Cinderella Complex

The Cinderella Complex: Fantasy or Disorder?

~Isha Kelaskar

“One day a handsome Prince Charming will come and relieve you from all your miseries. You’ll live happily ever after…”

The first thing that crossed your mind after reading the above line must have been about the famous Disney Princess, Cinderella. Doesn’t it feel similar to a fairy tale with Cinderella and her ‘Prince Charming’?

We bet you’ll be surprised to know that the Cinderella Complex, while not completely based on the fairytale, does have some relevance in real life and in the everyday lives of women.

This complex is one reason why we shouldn’t be fantasizing about our fairytale ending with a Prince Charming. 

What is the Cinderella Complex?

The Cinderella Complex is an unconscious desire in women to be taken care of by others (mostly men). According to studies, women suffer from the Cinderella Complex when theyre afraid to live on their own terms.

The term, “Cinderella Complex” was coined by a therapist from New York, Colette Dowling who wrote the book “The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence”, originally published in 1981.

Dowling talks about women’s unconscious desire to be taken care of by others (mostly men). According to studies, a woman suffers from the Cinderella complex when she is afraid to live on their own terms. As a result, they are subconsciously afraid of the concept of being independent.

In reality, the complex is a result of repressed attitudes associated with the constant fears that keep women from the use of their liberal minds and creativity. The complex tends to forcibly convince them to wait for someone or something to alter their lives instead of taking matters into their own hands. 

Woman Cinderella Complex

This sounds a lot like Cinderella doesn’t it? A woman needs to be saved by a man (Prince Charming), so he can solve her problems and they can live happily ever after.

The Cinderella complex attributes profoundly in their minds. As a result, these women suffering from the complex tend to believe that their submissive and obedient nature will help them win a “prince charming” and a chance to live happily ever after.

Therefore, instead of illustrating their own potential, they look for a man to lean on or either something external to give their lives meaning. They see themselves as princesses waiting for a prince to come to their rescue.


The following are the symptoms/behavioural patterns in a woman suffering from the Cinderella Complex.

● Dependency issues.

● Often idolizing the men in their lives.

● Expectations which are unrealistic and impossible to meet.

● Loneliness

● Abusive, Controlling

● Lack of confidence

● Lack of self-esteem


Although the causes of psychological disorders can never be accurately detected, yet they can be diagnosed to a certain accuracy. Below are the probable causes that can lead a woman to be a victim of the Cinderella Complex.

● Stems from childhood development

● Humiliated socially during their formative years

● Overprotective parenting

Martyr Complex - The Vicitm Complex


The Cinderella Complex affects a woman in the following ways:

● Hinders her personal growth

● Limits a woman’s abilities

● Infiltrates many different aspects of women’s life.

● The notion that someday they will be supported by their significant other and they won’t have to work anymore.

How to Overcome the Cinderella Complex 

Potentially, it starts with parenting. Young girls need to be encouraged to take responsibility and solve their own problems rather than relying on someone to solve/fix it.

It should be every parent’s prime goal to raise their daughters in a way so that they gradually, in a skilful manner, achieve goals and accomplish their dreams. Parents need to ensure that their daughters are raised to believe they are equal to the opposite gender and are self-reliant. 

To foster the feeling of being independent is something that should be valued. Moreover, the very same opportunity to take initiatives should be granted to the girls as well. Parents and guardians should always provide them with a platform and assist in finding others just like her; in search of their independence.

Another way to overcome the complex at a later stage in life is to make her realize that she can make anything happen on her own. She can solve problems with or without a man.


The best solution one can offer to the woman suffering from the Cinderella Complex is to overcome their fantasies and not give in to them.

Everyone deserves their own happy ending and sometimes that does not include a prince charming at all. The love for yourself comes from within and not from others’ approval’ or opinions about you. 

Anupam Kundu
A professional blogger and an IT freak. The atypical combo of a Civil Service aspirant and a Tech enthusiast.