What Encanto teaches us about professional and personal growth

Ally De Leon
KadaKareer
Published in
8 min readJan 21, 2022

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Featured image from Disney

Disney’s latest blockbuster Encanto has made waves almost everywhere you look. By now, (unless you’ve been living under a rock), viral OST We Don’t Talk About Bruno is likely stuck in your head, and you may still be reeling from the lovely and heart-tugging story of the Madrigals. This comes as no surprise because there’s a lot to love about the latest creation of the oh-so-renowned studio — from its crisp and stunning animation to its belt-worthy songs, and of course, the characters and narratives that bring us along on an emotional and reflective rollercoaster.

Like many Disney movies, Encanto seamlessly incorporates timeless yet timely lessons to weave a more profound and powerful storyline that resonates with various audiences, regardless of age. As these takeaways and adages are usually pretty general, they can apply to different aspects of one’s daily life, even if the source material focuses on a more niche and unrelated subject. Encanto is a gripping tale that revolves around family dynamics and relationships, but as we take a closer look at the film, we’ll realize that it contains invaluable tidbits of knowledge in the realms of career and personal development. With that, here are the top 5 lessons from Encanto that you can take along in pursuit of professional and personal growth.

  1. Don’t try to shoulder everything
GIF from Tenor

Superhuman sister Luisa possessed the gift of super strength. In the movie, she was often seen moving mountains, carrying houses, flattening diamonds, and hauling just about anything (donkeys included) with her bare hands. If we were to describe her daily routine in one word, it would be heavy lifting. She did her job tirelessly and without complaints, leading the Madrigals and the community at large to perceive her as a strong, indestructible force that could carry any and all burdens — both physical and mental.

Under the surface (pun intended), though, Luisa was on the verge of crumbling under immense pressure. And honestly, who wouldn’t be, especially with her circumstances? The weight of the world was quite literally on her shoulders. When she wasn’t making use of her muscles, she was letting a dark family secret (that could very well destroy everything they’ve built) loom around her. Despite the gravity of her situation, she tried her best to power through, as she crooned “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.” Luisa dedicated her entire life to her gift, the work that came along with it, and the responsibilities she had to uphold for everyone’s comfort and security, leaving her no time to think about herself.

Sounds familiar? There are plenty of Luisa's in the workplace — you may even be one of them! As you embark on your career journey, you may feel the need to do and be everything for the sake of approval and recognition. This relentless chase towards consistent excellence and resilience will tell you that taking breaks is a sign of weakness, but this is far from the truth! While the “use it or lose it” mindset has its points every now and then, rest is essential to maintaining and improving one’s strength. Don’t be afraid to take a breather when the going gets tough. More importantly, knowing when and how to ask for help when you need it is even better and will take you a long way. A refusal to succumb to hustle culture will never be a weakness. Always remember to take care of yourself and respect your own boundaries.

2. Do what you love and love what you do

GIF from Tenor

Resident golden girl and devoted daughter Isabela had a gift that’s as beautiful as she is: the ability to grow plants from thin air. Throughout Encanto, she was only conjuring picture-perfect and fabulous flowers because she felt that this was what was expected of her and that creating beautiful things was the best and only way to use the gift bestowed upon her.

Before anything else, gifts were the Madrigals’ way of giving back to their family and community. However, Isabela experienced true happiness when she found out that she made imperfect and spontaneous plants, like the cactus born out of her fit of rage/mental breakdown. Isabela was at her happiest and freest when she chose what truly made sense to her.

At any given moment in our journeys towards professional and/or personal growth, we’ll develop an inclination towards perfection and put the need to do good work above all else, which will eventually teach us to shun whatever is “fun” or out of the ordinary. While it is obviously and undeniably respectable to dedicate oneself to excellence and their respective craft, doing so does not mean there is a need to forego what makes us happy. You can cultivate your skills and knowledge by exploring different areas, even and especially if they don’t seem to be “professional” or “polished” enough. Indulge in your hobbies and try out what your heart desires as long as you can do so. You’re bound to learn invaluable lessons and imbibe crucial values that will help you become both a better worker and person.

3. Hard work is just as good, if not better, than “innate” talent

GIF from Tenor

Much of Encanto revolved around the youngest daughter Mirabel, who was the only Madrigal without a gift. In a sea of exceptional and talented people, it was far too easy to feel inferior and doubtful about oneself. While she tried to repress her negative feelings, Mirabel felt like she fell short in comparison to her family, which made her sense of self-esteem deteriorate. However, even if Mirabel did not have a gift of her own, she was still an integral part of the Madrigals due to her diligence, drive, and passion. She made up for her perceived lack of formal talent through her hard work and admirable attitude.

As you progress through your career, you’ll meet people who will seem and even be more skilled and talented than you are. This is bound to be disheartening, but don’t fret! Success and the consequent happiness that comes along with it are attainable for those who push themselves to be at their best, comparison be damned. Hard work will enable you to develop new skills and harbor a better mindset that will help you flourish in whatever you choose to do. Strive to be better than your past selves instead of spending too much time trying to beat everyone else.

4. Good teams find harmony in diversity

GIF from Tumblr

No one in the Madrigal family shared the same gifts, and the gifts they had could not be more different from one another. From predicting the future to shapeshifting to healing people with food, the gifts from the magical Encanto candle represented the characters’ vibrant and distinctive personalities. Despite the overwhelming presence of diversity, the Madrigals established a sense of harmony that ultimately allowed them to serve their community and use their gifts to the best of their abilities.

Teamwork is an intrinsic part of one’s career and growth as working in groups is something that we cannot avoid. While this will understandably be frustrating for some, it is crucial to know how to cultivate a good team. The ideal team is composed of diverse people who fill different roles well, offer various perspectives and reject too much uniformity. On the flip side, though, they also know when and how to set their differences aside. Or, even better, a good team is capable of making their differences work with and for each other. If you want a genuine and thorough learning experience, try to work with or learn from people who are not 100% identical to you so that you can pick up a new perspective or lesson. After all, opposites can attract!

5. You are more than what you do

GIF from Tenor

If it wasn’t obvious yet, gifts were the focal point of Encanto. This emphasis on gifts was not only evident in the collective pity and slight disdain everyone felt for Mirabel due to her lack of a gift but also in the way all of the Madrigals were defined and characterized by the gifts they had. Luisa was the strong one, Isabela the beautiful one, Bruno the creepy and misunderstood one, and the list goes on. As we watch the film, it won’t take long to realize that this fixation on gifts led to a generous amount of strife and conflict. When a character could not deliver the way they were expected to, they felt awful, and even worse, one of them was practically disowned by the family for much of the movie. However, it’s more than clear that each Madrigal had lives that went above and beyond their gifts, but they were overlooked until everyone learned their lesson.

In a nutshell, do not fall for the trap of believing that your job is your life. You will always be more than what you do for a living, and if you want to live well, you need to remind yourself of this as much as you need to. We ought to work to live, and not live to work because there is so much more to experience and enjoy outside of one’s career, no matter how lucrative or demanding said careers may be. Pursue other endeavors that don’t necessarily revolve around your job or the need for ultimate productivity, as this will allow you to stay out of burnout’s way. At the end of the day, the happiest people are those who’ve found their ikigai, an all-encompassing purpose that gives us a reason for being.

On top of the film being a quintessential narrative that dissects the familial issues we so often shy away from, Encanto is an insightful, clever, and necessary form of commentary on self-worth, perfectionism, and growth. These are just some of the takeaways one can depart with as the movie draws to a close. Even if real life is far, far away from Disney movies, there is still a treasure trove of learnings lying at the heart of this movie, waiting to be unraveled by those who need it the most.

About the Author

Ally De Leon is a Growth and Marketing Mission Specialist at KadaKareer. She’s a freshman studying Communications Technology Management (which is just an SEO-unfriendly way to say marketing) at the Ateneo de Manila University. She’s at her happiest whenever she writes about any thought or feeling without getting mental blocks, reads a book she can highlight all over, eats anything with a borderline unhealthy amount of cheese, and hears Jeong Jaehyun sing.

About KadaKareer

KadaKareer is a career development platform for underserved students in the Philippines hoping to launch their digital careers. “Kada” comes from the word barkada, which means a group of friends. We are a Filipino student’s cheerleader, coach, and support group throughout their entire career journey!

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