Being Your Own Fairy Godmother

Solstice Snow Fairy

Illustration for a whimsical snow scene.

Today, as I pause in my studio for a bite of chocolate and muse over this illustration, I find I’m reflecting on the Fairy Godmother archetype. I love playing Fairy Godmother for myself! I stock my studio with dark chocolates. I keep them in a lovely bowl made by a ceramicist student from the university. Occasionally others fill my bowl, and occasionally others partake. In these seemingly insignificant exchanges is an unexpected magic that comes from playing Fairy Godmother.

Naturally, there are many other ways I sprinkle fairy dust around. For myself that could be as simple as buying fun new art supplies, a new pair of soft cozy socks, me-time, a long hot bath. All the things you do to empower your joy count.

Of course, you could choose to be your own evil stepmother, many do. You can also choose to be the cinder maid who endlessly self-sacrifices and cows to the envy and smallness of those around her… and worst of all the smallness of your own shadows and ego. In the article It’s Time to Meet Your Shadow Side, Ali Schulz succinctly dives to the core in this simple phrase… “If we don’t work on our stuff, our stuff will work on us”.

There is this saying “Problems are always seen leaving.” Despite its very optimistic perspective, it belies an undeniable pragmatic truth. We can not address a situation or problem if we can not see the hard reality of it. Once we see it for what it is, it then becomes malleable.

Being that we are all the characters in the story, it is important to know what the villainous shadow is up to if we are to disentangle its influences and keep it from plotting against our aspirations. The protagonist inevitably has to stand up to the villain, but before that, there are wizards, fairy godparents, and other seemingly magical characters that guide the hero forward. These work to catalyze and empower the protagonist to acknowledge their full potential and to give them a taste of the magic within.

One powerful and crucial way we consciously play Fairy Godmother to ourselves is by deciding to let ourselves go to the ball. Truth be told, we make that decision repeatedly as we step forward and forward yet again on the path ahead toward the full integration of all our aspects, true individuation. Full individuation or seeing the true self is the grand ball, but there are many others that occur along the way.

That could show up as going for a solo show in a gallery, being decisive about a career path, gearing up to go for a big promotion, a meaningful move to a new community, or starting your own business. It could be as simple as no longer repressing self-expression, giving up on fitting-in, or purely being vulnerable and open to all your potential.

In all these scenarios you have given yourself permission to go to the ball. Ultimately that equates to choosing to be fully who you are for the sake of your own self; no more hiding in the woods, being enslaved to other’s expectations or comfort zones, no more choosing the cozy dark corners of the familiar and the safe.

Oliver Herford illustrated Cinderella with the Fairy Godmother

About 7 years ago, I went through a traumatic life event that was compounded by many other obstacles. In all that time I struggled to show up to myself as the Fairy Godmother. Sure, I was doing lots of little sweet things for myself, and even surrounding myself with people that were aware of their own fairy dust, as it were. Yet tragically, and for a very long time, I did not let myself go to the ball. Instead, I was the evil stepmother, discouraging myself from putting the lost shoe back on.

The shoe is a potent symbol in dreams and stories. It directly corresponds to the roles we play in our daily lives and our attitudes toward those roles. In the modern retelling of the Cinderella archetype, we are dealing with small, seemingly fragile, glass shoes that allowed her to go to the ball. In older tellings, there was a new pair of shoes for each night she returned to the festival to dance. In that version, the shoes become more splendid each time she returns until the last night when they are made of solid gold.

When the midnight hour comes, in the story, the magic runs its course and everything returns to as it was, except the shoes. This is more significant in its symbolism than the shoes themselves. The fact that the shoes only fit Cinderella’s feet make them an extension of and symbol of her true self, her fully individualized self, they represent her relationship with the meeting of all her aspects, her inner and outer self, her masculine and feminine self, as well as the cinder maid and the princess. Once we have gone through this transformation and learned to dance with all our aspects, it can not be undone. The shoe will forever present itself to be worn and invite us to dance.

The last attempts of the shadow to cow us arise in the archetypes of the stepsisters and stepmother. This might show up as our placating to the envy and expectations of others, our darkest self-doubts about our own worth, or even our slyest fears of not being accepted or valued. We know it is our shoe, it is meant for us to wear; but it can appear almost invisible and fragile to us because we still hear the echoes of our fears and insecurities and sometimes because we know we will be forever transformed. Thus the fairy godmother must be ever present to nurture, support, and stir the magic of transformation within. Without her, our shadowy ego will do its work on us unfettered.

Perhaps I was afraid the shoe would no longer fit on my feet, perhaps I thought I could not dance again, perhaps… insert any metaphor of your choosing, but the bottom line is that I  did not want to risk vulnerability and had gotten very comfortable with my excuses. Any reason I could hold would be the ever subtle and sly shadow conjuring its dark and poisoned wares. Though, you should make no mistake about this… others in your life will take note of your readiness to change. They could be either the fairy godmother or an obstacle. Hold on to your grace and just dance.

Reindeer and Fox

Woodland creatures enjoying the stillness and silence of the snowfall

Creativity thrives when we are enjoying ourselves at the ball. When we have allowed the coupling of all our aspects and energies to dance in union with one another, then the magic is real. The hard effort, difficult steps, and mistakes do not end, they become part of the dance. For years my creativity languished far more than it should have from life’s obstacles alone, but that has changed. After years of dabbling to complete the reindeer in the illustration, I have managed to finish it in time to order prints so I can send out cards!

When you learn to consciously play fairy godmother, you see a new kind of magic begin to occur. People around you will begin to discover their own fairy dust.  Over time, I have gotten to see some realize that they could use their fairy dust on themselves and that it was a perfectly respectable thing to do. I have even been fortunate enough to see a few others give themselves permission to go to the ball. They inspire me in ways I could not begin to express, and I am quite thankful for that.

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