In Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale, “The Little Mermaid,” the love-struck mermaid, Ariel, gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for legs. She makes a deal with the evil Sea Witch to become what she is not in order to achieve her idea of success—to become human and marry the handsome prince. This seemingly innocent fable illustrates our contemporary temptation to lose our true self in order to achieve our ideal of success.
A colleague of mine, who is now a career development specialist, shares with college students how he had fallen victim to this very temptation. As a college student, he knew he had a real talent for working with people and took great joy in listening to others and helping them find their way in life. And yet, because careers in public service were not high-paying, he sacrificed his real calling for a career in accounting. He got married, had children, and made a lot of money. Like Ariel, he silenced what made him special in order to meet his definition of success.
The consequences of this false bargain bore fruit several years later when he fell into a deep depression. He hated accounting and each day was a drudgery. He realized that he had traded in his true self and vital access to God for a bigger paycheck. Only through honoring his true nature could he begin to survive on the inside, where it counts.
Have you ever suffered from what we could call the Little Mermaid Syndrome? Have you ever silenced some essential aspect of yourself in order to be loved, to be successful? What were the consequences? Consider what you need to do in order to be reconnected to that dimension of yourself that seems to be lost at sea.
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Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP
Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!