Archives for October 2019

How does the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes help us to dare to be ourselves?

As we continue our journey into fairy tales and the wisdom they show us, let’s look at The Emperor’s New Clothes, a short tale written by the Danish Hans Christian Andersen that was published in 1837. It is about the way we become so proud and yet unconfident in ourselves that we insist on pleasing everyone around us to the point of being ludicrous. It is also a prophetic warning about the current boom in retail therapy which has led to the fashion industry becoming the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry.

Image by Ulrich Dregler from Pixabay

Once upon a time, there was an Emperor who was so fond of clothes that he couldn’t stop buying new clothes. One day two swindlers came to the city and let it be known they were weavers. Their fabrics, they said, were extraordinary but invisible to anyone who was either unfit for his office or who was unusually stupid. Excited to hear about the magical new cloth, the Emperor paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work.

It wasn’t long before the Emperor became curious to see how the weaving was progressing. Concerned that he wouldn’t be able to see it and would therefore be shown to be either unfit for his office or very stupid, he sent his honest old minister to view the cloth. Unfortunately, this honest old minister couldn’t see anything on the looms so, scared that this proved he was a fool, he told the Emperor that the cloth was beautiful and when the swindlers asked for more money, happily gave it to them.

Time passed and the Emperor sent another trustworthy official to see how the work was progressing. Yet again, the official could see nothing on the loom and, frightened that he would be declared a fool, he also pronounced the fabric to be enchanting.

Finally, the Emperor decided that he had to see this magnificent cloth for himself. Horrified when he could see nothing, he gave it his highest approval and declared that it should be made into a suit of clothes to be worn for a special procession.

When the great day arrived, the Emperor disrobed and allowed the swindlers to dress him in his new clothes. As he proudly processed naked in the streets, each citizen praised him, too terrified to confess that he couldn’t see anything in case he was declared a fool or unfit for his job. Until, that is, a little child whispered that the Emperor had nothing on. When a second child said the same and then a third, the whispers grew louder until they had travelled round whole city.

Although the Emperor heard the whispers, he took no notice in case this proved he was unfit for his office or unbearably stupid. So he continued processing with his head held high, as naked as the day he was born, while all the children began to laugh…

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

This tale is about the pride which stops us from speaking our truth. Lack of confidence in ourselves can cause us to doubt ourselves so much that we believe in illusion, however obvious. As our blind and foolish behaviour gets worse, one incident piles on top of the next until we are buried in lies and with our head so firmly in the sand that it seems impossible to look up and see what is really happening. Now we have become invisible to ourselves.

Photo by Jim Gade on Unsplash

In order to put things right, we often need an innocent voice – perhaps that of a child – to tell us how it really is so that we can become visible again. This means that our own Inner Child needs to be set free. S/he has no axe to grind but simply tells the truth. It can be hard to hear the truth but this is a necessary lesson in humility, although humiliation often has to come first.

Humility is a lesson we all need to learn and the longer we leave it, the more painful it can become. We have a horror of being seen to be stupid or not good enough and yet it is only by daring to experience life and make mistakes that we can choose what to wear outwardly and trust that it expresses who we are. The key is to awaken to our real selves and that means building confidence in who we are and daring to be that person, no matter what other people may or may not think.

Image by Prashant Sharma from Pixabay

It can be fun playing with our own Inner Child and seeing things from their point of view. Bringing play and fun back into our lives can be liberating and stop us from taking ourselves too seriously.

So enjoy learning who you really are and daring to be and own your real self in public but also try to become more aware of distraction techniques, such as retail therapy. The excess buying of new clothes is having a hugely destructive impact on our environment and a habit that needs to be curbed if we are to address global pollution.

Next time, we’ll have a look at the Wizard in Fairy Tales and see how we can learn to use our power.

Happy November.

Love Laurelle