The Cinderella Complex - An Unconscious Fear
By: Anisha Dasari
Edited By: Iliyan Ajani
You may not have heard about ‘The Cinderella Complex’. And no, it is not about being friends with birds and mice, striving to have features similar to the beloved Disney character, or an obsession with glass slippers. The term ‘Cinderella Complex’ was first used by Collette Dowling in her book “The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence,” where she describes it “as the unconscious desire to be taken care of by others”, to be cushioned and comforted by a man so much so that you don’t even realize exactly how dependent you are on this ‘man’ .
The ideal is named after one of the most well-known fairy tale princesses, Cinderella. It is based on the idea of femininity portrayed in the story, where a woman is represented as beautiful, gracious and hardworking, yet is scorned by the females of her society. Despite her adversities, Cinderella remains kind and thoughtful, but is depicted as someone who is not capable of changing her situations with her own actions, and must be helped by an outside force, i.e the Prince.
There are many theories on how the Cinderella Complex has left fantasy and entered reality. Many speculate it comes from one’s childhood development. During your childhood, you are loved for what you do and not who you are; you are constantly depending on others and are in need of positive reinforcement. When a young girl starts to grow independent, parents are happy, but this happiness is always tainted with worry and fear. This is because society believes womxn will always be more fragile than men. Many parents show apprehension when their daughter wishes to experience the world, rather than encourage her to build strong, independent morals and beliefs, almost as if they want her to depend on a man.
Womxn, however, are now forced to confront their own dependency. People who experience the complex discover that they lack responsibility for themselves. That the idea of having to work for a living for the rest of their lives is loathsome. That they wish to escape the necessity of exposing themselves to society’s abrasiveness, hostilities, and unfair expectations. They want people to not judge them, to see how honorable and well-intentioned they are. However, these ''good-girl'' qualities are in direct opposition to their other desires. Womxn also want to rise in their profession, travel, learn, and live.
Why would a woman have the Cinderella Complex? Well, society perpetuates womxn to think that they need a man for a better life– womxn are raised with the idea that they should feel naked and frightened without a male to guide them, to protect them from the outside world and maybe even other potential suitors. The complex is also an escape from responsibility. They are taught that men will bear all the burden and that they won’t need to. This causes a woman’s ambitions to be undermined by fear, and leads to the depletion of self-confidence and the ability to speak out.
Womxn have been taught to believe that, as females, they cannot stand alone. That they are too delicate, too fragile, too innocent, too needful of protection. However, this isn’t the case. Through collective effort, womxn have produced remarkable change. With values like empathy, nurture, and intelligence, womxn are and will remain to be equal and prominent members of our society.
The love for yourself comes from within and not from others’ approval of you.