A Lesson From The Lion King©

This past weekend, I had the honor to speak to a group of young people (grades 6-12) at a YMCA Leadership Weekend. Surprisingly, I had more hesitation about speaking to this audience than to adults because I had to change my message and language to fit the age group and because the audience was so diverse in age. Let’s face it – the message might need to be different in delivery for an 11 year old and an 18 year old. When I had put it all together, I had gathered several movie clips to share, and several of them were from the Disney movie The Lion King. I have seen The Lion King many times, but I had missed some of the more subtle lessons, and I want to share one of them with you today.

So often we talk about and understand the importance of not needing to live up to other people’s expectations. It’s so easy to seek to define ourselves and our worthiness based upon what other people think about us, and so we come up with sayings such as the following to help us avoid that trap:

  • Don’t let others define you
  • “What other people think of you is none of your business” – Paulo Coelho
  • “It doesn’t matter what other people think of you. All that matters is what you think of you.” – Robin Sharma

Is this good advice and valuable wisdom? Absolutely. Is it a helpful perspective to avoid living your life up to other people’s standards and expectations? Certainly. And yet, what about the other side of this coin – the value of other people’s opinions of us and, more important, how they see us?

That brings us back to The Lion King. During the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (about the blooming love between Simba and Nala), there is the following powerful exchange between them.


So many things to tell her, But how to make her see

The truth about my past, impossible, She’d turn away from me


He’s holding back, he’s hiding, But what, I can’t decide

Why won’t he be the king I know he is? The king I see inside?

Simba is doubting himself and believes that his past (who he thinks he is – a killer) will cause Nala to leave him. He has shame about what he believes he has done and this is impacting how Simba sees himself.

In sharp contrast, Nala sees the King inside of Simba, and she is wondering why he’s holding back and why he’s not being the king she knows he is. There’s the lesson – sometimes the most important perspective we need is that of someone else who truly loves and cares about us. Often, other people are able to see the best in us because they see us through their eyes and without the filter of our own self-stories. What a gift to have someone help us see the more in us!

So often we work, interact or connect with people, and we wonder why they’re playing small, why they’re hesitating and why they’re not living up to the potential that we see in them. It’s usually simple – they are living through their own stories, and they can’t see (or refuse to see) the brilliance inside themselves. To borrow a line from Dionne Warwick, “that’s what friends are for.”

We often talk about the importance of having people around us that believe in us and will challenge us to be our best from a loving and supportive place. This lesson from The Lion King is a great reminder of the power of having someone see the best in us in order to help us see it for ourselves. In my now different perspective on The Lion King, I see the heroic role that Nala played in helping Simba to see the king inside himself.

Who sees the king, queen or leader inside of you? Are you listening? Are you willing to let go of your own old stories and trust the perspective of someone that sees the powerful and impactful leader in you? People around you are waiting for you to hear the truth that others see about you and to show up in your business, career, family, relationships and community as the king or queen you are. Yes indeed, people are waiting!

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