Disney’s Encanto is a film that does more than entertain viewers with songs and beautiful views of Colombia. It hits us where it hurts through the stories of its characters, notably the Madrigals.
This emotional Disney film tells the story of the Madrigal family. Each member of the family received a magical talent when they turned five — except Mirabel. She spends most of the film thinking that her extraordinary family has got it together. Eventually, she learns that her family isn’t as picture-perfect as they seem, particularly her sister Isabel Madrigal.
Isabela of Encanto is the poster child of perfection. Throughout the movie, she has been referred to as the “golden child” multiple times. In fact, it has been implied that she is Abuela’s favorite, if not everyone in town. And we can’t blame them.
Encanto’s Isabela is beautiful, graceful and completely perfect. She can make flowers out of nothing. She can make things beautiful with a flick of her hand. She’s so enchanting that she ends up getting engaged to the most eligible bachelor in town, Mariano. Isabela Madrigal is so ideal that everyone wants to be her — except Isabela herself.
Isabela Madrigal is Tired of Being Perfect
Jumping off from a failed engagement dinner, Isabela finds herself in a confrontation with Mirabel in her very floral bedroom. The latter just wants to hug her sister to prevent the miracle from burning out; the former just wants to be left alone. The sisters enter a screaming match, which leads to Isabela revealing that she’s tired of being perfect.
If you were unable to relate to Isabela during the first part of the film, she might’ve caught your attention now.
You could probably now relate to Isabela of Encanto. She had one goal in life — to make the Madrigals proud. She only knew one way to do that, and that was to be perfect. She couldn’t be just great or good; she just had to be perfect.
Isabela Madrigal is the picture-perfect poster child of Encanto. She never caused problems or voiced her needs. Like her sister Luisa, she took what was given to her, was always graceful and did her part to keep her family’s happiness. She made flowers bloom to keep the town happy. She might have been mean to Mirabel, but most of the time, Isabela refrained from showing negative or “ugly” emotions. She never complained.
While no one can make flowers bloom out of the air like Isabela, many can relate to her struggles of being perfect. Like her, you probably weren’t the problem child of the family. You always gave way to accommodate the needs of others. You graduated with honors and landed an amazing job after. Everything you do is acceptable. In the eyes of others, you can’t do wrong. As a result, you don’t want to do wrong.
Like Isabela, you could be a perfectionist. And like her, you could be tired of it.
Many People are Like Isabela Madrigal
An international study on more than 40,000 university students was conducted from 1980 to 2016. The study revealed that recent generations of students earned a higher score in terms of perfectionism and in comparison to older generations. Specifically, students between 1989 and 2016 had an increase of 10 percent in their self-oriented perfectionism score.
The study suggests that the rise in perfectionism among Millennials is due to different factors. Social media use is a top factor since it pressures young adults to be just as successful as their peers (due to what they see on other people’s accounts). Social media has also impacted people’s view of their bodies, increasing their dissatisfaction with their sizes. This, along with the pressure to get a good education, the drive to earn money and land a good job, is another area where today’s Millennials exhibit perfectionism.
While there’s nothing wrong with striving to be better, striving to be perfect always can take a toll on your self-esteem and mental health. When that happens, it’s no longer healthy. When you see people praising you for being flawless, your self-esteem will benefit from it. However, if you’re always basing your self-worth on other people, there’s a chance your self-esteem might drop when someone notices a single flaw.
What is Perfectionism?
When you’re a perfectionist, you always want to be excellent in everything that you do. You also have a tendency to measure your self-worth based on your achievements or what people say about you. In your eyes, everything you do must be perfect — just like Isabela.
She always had to be the pretty, picture-perfect one. As Abuela Alma’s favorite, Isabela made sure she looked the part. She wasn’t just always beautiful; she created all things beautiful (in the eyes of her grandmother and of the town).
Is being a perfectionist bad? Not necessarily. There is a “normal” type of perfectionism where you just want everything to go according to plan. You just want everything to be OK and this want doesn’t compromise your self-esteem. You do the fixing because that’s what you want.
But when your self-worth is affected by the want to always be perfect, being a perfectionist might be bad for your mental health. For instance, a person who scored 99 out of 100 would think that they still did well, but a perfectionist could still beat themselves up for it.
Another example of unhealthy perfectionism is when a person who wants to be slimmer resorts to drastic weight loss measures. They might stop eating or vomit their food, which could lead to anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.
In the worst cases, a perfectionist might develop suicidal thoughts, thinking that they are worthless since they can’t do everything right.
How Can You Overcome Unhealthy Perfectionism?
Although it pays to strive for excellence, too much perfectionism could be bad for your health.
In Encanto, Isabela breaks free from her perfectionism by accident. During an argument with Mirabel, she accidentally creates a cactus— a creation that is far different from the beautiful blossoms she conjures. While her sister tries to hug her, Isabela realizes (in song) that she’s free to do anything she feels in the moment (without worrying that she’s not being perfect).
This spikes up her curiosity as she wonders out loud “What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect?”
Isabela eventually accepts that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. How about you? How can you break free from the cycle of unhealthy perfectionism?
- Evaluate yourself. Start by asking yourself, “Why do I do what I do and who am I doing this for?” Awareness can help you make sense of your perfectionism. By evaluating yourself, you determine why you do what you do.
- Look at things from a different perspective. When things don’t go the way you want them to, look at them from a different view. It’s a disappointment, but it could also be worth celebrating.
- Be realistic with your goals. When setting life goals, make sure that they are SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. By following the SMART method, you don’t have to punish yourself when you don’t achieve them.
- Seek help. If being a perfectionist is compromising your mental health, seek professional help. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, counseling or psychotherapy might help. Unhealthy perfectionism can lead to anxiety and depression if it is left untreated.
If you’re struggling with perfectionism, look to Isabel. Encanto showed that striving to be perfect isn’t always bad, but it’s better to be true to yourself than to measure your worth with what you can or cannot do. Like what Isabela Madrigal sang, ask yourself “What else can I do?” and do it your way.
If you’re still fearful about failing, don’t be. It’s the journey that matters the most. Take a note from Isabela’s thoughts, “What can you do when you know who you wanna be is imperfect? But I’ll still be okay.”
You’ll be OK.