Dumbo Ears


My son is almost 32 years old. He drives to Disneyland from Petaluma on a whim and is a movie aficionado. Although this is an incomplete description of him, it helps you understand why the Blue Ray DVD of Dumbo was one of his favorite Christmas gifts. The “icing on the cake” was having us all watch it with him.

Sitting on the squashy beige love seat with pillows to support my lower back, and feet propped on the coffee table, I was ready to enjoy this childhood classic.

The movie begins with the sky full of storks bringing babies to all of the circus animals. We witness the love between the babies and their mothers and fathers as they are delivered.  Mrs. Jumbo is the last of the circus animals to receive her precious package from the stork. When we finally get to see her little one emerge from the storks’ blanket we are full of admiration along with all the other on-looking female elephants. Her baby Jumbo Junior is adorable!

I was not the only one in our family room making the instinctive “Ahhh” sound as we looked upon Jumbo Junior’s bright blue eyes and innocent smile.

When he sneezes and his ears open up, the mood instantly changes. We witnessed the shock and disgust of the other circus elephants. The size of his ears are the impetus for the nickname Dumbo, and it sticks as all the  other elephants judge his ears as being too big.

Dumbo continues to smile at the elephants as this mean nickname is bestowed upon him. He is too young to understand that he is seen as flawed by his elephant community. His mother lovingly takes him into her embrace, accepting and loving him as he is, all is well.

Unfortunately for Dumbo, his mothers’ love is not enough to protect him from the continued judgment of the other elephants and the criticism of the children attending the circus.

We witness the first intense experience of Dumbo being teased and then bullied by the children for his perceived defect.

I know all too well the impact judgment and teasing have on people’s self-esteem. I have heard story after story from my clients of how mean spirited statements about their body or body parts led them to dieting, and ultimately to the eating disorder that brought them to my office.

Just as Dumbo’s ears were deemed too big, our bodies are deemed too big if they do not emulate the airbrushed models we see in the magazines.

In Dumbo’s story, his mother tries to protect him. When she is unable to stop the verbal abuse towards her son, she takes matters into her own trunk and spanks the offending boy. This action leads to panic from the circus goers and ultimately the circus falls down around them and she is labeled a menace and ostracized, leaving Dumbo alone and unprotected.

The parents of my clients are unable to protect them from our culture that tells them they are defective if they have curves rather than having a pencil thin fashion model’s body.

When the scene of Dumbo leaving in the middle of the night to secretly visit his mother who was held captive in a bolted and locked circus cart came on the screen, we all sighed out loud releasing the sadness of this heartbreaking sight.

He is touched and held, swung, and cuddled by her trunk, the only part of her that can reach out to him through the barred window.

We are not that different from Dumbo. We all need tender loving acceptance to heal the emotional wounds of believing that our bodies are defective if they do not look a certain way.

If we do not have a loving mother to help us through, we need to connect to others who can remind us that our value is not attached to our bodies. That can be hard to find in this culture.

By coming to this Love Warrior Community you are gathering with other like minded people who are saying, our bodies are meant to be loved and cared for, no matter the size or shape.

Dumbo discovers the positive aspect of his ears when he believes he can fly. He uses his ears to propel him through the air, and transforms himself from the outcast to the star of the circus.

We too can fly when we begin to believe the positive aspects of ourselves. Just like Dumbo, we are all unique and special. Have you discovered what makes you exceptional?

Do you have a transformative story? How did you shift your perspective to see value in something about you that you had previously criticized? Share your story below.



Michelle Minero is a licensed marriage family therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery. She created an intensive outpatient eating disorder program in 2000, brought ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc.) to Petaluma shortly after and founded EDRS (Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc.), a Marin and Sonoma County based 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2005. In 2011, Michelle co-founded the Love Warrior Community with her daughter, Emelina, an online community that helps people cultivate self-love, self-acceptance and body acceptance through creative expression. Michelle is finishing her book, Self-Love: The Only Diet That Works, and her dream is to see a world filled with people who love themselves and their bodies. Connect with Michelle on Facebook and Twitter and help spread the Self-Love Movement!

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5 Responses to Dumbo Ears

  1. Renee says:

    I love this post, so true about needing love. Thinking about the scene where Dumbo visits his mom and gets the love he needs gets me teary eyed, great movie and great post:)

    • Lindsey Wert says:

      Thank you Michelle for this beautiful writing. I think about all the symbolism in this movie and how the story relates so much also to the client’s I work with who have eating disorders and the young teens who so desperately need their mother’s trunk to reach out with love and support. Anything that is different is so often seen as unruly and not okay, and Dumbo is an example of this in metaphor. I am so glad that you are doing this self love moth in the new year. What a blessings this is to all of us. Value is not attached to out bodies…and I hope that I can help my client find themselves and believe this too, as well as my self funny. Thank you Michelle for the beautiful human being you are.

      Love, Lindsey

  2. Dumbo was sooo sad in the beginning and middle! But I loved the end when Dumbo learned to love his big ears and everybody ended up loving him too. 🙂

    I was talking to somebody the other day who doesn’t fit into a tidy box of our cultural norms and whose appearance and gender doesn’t fit our black and white model or society’s standard of “beauty”. She was telling me how she always has felt out of place and has recently started to become comfortable in her own skin, and I was surprised because this person has a lot of admirers and although she doesn’t fit our patriarchal standard of beauty, a lot of people find her very beautiful and attractive and physical appearance aside, she’s a beautiful person.

    I thought it was sad that this beautiful person was made to feel bad about herself because of society’s standards and culture.

    Today, I overheard a conversation and the part that I overheard was a person’s reaction to their young friend getting botox injections in her face. He was surprised, basically saying that she fit the standard mold of beauty that our culture feeds us and that she was still so young and gorgeous, so why would she get botox. He couldn’t believe it. It made me think that even people who fit our culture’s subscribed standard of beauty don’t feel beautiful and they feel that pressure to meet some unattainable goal of what they need to look like.

    When I was watching Dumbo, it made me think of my 7 month old niece, Ninel. She is the most beautiful human being with a radiant smile and amazing energy, and it makes me sad that she will grow up into our culture that breeds insecurity. When she gets older, she may get made fun of, she may be teased, she will most likely criticize her body and devalue her self-worth based on what “others” think. Some of her radiant light and energy will diminish, and her thoughts will be tainted of what makes something beautiful. That’s what happened to Dumbo. He was brought into the world with a radiant smile and energy. He was beautiful and then society told him that he was defective when he wasn’t.

    That makes me really sad to think about, but I’m also happy that Ninel will grow up in an amazing family and will be surrounded with love and support and we will most definitely celebrate her and teach her about self-love and body acceptance so she can counteract our body negative culture.

  3. Great post Michelle! I actually don’t remember watching Dumbo but reading your post made me think about how cruel children can be and how teasing brings so many negative consequences to the child teased. Why was it so disgusting to the other elephants that Dumbo had such big ears? I understand it’s uncommon but it was so different I would have awed in fascination instead of disgust! My mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all! That was definitely a moment where many elephants could have kept quiet and just celebrated the birth of a new baby elephant! That was the important moment, Dumbo’s birth, not the fact that he looked different from anyone else.

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