Understanding Your Inner Queen (Part 1)

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The new season on Heroine kicks off today, marking our journey in exploring the female archetypes (and stereotypes!) in old fairy and folk tales. The first archetype we’re going to explore is one of my favorites – the Queen.

This episode is available when you subscribe to the podcast on ApplePodcasts.com/Heroine (or wherever you get your podcasts). You can also stream it live from any browser here.

Obviously the “evil” Queen is a common storytelling trope. But like all tropes, they’re simultaneously false and real. They’re real in that by learning and growing up around these characters, we internalize some of them. They’re false in that they’re still tropes, which means nobody is all Queen, or all Princess, all of the time – that’s a sweet oversimplification.

We’re going to first explore how there’s some reality in this Queen archetype. If we think of these characters as part of our own psyche, who is the reckless Queen out to control and maintain power? Is this a part of you that’s loud in your life, or quiet?

I was curious about the Queen archetype in the women in my life – so I thought I’d interview a mutual friend.

Meet Dionna.

Dionna: My name is Dionna McPhatter. I'm the co-founder of Nacci. We do data driven storytelling that harnesses the power of data, data science, narrative and storytelling and design thinking to bring solutions to businesses.

Majo: Do you feel like others perceive you to be like queenly or have this energy?

Dionna: Yeah, I think so. I think there's plenty more to me, but yeah, I think that this wouldn't be hard for them to ... I mean, I have people that call me Queen D. So I think that has come out early and I never asked for that as a title.

Majo: Do you have example from your own life where you were like, oh dang, maybe I was too much, maybe I was too powerful in this situation or too assertive or too queenly and I should've peeled back or that got me in trouble.

Dionna: Trouble, no. I see it all as learning. I haven't felt in trouble in a long time, but I think the ... I've had times where I'm leading a team or I'm just on the team. So it was all of my peers and so, I didn't see myself as higher than them. But I just have a certain way that I communicate. And I got feedback that because I communicate with such clarity, that made people feel like I wasn't open to their ideas, right? There's plenty of times when I choose not to speak, so you know I don't really care that much or I'm in listening mode or whatever. But when I choose to speak about something, I am passionate, so that can deter other people sometimes. And then, when they're speaking, they can think that I'm not listening.

I can really relate to Dionna, because I have a lot of the Queen archetype within me. And it manifests in a variety of ways – I want things done, when I want them, efficiently, and on my own time. I like to delegate, I actually have no problem with it at all. And being a Queen feels great most of the time, but I did notice that there’s a downside to it – people often don’t feel my warmth, or feel cared for, when I’m acting like a Queen. One time I was queening out, and dissatisfied by someone I hired to help handle my social media. I found myself getting irritated, and angry, and snappy at her. You know since my Queen is a total perfectionist, one who wants it perfect or not at all.  And then she quit! I felt relieved, but also kind of embarrassed. I realized when I’m being a Queen, people obviously don’t want to collaborate. The impact of that of course, is that Queens end up lonely and isolated in their glass or ice palaces. They shut themselves off from the world.

It’s hard for me to admit tell you about the times I Queen because she’s not a part of myself I’m proud of. Even now, I can feel how uncomfortable it is to share with you, because it’s an ugly dark part of myself (the shadow!) I sometimes wish would go away, especially when she’s acting out.

So how about you? What is your relationship to this trait? Does it help you get things done? Do you value it? Do you feel trapped by it? Do you secretly resent it? Perhaps you feel don’t have enough of this archetype expressing in you – your inner Queen is muffled and quiet, she’s buried under the fear of being seen as bossy or too dominant. That’s real too. Many of us stay away from her, because of what we’ve learned in fairy tales, that we’ll be punished if we’re total Queens.

Don’t forget to tune into the episode on ApplePodcasts.com/HEROINE (or wherever you get your podcasts) to dive deeper, and let this one sink in.

The Queen is far more complex than she looks like on the outside. By understanding stories, we can understand ourselves. Excited to be on this journey with you!


P.S. In the next episode, we’re going to go deeper with the Queen (and her true power and positive aspects) by looking at one of the older versions of Sleeping Beauty.


Brigid Cabry Nelson leads Lettershop, an award-winning creative studio that serves a wide range of clients—from boutique retailers to large corporations—approaching each and every project with vigor and enthusiasm. Learn more about Brigid and her work here.

Bianca Wendt, an award-winning art director and graphic designer based in San Francisco and London. Learn more about Bianca and her work here.

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