Like much of the population, I’ve been constantly listening to (and absently singing) songs from Encanto since I first saw it. I’m just as obsessed with it as my kids, and yes, I still cry every single time we watch it.
First, a disclaimer. Encanto has made huge strides for representation, and many of the themes seem to especially hit home to those who belong to the Latinx community. I do not belong to this community, and am not speaking as though I do, or as though everything has to fit my experience. Instead, I’m discussing some of the universal themes in the film and how relatable they are. Also, there are sort-of spoilers ahead for the movie.
There is so much about Encanto that hits home for me personally and as a parent.
Much of my labor is invisible to my family. A tidy house and an empty dishwasher aren’t exactly things elementary school aged kids are going to notice, after all. But I’ve found myself feeling hurt many a time when my efforts go unnoticed. So at the end of Encanto, when Mirabel’s family sings how they see her, they see how brave she’s been? Cue the sobs.
Yet, though that moment is powerful and wonderful, the larger theme of the scene hits home even more. “You’re more than just your gift.” This applies in so many different facets of our lives.
You’re more than just your work.
You’re more than just your housework.
You’re more than just your failures.
You’re more than just your successes.
You’re more than just a wife/spouse/partner.
You’re more than just a parent/caregiver.
You. Are. More.
I delight in so many of my roles. I love being a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a colleague. These are titles that I am grateful to have, that signify I am part of these communities, these tiny loving groups. But I am more than just any title or any one role. I’m a full human person, and I hope and aim to have a well-rounded life, a life where I serve others and I serve myself.
I am more. And so are you.
Whether you struggle with perfection or always being the bearer of bad news or of providing for everyone or being the backbone of the family, remember that you are more.
Let us throw off the prison of perfection, step away from the tightrope of desperately trying to balance being all the things to all the people, and remember we are more. Let us remember to serve ourselves, pressure free.
Okay, so that’s super easy to say, right? But how do we DO it?
First, remember the old adage about crashing airplanes and putting on the oxygen mask first. In order to care for those you love, you also have to take care of yourself. Cliché or not, it still rings true.
By taking care of yourself, I mean more than finally booking that dentist appointment, taking a bubble bath, or getting a pedicure. Those are wonderful, and if that helps you feel recharged, then great. But I also mean prioritizing yourself. Learn a skill you’ve been daydreaming about, whether it’s watercolor painting or carpentry or speaking another language. Plant a garden, paint your walls, do anything that makes you feel fuller and more yourself.
Give yourself permission to enjoy a hobby, without the pressure of somehow monetizing it. We have enough side hustles. Our side hustles have side hustles. Do an activity just because it gives you joy, whether it’s doing a puzzle or walking around a botanical garden.
Or give yourself permission to not do something every moment of every day. Sit and stare out the window. Play with the cat. Watch a don’t-laugh-silly-pets YouTube video and give yourself the gift of not trying not to laugh. Give yourself permission to fail, to do something badly. Write a terrible poem. Climb a tree and don’t get very high. Draw something. Try to do a crossword puzzle in ink. Do anything you want — free of the fear of failure — just for fun.
It is so easy to lose sight of ourselves in our day-to-day lives, so simple to gradually stop doing the things that were just for us, things that brought us joy. Sometimes surviving takes so much work that we forget to live along the way.