As children, our parents read us books about a helpless princess who waited for her handsome prince to ride up on his white horse and rescue her from her tower. As we grow up, we are introduced to love and romance through movies, television, and love songs by a variety of artists and storytellers. Unfortunately, as we mature and meet real people, we become disillusioned to find that no one can live up to those imaginative and impractical representations. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also become conditioned through the media and advertisers to seek out society’s “archetypes” — people with characteristics which we believe to be most coveted. We become brainwashed, if you will, to seek out what we think men and women are supposed to be. This kind of conditioning sets the standards for our “wish list” for the ideal men and women — the princes and princesses. Then, when we fail to attract those ideal beings or can’t meet those standards ourselves, we feel as though we are not as good as those who do. This is commonly referred to as “fairy-tale syndrome.”
According to an article entitled “Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media”, author Mary-Lou Galician describes other types of relationship “fantasies” including:
The soulmate fantasy: You believe that there is only one soulmate out there for you… and that when you meet him, you’ll know instantly. So as you go along meeting men, you decide after only a few minutes that, “No, that wasn’t him” and walk away. In this scenario, you run a high risk of rejecting a good man who is shy and awkward, but kind, loving, and respectful, and with whom you could make a wonderful life.
The master-servant fantasy: Here you dream about the prince who marries the peasant girl and rescues her from a life of drudgery. You may think, “One of these days, I’m gonna meet the man of my dreams and then I’ll…” So why can’t you do it yourself? Can you see that while you’re waiting, you’re putting your life on hold and basing your future on something which, in all probability, may never happen?
The Love Is Forever fantasy: Here, you get stuck in unhealthy relationships because you don’t want to “give up on love”. You may believe that “anything worth having is worth fighting for,” but when does the fighting end? Think about it. Love shouldn’t make you suffer or feel miserable or hurt. Been there, done that! To me, all that “love hurts” and suffering for the sake of love stuff is bull!
My fiancé is the cousin of my best friend. She introduced us and upon first meeting, I thought he was nice enough, but not my type… oh, I had a hundred reasons to run away back to my ivory tower, believe me! Then he called to ask me to dinner, to which I agreed only because I felt obligated — after all, he was my best friend’s cousin! I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or feel awkward around her. After our first date, I liked him enough and we got along well, but I still thought it best to consider him a friend. Again though, out of a feeling of obligation, I agreed to another date and by our third date, I fell in love with him and well, here we are today — goofy and deliriously happy! What happened was after we had the chance to talk and learn about one another, I opened my mind to the possibility of “us” and realized he was a sweet, kind, trustworthy, responsible, and sexy man!
What’s important to remember as we search for someone special is that we are just as good as anyone else — even celebrities and the rich and famous. So often we imagine our “selves” to be so different from them in terms of how they feel and what they can accomplish. So many of us think that celebrities walk around feeling wonderful all the time because they are regarded as beautiful and talented and are known and loved throughout the world. Don’t be deluded into thinking that they lead “charmed” lives.
Do you ever picture someone like Angelina Jolie and think, “God, she must wake up and think ‘I’m awesome!'” I mean, she’s gorgeous and is loved and envied by millions! Well, that may be true, but did you know that when she was a child, she was teased by other kids who made fun of her “distinctive features, for being extremely thin, and for wearing glasses and braces?” What’s more, her initial attempts at modeling failed, which added to her low self-esteem. She has said as a child she was troubled and depressed, openly speaking about “her teenage self-loathing” which included thoughts of suicide. In an interview on CNN, she admitted to “cutting” herself. Cutting is inflicting physical harm serious enough to cause tissue damage to one’s body. Angelina said “I collected knives and always had certain things around. For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me.” As she grew more successful, she began visiting underprivileged countries and was profoundly touched by the children and conditions she saw there. She quickly stopped hurting herself and complaining about “minor things” and became more content with herself and more confident in her ability to help others.
So as you can see, what we believe to be true about others (especially celebrities) are our own contrived beliefs that reflect our own insecurities, assumptions, and imaginations.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Boot Camp for the Broken-Hearted (New Horizon Press, 2008) by Audrey Valieriani. Based in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Valeriani is the creator of TheAccidentalExpert.com, which provides relationship coaching.