All images © Walt Disney Studios
I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland — the book, the films, and especially the 1951 Disney film. I’ve written about it quite a few times Wonderland Wisdom: 8 Life Lessons from Alice, How to Reclaim Your Muchness, Revisiting Your Muchness: 5 Steps to Reclaim Who You Were), and it was even the reason I published The Positively Present Guide to Life! (My publisher originally discovered my site via one of my Alice articles. So awesome!) Not only did my love for Alice enhance my career, but it’s also had a pretty important impact on the way I think about life. (As have many other Disney films — fun fact: I wrote my graduate school thesis on Disney films!)
With the release of the new Disney film, Through the Looking Glass, I’ve been planning to write another Alice-themed article for months. And, after recently releasing my self-love stickers, I’ve had a love of self-love on the brain so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find any good self-love lessons in Alice’s adventures. I was pleasantly surprised to find tons of them, but I narrowed it down to the top six. Here are some of the best bits of wisdom from Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole.
(Note: these are all from the Disney film, which varies a bit from the original book. If you haven’t seen the film or aren’t familiar with the story, the general idea is this: Alice, a restless young girl, falls down a rabbit hole and enters a magical world. There she encounters an odd assortment of characters, including the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar, and a garden of talking flowers. The tale focuses on Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and, ultimately, on her quest to find her way home. If you’re interested in reading/watching Alice, check the end of the post for links to my favorite Alice-related works!)
LESSON 1: BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO IMAGINE WANT YOU WANT
Alice: If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?
At the beginning of the film, Alice sits with her cat, Dinah, musing about what it would be like if she had a world of her own. She’s restless and bored with her school lessons and longs for a world with more fancifulness and magic, a world in which things would be very different from how they are in the real world. How many of us have had a moment like Alice’s, where we sat imagining how things could be different? While we might not have daydreamed about talking flowers or cats wearing trousers (but, let’s be serious, clothed cats sounds pretty adorable…), we’ve imagined how we might want things to be different. And, believe it or not, this is actually an act of self-love. Yes, self-love does involve acceptance and staying in the present moment, but it also includes envisioning what we’d like for ourselves in the future — what an ideal life would look like. Imagining a life we want to lead is actually a very brave act because it means facing the fact that things aren’t always perfect and, if we’d like to be fulfilled and happy, we might actually have to make some changes (gulp!).
A great lesson we can all take from Alice is embracing our imaginations, considering what an ideal world would look like for us — and, most importantly, going after it. While I wouldn’t recommend following a rabbit down a rabbit hole, as Alice did, it’s interesting to consider how Alice’s daydream turned into a reality when she took action. Also worth noting is that not everything Alice envisioned turned out to be how she imagined it would be (See Lesson 4!). So, while it’s important to tap into your imagination, envision what you’d like your world to look like, and take action toward your goals, it’s also a good idea to recognize that things won’t always turn out how you imagined (or, if they do, they might not be as fulfilling as you would have thought). This idea isn’t meant to discourage you from pursuing your dreams, but to inspire you to find a balance between bravely envisioning the future and realizing that the future, however it arrives, will require acceptance.
LESSON 2: TRY TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Alice: Well, after this I should think nothing of falling down stairs.
Maintaining a positive attitude when the world around you feels crazy is quite challenging, but Alice is one of the best examples of someone who faces strange and unusual adversity while remaining optimistic and hopeful. Can you imagine tumbling down a rabbit hole, through a seemingly endless tunnel filled with furniture and knickknacks and books and thinking to yourself, “After this, I should think nothing of falling down stairs!” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably be screaming, eyes shut, and thinking to myself, “I’m going to die when I hit the ground. This is the end. Oh my god. Oh my god.” Not Alice though! She’s not only completely trusting that she’ll land on her feet (despite never having fallen down a rabbit hole before!), but she’s also thinking about how this strange experience will help her stay positive the next time she goes through something less challenging: falling down the stairs. (The fact that she has this idea at all is a bit concerning though. I mean, how often does she fall down stairs?!)
In this scene, and countless others in the film, Alice is faced with adversity and strangeness. Rather than get upset, frustrated, or angry, she generally tries to see the good in the situation and take a positive stance on whatever she’s experiencing. She notes something positive in the present moment or, as she does in this particular scene, she takes note of how she could use her current experience to stay positive in the future. While she does have moments where characters or situations test her patience, throughout the film she generally remains hopeful and optimistic — in spite of having just fallen down a rabbit hole into a strange land where nothing makes sense! The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, try to imagine how Alice would look at it. How would Alice view the difficult coworkers you have to cope with? How would she cope with the nonsensical aggression of a driver on the road? Though we don’t live in Wonderland, a lot of what we encounter in everyday life can seem confusing and frustrating. When tough situations (or people!) come your way, ask yourself, “How would Alice find the good in this?” Because, when it comes down to it, positivity is an act of self-love.
Alice: Better look first, for if one drinks much from a bottle marked “Poison,” it’s almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later.
After arriving in Wonderland, Alice is encouraged by the Doorknob to drink from a bottle. Though Alice is only a young girl, she paused before taking a sip, reciting the quote above. What inspired me about this scene is Alice’s mindfulness about what she’s consuming. When it comes to our bodies and minds, we often have control about what we consume — and what we consume can have a big impact on how we feel, think, and act. Whether we’re talking about the food we eat, the substances we intake, or the media we watch/read, everything we consume contributes to the way we feel about ourselves. Though Alice probably isn’t aware of this when making this statement, the words “better look first” are powerful when it comes to self-love.
Before you consume something — eat a meal, uncork a bottle, swallow a pill, pull up a website, open a book, turn on the TV, or make a purchase — think about how it will make you feel. Will you feel better after you consume it? Will it make you happier, more fulfilled, more successful, more at peace? And, for how long will it do that? Some things make us feel really good in the moment, but terrible later. While I’m all about staying present, sometimes you have to consider how you present consumption will impact your future emotional state. Taking a moment to pause before consuming and consider the consequences can lead to more positive choices and more self-loving acts.
Clearly, Alice knows a lot about self-love! I bet you had no idea you could learn so many great self-love tips from a Disney character, did you? The best tips are still to come. Stay tuned for PART II next week! And, if you haven’t seen / read Alice in awhile and want to check it out, here are some of my favorite Alice-related things:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (original 1865 edition)
Through the Looking Glass (original 1872 edition)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Rifle Paper Co. illustrated edition)
Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (Little Golden Book edition)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Salvador Dali illustrated edition)
Disney Alice in Wonderland score (the weird, wonderful soundtrack!)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Yayoi Kusama illustrated edition)
The Annotated Alice (annotated and illustrated edition)
Alice in Wonderland (1951 animated film)
Alice in Wonderland (2010 live-action film)