Disney Therapy

Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

I love the Lion King!!! I loved it the moment I heard James Earl Jones cry out “Remember Who You Are.” And my obsession only grew when Beyonce harmonized during “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Whether we’re talking the remake or the original, the Lion King is the defining Disney movie of my generation.

The lists of life lessons it offers are virtually endless.

  • Wisdom only comes with age and experience
  • The truth will set you free
  • Skinfolk ain’t always kinfolk
  • Good discipline is grounded in love, not fear

After my counsling session today, I added another lesson to the list. It involves my self-worth. Believe it or not, I struggle with low self-worth. While I try to appear confident, the truth is, there are moments when I feel unwanted, unworthy and unloved

I’d say, about 80% of the time, I’m comfortable and confident in who I am, but the other 20% I’m mired in insecurity. Even the act of naming that I struggle with self-worth makes me feel vulnerable and weak like a little boy. A boy who is uncertain, afraid and uncomfortably alone in a threatening world. A boy who believes he’s on his own, so his only choices are to puff out his chest and hope he can scare off those who wish him harm, or to slink into the shadows in the hopes that he can hide until danger passes.

If you’ve been around me long enough you’ve seen both of these responses manifest as either arrogance or painful shyness. Though seemingly opposite, they’re different reactions to my insecurity.

While I’ve had an idea that this was true for a while, I’ve never known why I get triggered or how to deescalate after its happenned. That is, until my counselor utilized what I’m calling Disney Therapy to help me gain insight. There is a pivotal moment in the Lion King when Simba confronts his shame and misplaced identity.

Nala tells him to return to Pride Rock as the rightful King, but he doesn’t feel worthy. He’s wandering the grassland and runs into Rafiki who tells him his father wants to speak with him. Rafiki takes Simba to a lake and instructs him to look into the water. At first, Simba only sees his own reflection, but (after a quick strike from Rafiki), he looks again and as the ripples dissipate, Mufassa’s image appears.

It is then that Simba recognizes that Mufassa is within him, and embraces the entirety of his identity as King. He returns to Pride Rock and defeats Scar because he internalized who his dad said he was. When Simba couldn’t hear his own voice, Mufassa’s offerred clarity.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

When I feel insecure about who I am, what voice do I hear? What messages am I falling back on? Do I hear Mufassa or Scar? Unlike Simba, when I look in the lake, I see both. When I’m at my best, I’m falling back onto the messages of love, acceptance and confidence that loved ones have instilled in me. At my worst, I’m reminded that I can’t please anyone I’m not enough, and I don’t deserve love.

What determines which message I’ll receive? Sometimes its as simple as having a virtuous friend (or counselor) who can gently hit me on the head and invite me to look again, until I see what I most deeply know to be true. That I am worthy of love and grace. I am beautiful. I am me, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Wrestling with low self-worth means that in certain moments, I forget who I really am, and buy into the embedded messages I’ve picked up along the way, but they don’t have to be the only messages I hear. Once again, the Lion King has proven to be invaluable in my personal growth. I hope I’ve convinced you of its unparralled greatness, but more importantly, I hope you know its okay to have moments when you feel unworthy, invisible or insecure. If you can’t remember who you are, seek out people who will invite you to look again until you do.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, who do you see?

What does it mean for you to remember who you are today?

Who plays the role of Nala or Rafikki in your life?


One thought on “Disney Therapy

  1. Benjamin, I really appreciate your writing on Disney Therapy. I was captured once again by the movie and thought to myself that there is a message in there and you really captured it. I may quote you someday. Thanks for your vulnerability and speaking your truth. May courage be with you on this journey!


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