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10 Timeless Life Lessons from “Beauty and the Beast”

Follow these lessons for a happily-ever-after tale as old as time.

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True love is when you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for another.

Sacrifice plays a huge role in the relationships portrayed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From Belle sacrificing her freedom and taking her father’s place as the Beast’s castle prisoner to the Beast sacrificing his happiness and letting Belle go take care of her sick father, the classic movie is an endless tale of people sacrificing their own needs for the good of others. As hard as it can be, sacrifice often reaps big rewards like a happily ever after. I mean, just look at Belle and the Beast. 

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It’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that counts.

The Beast is far from the handsome prince he used to be. And his spoiled attitude, rotten manners, and temper tantrums don’t help his reputation either. But as he spends more time with Belle, his hardened exterior starts to melt away to show a lost man with a heart of gold. Belle sees beyond the razor sharp teeth and ugly grimace to find the prince he once was. In real life, that’s a good reminder not to dismiss someone just because they don’t meet your checklist for good looks. Sometimes it takes time, patience, and an open mind to see what someone’s heart is truly made of.

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Vanity is never attractive.

Nothing is worse than going on a date with someone who can’t stop bragging or admiring his or her own reflection. Gaston is, of course, the movie’s version of that person we all dread dating (or interacting with at all). He claims he wants Belle, “the most beautiful girl in town,” to be his wife; but being the pompous hunk that he is, the only person Gaston really wants to marry is himself. And unlike all the other townswomen who swoon over his debonair smile, silky black hair, and chiseled muscles, Belle refuses to fall for it. Somehow she knew that a boorish, brainless oaf was hiding behind his dashing good looks. Learn from Gaston and put down the mirror, and take a page out of Belle’s book and look beyond the façade.

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Selfishness has no place in a lasting, loving relationship.

Gaston’s selfish and unwavering desire to get Belle no matter what the price (even if it means leaving her father tied to a tree in the woods to be eaten by wolves like he does in the new live action movie) doesn’t get him the girl. Then again, forcing Belle to a lifetime of imprisonment in the Beast’s castle wasn’t going to help the Beast win her heart over so she could break the spell and turn him back into a prince. And so, the Beast freed her, even though it broke his heart and ruined his chance to lift the curse. In real-life relationships, you sometimes need to set aside your own wants and desires to focus on the needs of your loved ones, which helps your love progress and mature for the better. 

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Don’t let criticism belittle your self-worth.

Belle wasn’t ashamed to be herself. Despite the snickers and snarky remarks from the townspeople for being odd or peculiar, Belle owned it. She wasn’t going to let a little ridicule for being intelligent (preposterous!) keep her away from her beloved books or inventing new things (in the new movie she’s an inventor). In life, not everyone will like you and there will always be someone who finds something to tease you about. You have a choice to either let those words tear you down or ignore them. The trick is to remember that there’s no shame in embracing who you are

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Letting go never gets easy.

No matter how many times you do it, saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the hardest things to do in life. Whether it’s at a funeral or during a break-up, letting go of someone you’ve invested so much of your heart and time in never gets easier. In the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, your heart will break as you watch the Beast bid farewell to two of his greatest loves—his dying mother and Belle. Get past that fictional heartbreak by letting your real-life loved ones know how much they mean to you.

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Don’t settle for second best.

People who don’t value themselves tend to settle for less than they deserve. But you should remind yourself every day that you are worthy of happiness and success. Use Belle as a role model; she knew in her heart that she deserved more than her “poor provincial life” had to offer. Embrace your dreams, and do whatever it takes to make them come true.

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We all have a little ‘beast’ inside us. 

There’s an inner beast hiding in all of us, some just disguise it better than others. Even though the Beast lets his bad side take over, he eventually starts making better choices that end up quelling his nasty nature. Meanwhile, Gaston is the true beast of the story, never making the right choices to let his good qualities outweigh the bad. Life lesson: Each day is full of choices. You can either choose to make decisions for the good of yourself and others or act destructively, hurting yourself and those around you in the process. So ask yourself, will you act like a beast or a beauty? 

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Your biggest enemy is sometimes yourself.

Sure, Gaston was the Beast’s nemesis but the Beast’s biggest enemy lay within himself.  His selfish, spoiled rotten demeanor was responsible for the curse cast over his castle and kingdom. It took some tough love from Belle for him to quit pitying himself and get a new outlook on life. Unfortunately, we don’t all have a Belle to help us see the error of our ways. Sometimes we need to take a time-out and look inside ourselves to discover if we’re the reason we aren’t happy. 

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Always stand up for your morals and values.

In the era of Beauty and the Beast, women needed to get married if they had any hope of a financially stable future. But Belle refused to let a little old-fashioned patriarchal tradition stand in her way of marrying her true love. She has the town’s most eligible bachelor, Gaston, clamoring for her attention, but she refuses to let society pressure her into compromising her values to become some man’s trophy wife. Stand by your own morals no matter who tries to stop you.

MORE: This father made his little girl’s dreams come true with a stunning Beauty and the Beast photoshoot.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.