I usually write my year-end parody this time of year, but we already have a song that best fits 2014: “Let It Go” from Frozen. It’s not just because “Let It Go” has been heard everywhere (especially if you have children). When you look at the lyrics and the context of the song, you’ll see why it inspires people. (And if you haven’t seen Frozen, spoilers ahead.)
After spending her young life locked away and hiding her talents (which were considered a curse), Elsa realizes that she can’t hide anymore. She literally lets down her hair and unleashes her magic. By gaining the freedom to express herself, she learns to master her skills — something she couldn’t do when forced to hide them. When she overcomes her fear and uses those talents out of love, she is finally able to master her gift for the good of all.
All of us are surrounded by people who want to limit our talents. Some, like Elsa’s parents, do it because they think it is for our own good. They mean well and don’t want us to get hurt or to fail. We can’t suppress our true self forever, and it will continue to nag at us until it explodes in a self-destructive way.
Others, like the big bad in Frozen, want us to limit our talents because they see it as a threat to their ambitions. They want to preserve a status quo that benefits them, or they want to push out or undermine potential competitors. They feel they can’t win unless someone else loses.
Usually, we are the ones who limit ourselves. We operate out of fear or self-doubt. We feel we’re unworthy and want to conceal anything that would make us stand out. We fear that our success would make others feel threatened and jealous. Some of us try to drug those feelings away because we’d rather feel numb than realize we have something wonderful to offer.
Millennials feel that self-doubt most of all. They have been accused of being lazy and self-indulgent (usually by their Gen X parents who were called lazy and self-indulgent in their youth). Millennials don’t consider themselves “special little snowflakes who need constant approval.” Instead, they feel trapped in a world that offers little hope and opportunity. They worry about getting loaded down with college debt and not being able to find a career where they can earn enough to pay it back. After spending most of their lifetime in the shadow of 9/11 and continuous war, they fear for their own safety. They worry about being shipped off halfway around the world to fight and die or getting killed by violence at home.
What can any of us do? Let it go. We can’t control the world around us. We can’t control what others do. We can’t even control those who want to limit or harm us. We can protect ourselves, but we can’t allow ourselves to become afraid or intimidated by them. All we can do is to be true to ourselves, to discover our gifts, and to learn how to use them. We have to throw off our self-imposed shackles of fear, self-doubt, and numbness. It is only when we free ourselves and be willing to suffer the pain of setbacks and loss that we are able to feel true joy and love.
There will always be problems. There will always be negative people. However, we have only one chance to live, and one chance to use the gifts we have been given. Let it go.