Mulan’s Identity Crisis
“We’ll have you washed and dried, Primped and polished, Till you glow with pride, Trust me recipe for instant bride, You’ll bring honor to us all” – Disney’s Mulan
In Disney’s 1998 animated feature “Mulan,” featuring the Chinese beauty turned warrior we all know and love, we are introduced to a whole slew of new catchy songs. I can still remember breaking out in song in high school to “Make a man out of you” while goofing off with friends. Or quoting all the one-liners from Eddie Murphy’s unforgettable, hilarious role as the sassy talking “dragon” named “Mu Shu.” I loved that little guy as a kid! Most children that grew up watching this film remember the romance, the bravery, the military conflicts, the triumph and fireworks near the end. And all in all it was a pretty successful movie, making over $22 million in the box office on opening weekend (1).
But like may children’s films, it more than it appears to be. Deep down Mulan has a very common human struggle we can all identify with: identity crisis. She starts out being faced with the pressures put on a young woman in ancient Chinese culture to marry well, be a good wife, and all society expects of her. She gets all dolled up for the matchmaker and is given the heavy burden of brining honor to her family. After a pretty disappointing day with the matchmaker though she feels a lot of inner turmoil; guilt for letting her family down, but also an inner voice wanting more out of life. She knows she does not fit the mold, and it hurts. Its hard not knowing where you belong. As she sings “Reflection” you feel her pain. This really is what the heart of her story is about:
“Look at me
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or a perfect daughter
Can it be I’m not meant to play this part
Now I see
That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart
Who is that girl I see
Staring straight, back at me
Why is my reflection someone I don’t know
Somehow I cannot hide
Who I am
Though I’ve tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside
When will my reflection show who I am inside” (2)
It’s a simple, short song that echoes a profound truth many of us are faced with throughout life. We all are influenced by our upbringing, no matter if you are from China, the United States Britain, El Salvador, India, Armenia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, rich, poor, middle class, and many, many more of the countries and classes I don’t have time to mention. We all have a family, a culture, a school, a group of friends, a society that influenced how we were raised. For most of us it was full of people that wanted the best for us, and usually believe the best way to give us that is to influence us to live out a continuation of their reality not realized. Maybe your parents never got the education they wanted and worked hard menial labor jobs most their lives, so they push you to pursue high college degrees and have a high-achieving career. Maybe you come from a more traditional immigrant family that always put family values and their traditions first, so they expect you to continue to live how they have lived. Maybe you come from a background where faith and family and support was lacking and you had to fend for yourself a lot growing up, so as an adult you struggle to build healthy relationships.
But there comes a point in life when you can hit the reset button. No matter what the past was like, good, bad, or indifferent, you were created uniquely. I believe that God made us each praise-worthy, fearfully, and wonderfully (Psalm 139:14; ) we are His masterpiece, a beautiful work of art (Ephesians 2:10;) and He calls us His calls us His beloved children, whom he created with purpose before we were born (Psalm 139:13, John 1:13.) Who we are is unique, and often not going to look exactly like how our families were growing up.
This Summer I was married! I went from being a single lady in her 20s to a being someone’s wife. Vows were said, celebrations had, and its official. And it has been truly amazing and exciting. I have been learning to love more deeply and be loved so much more fully than I’ve ever experienced outside of God’s love for me. I tell you – love you have among friends and family and parents is wonderful too, but there is something so unique and sacred about the vulnerable love a husband and wife share. I lucked out and got a good one! But it has been hard to work through all the change. You move in with someone, you have lots of new beginnings, your finances change, your decision making process changes, and even your name changes! I don’t sign my name the same way anymore –that’s a weird feeling! Talk about an identity crisis.
It would be easy to let this affect me. To think what Mulan sang about, “why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” But there is a secret to overcoming identity crisis. There is a key I’ve found to navigate. Silence the world. Silence your family, your friends, your culture, even your handsome new husband in my case. Silence everyone. Quiet your heart. And listen to that still small voice of God, who calls you priceless. You don’t have to fit a mold with Him. You don’t have to hide your reflection from Him. He MADE your reflection! More than anyone else, He knows who you are. And when it’s just His voice and your voice in your heart, then you will know who you are. And that never changes.
James 2:23-24 says “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Don’t ever forget what you look like. Don’t forget what God says about you and about what is right and good. Let that always guide you in life before anything and anyone else. Don’t let anyone try to change your reflection.