Growing up, I dressed up as a princess, everyone told me I was "a little princess," and I loved to watch fairytale movies of couples living happily ever after. In my teenage years, some of my favorite films still included princesses being saved by a prince or a knight in shining armor. (I can also say I had a big crush on Prince William.)

Being treated like a princess throughout the early years of my life gave me the same mentality later on, but it wasn't the people around me who were at fault. Treating young girls like princesses and treating women with fragility have both been ingrained in our society. Today, princesses in fairytales are tough and strong, fighting away villains with the best of them; however, the old princess mentality still holds true for many women today.

I'm fed up with the expectation to toe the line, and frankly, I don't want to be a princess anymore.

One area in particular where it can have a negative impact on women is when it comes to looking for love. With this pandemic, it has motivated a lot of people to settle down a bit more instead of jumping from one hook up to the next— and playing the field has also become more difficult during COVID times. While talking to people as an expert on, I've noticed I'm getting more and more questions about how to find "the one" — a term I don't love to use, but let's just call it the one they want to be with right now.

We need to erase the fairytale fantasy when looking for love. Love can be an amazing feeling, but it can also be filled with hard times, low points, and challenges. It's not a fantasy we should be aiming for, rather we should be looking for fulfillment on more days than not. We shouldn't look to be saved nor look for someone else to be the answer to all our problems. Rather, we need to be in charge and in control of our own lives and happiness.

Now there is no shame in having someone come along for the ride, but their presence shouldn't depict your overall happiness and wellbeing. However, in today's society, the princess mentality is alive and well, sending the message: what is a princess without her prince? (The princess mentality is also completely outdated when it comes to gender, but that's another story.)

My concern with the princess mentality infiltrating our dating lives is the disappointment it can bring. Some people find a person that they love and who loves them back. However, they still risk disappointment because their perfectly healthy relationship does not feel enough like a fairytale. They might have had this idea in their head of what romance and the perfect person should be, only to be conflicted by loving someone who doesn't meet these criteria — but they still have strong feelings for them. Therefore, it's important to focus on how someone makes you feel rather than who they are on the outside. This misleading desire can bring continual letdowns, not because the person is not right, but because your expectations are so unrealistic. It doesn't mean you shouldn't have certain expectations for a person you are sharing your life with, but these standards should be realistic and fair.

It's not only this conflict — or potentially passing on love due to the lack of fairy-tale-like qualities, but also the risk of going for the completely wrong person. How many couples have you looked at and thought their lives and relationship must be perfect, only later to see them split up and the truth comes out? Someone who looks like a prince may actually be a disrespectful dick head, too. We don't just live happily ever after; we just live. The goal is to find someone who will ride the ups and downs of life with you.

We need to erase the fairytale fantasy when looking for love.

When dating, we have these pre-established ideals of both ourselves and the person we are going out with — we may not even be aware of them or understand why we have them. They might see us go after certain things in people or certain situations, but they can be ideals from earlier days and based on things we can't even remember. I think that many of these ideas form in our younger years when people tell young women that a princess is deserving and adored.

How society views sex is another concern when discussing the princess mentality since princesses are not always seen as sexual or in control of their sexuality. Masturbation is an important aspect of this reality. We know there is a certain amount of normalization and even acceptance with jokes or discussions about masturbation when it comes to teenage boys. It's as though they are expected to do it, so it's okay. However, it is not common for people in society to encourage young women to masturbate and explore their sexual desires. In my past years as a sex educator, I've often spoken about this being the princess syndrome: we see young women as demure and innocent, both qualities of a perfect princess.

Outside of love and relationships, this princess mentality has impacted women on a holistic level as well. For example, women are expected to be pleasant and pleasing. Though these traits are not associated with a princess in general, they are undoubtedly qualities that are expected of one.

Recently, I watched a video reclaiming the word bitch for women. At first, I felt uncomfortable, but listening to the words it soon began to make sense — being a bitch meant being a woman who speaks her mind, stands up for herself with firmness (regardless of who is listening even when that might not be pleasing to some), and stands up for herself even if that means having to be firm and direct. Maybe bitch is the opposite of princess, and maybe we need to start encouraging women to be bitches rather than pleasing princesses?

We don't just live happily ever after; we just live. The goal is to find someone who will ride the ups and downs of life with you.

Keep in mind that all of this is not only related to fairytales. We see this with real-life princesses too. For example, Meghan Markle is heavily criticized when she goes against what is 'expected' of royalty, and Princess Diana also received criticism from people when she stepped outside of the demure princess role and took charge of her own life. We also have the queen mentality these days, and I love women aiming for that, too. But it's hard to undo the princess expectations that have been fed to us from the very start.

Maybe it's something that comes with age, but, being in my 30s, I'm tired of worrying if people like me or if I'm being pleasant enough. I'm fed up with the expectation to toe the line, and frankly, I don't want to be a princess anymore. And I don't need to because I'm just Nikki and that's enough. The princess mentality is a fantasy and maybe even a dangerous one. We shouldn't long to be someone else, to have some other life or to be saved and adored by others. It's time we let women be who they are, and not try to change them with the lure of some fantasy. There is a reason they call it a fantasy — it's because it's not real.

Whether you're just going about your day-to-day life or looking for love, be you, not a princess. The right person will connect with you when you let them in and show them who you really are, not when you try to be pleasing and demure. Let go of those expectations and just focus on being you and spending time with people who respect and appreciate that!