princess because of how she was treated by others. It was sad and confusing to feel good or bad about herself based on how someone acted toward her. How others act says something about them, not her. If she treated others like she was better than them, she didn’t feel better about herself. She smiled at the queen and felt loved all over. The queen smiled back at her and said “I love you, Princess.”
Copyright Craig T. Ward, 2011
The author lives in Alaska, USA.
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