Why Dreams Don’t Always Come True or Cinderella Delusion Syndrome

Posted: August 30, 2010 in motivation
Tags: , , , , ,

This post is longer than usual, since originally it was written as a guest post for a well known motivation site. However, upon receiving the draft, the site’s editor decided not to publish it. I leave it up to you to decide what in the post might have triggered that reaction.

Unless you happened to spend the last year living under a rock or in some other place with limited connection to the outside world, you know who Susan Boyle is. The instant Internet sensation, called by many the modern day Cinderella, she became a household name nearly overnight. That night she also become a source of inspiration for thousands of aspiring singers around the world. At the mind-boggling 9 million copies sold, her first solo album became the biggest selling album in the world for 2009. And this year she has held Susan’s Search – an online search for the lucky winner who will duet with her on her second album. Anyone interested in participating could do so by simply singing Silent Night into a camera and uploading the video to Susan’s YouTube channel.

So far it all sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Well, brace yourself since it going to get bitter very quickly. But first, let’s get a couple of things straight. I have nothing but respect for Susan Boyle. I think she deserves her fame and instant wealth 100%. She’s indeed a true source of inspiration and a real-life reminder that some dreams — no matter how bold — do come true. This post is not about her. I also respect the choice of everyone who decided to participate in Susan’s Search. All the luck to all of you and may the best win. This post is not about them. What is it about? It’s about something that for the lack of better term I call CDS: Cinderella Delusion Syndrome.

You remember the story, right? More specifically, the Disney’s version of that centuries old tale. Yes, the “Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling” happily-ever-after story. That one. You know how the story goes even if you’ve never seen the movie. A poor girl, terrorized by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, an oversized pumpkin, a pair of glass shoes, a midnight chase… So here’s a question for you. What is the story’s key message? One… two… three… Okay, let me give you my answer. The message is, “Keep dreaming and your dreams will come true”. Throughout the entire movie poor Cinderella does nothing but dreams her dream. Sure, she busy doing chores, singing and occasionally crying, but as far as doing anything to make her dream come true, there isn’t a single step she ever takes. Her most notable achievement is following simple get-out-of-the-palace-before-midnight instructions to the letter. This post isn’t a movie review, so I’m not going to analyze Cinderella’s character or discuss grave reality of poor girl’s circumstance. This post is about the message. The message “Keep dreaming and your dreams will come true” is not entirely accurate. To be more precise, it’s a blatant lie. The real world doesn’t work this way. Never has, never will. Otherwise, all poor orphans would’ve been marrying a prince or at least a common millionaire.

When it comes to dreams, the world’s true mantra, the last time I checked was somewhat different: “Work your butt off making your dreams come true and then maybe it will happen”. That’s how the world really works, and that’s why you know who Susan Boyle is. It’s not because she was doing chores patiently, waiting for producers to show up in her yard. It’s because she was working on her dream for decades. Now 49, she’s been singing her entire adult life. She’s been entering local competitions, losing some and winning others. She’s been creating demos and sending them out to producers all over U.K. She’s been dedicating herself to her dream and has been the exact opposite of dreamy Cinderella. That line from Wikipedia says it all: “In 1999, Boyle used all her savings to pay for a professionally cut demo, copies of which she later sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV”.

And now Susan is about to make someone almost as famous as is. Someone unknown, someone talented, someone lucky (actually by the time this post got published, Susan has already picked the winner — American medic Amber Stassi). What about the rest? There are thousands of entries in Susan’s Search Gallery. Men and women, old and young from all over the world. Behind every entry is hope. Behind every entry is a dream. What will happen to these dreams now, that the winner is picked? Are they going to get crushed? Will people move on? Will they forget about the whole thing? Actually, it’s all of the above.

People who’ve been working on making their dreams come true will simply cross Susan’s Search off a very long list of competitions they’ve entered. People who have simply jumped on the opportunity will forget about it. And people who haven’t done much for their dreams before, but somehow thought this was The Chance will be disappointed. Some may even feel heartbroken. Because this is not how fairy tales work. Because it was supposed to be that easy. But alas… it isn’t. For a single chance to work, you need to try tens, hundreds, thousands of other changes. Success is a volume business.

Whether you are one of these people or someone with a dream, expecting it to come true one day, thanks to something like Susan’s search, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t fall victim to CDS. If you have a dream – a real dream, one that makes your heart go faster – go after it. Go after it, or don’t deceive yourself. You don’t need fairy godmothers to get a chance. These days, if you have talent, all you need is your will. Do whatever it is you wanted to be great at and share it with the world. Create your very own YouTube channel, start your blog, post your photos on Flickr – there are hundreds of ways to let people see you shine. Do it day after day, week after week, month after month. Listen to people’s reaction, find inspiration in their words, get better every time. And if you’re good – if you’re that good – people will notice. They will start telling others about you. They come back asking you for more. They will help you to become even better. And one day that dream will come true.

Fairy tales don’t happen. But those who are not afraid to go after their dreams sometimes become legends.

  1. Adam says:

    Great. Really, really great.

    Seriously, Thank you for writing this. Most of your posts seem to relate so closely to my own life and goals, but this one really hit home. Lately I have been feeling like all the work I am putting towards my dream is going nowhere–that I am simply running in circles. Sometimes I’ll feel like I’m not a good enough singer, or other times like I just can’t seem to write a song that’s worth keeping. But then I realize that I can’t always (or ever) wait for a hit song to just pop into my head out of nowhere, and I can’t always expect to record a perfect version of my song the first time around. It takes time, and most of all, effort. I am starting to see that there will always be rough patches in this pursuit of a dream, but there will also be moments where it pays off.

    So, I’ve just got to keep working at it. Because hell, if this is what I want to do more than anything else in the world, it’s gonna take everything I have inside me to achieve it. Thank you Unmaskd for continuing to motivate and inspire me with your words, and for reminding me to fight on.

    Quote of the day: “Success is a volume business.”


    • unmaskd says:

      Adam, perhaps you would like to post links to some of your songs here? You may find some interested listeners on this site.

      Glad to hear that the message resonates — it took me a while to realize the “volume” part myself, but this is really how it works.


    • Sunshine says:

      Is anyone else hanging around here during these stangant times? I find myself coming back and reading posts and comments again every now and then. Adam, please post one of your songs for us to hear (or at least the lyrics)–I’d love to listen to and/or read what you have (providing both is ideal so we can be certain to know the intended words that can be hard to distinguish).


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sheri Lynn Pritchett, Unmaskd. Unmaskd said: Why Dreams Don’t Always Come True or Cinderella Delusion Syndrome http://bit.ly/cdsyn […]


  3. Amy says:

    I think the motivation site editor was worried you’d steal his/her audience! Nice blog, thanks!


  4. K. says:

    To be honest, I thought it was okay but not a finished piece. I feel like I have read this many times: hard work is a necessary but not sufficient condition… As a teacher, I would say: re-write, tighten, look for some different examples, dig a bit deeper for the essential points you are trying to make.

    And remember, you asked! :0


  5. Rae says:

    I think there’s an additional point to be made about dreaming that’s somewhere along the lines of “clarifying your objective”. Getting discovered or being famous or having lots of money are all fine things if that’s what you decide is really important to you, but it is also okay to create art for art’s sake, to press CDs of your original songs just for the joy of giving them away, to share photos because you love taking photos. How much of “the dream” is about our own egos and validation, and not about the art / the whatever at all? Perhaps it is enough that we each explore and develop our dreams for ourselves, whether or not anybody else applauds.


  6. Ashley says:

    I only got to the middle of the 2nd paragraph when it became blaringly obvious to me why the article was unpublished! This is a “get something for nothing” and an “instant gratification” world. Many people have forgotten the value of a dollar and how hard we must work to achieve success. Dreams don’t come true by “wishing upon a star”..I’m sorry they just don’t (or it’s very rare). The easy way is rarely the best way. I’ve lived my whole life around struggles and people who have had to work hard to get everything they have. And sometimes still went without things some people consider “necessity”. I was made (forced) to be thankful for what we did have and made to think of those less considerate. THANK GOD for that. Sure, as a teenager it probably annoyed the crap out of me. Especially when I didn’t have the newest Nike’s or designer clothes. Dreams or achieving them was a laughable topic. It was “do or die”, “sink or swim”. Survival mode. That often meant working in a factory well over 40 hrs a week, a farm, a steel mill or for some, the military. College was a dream for some people. I’m undecided if dreams always come true. I DO know you have to want it and want it bad. You have to be willing to go over 60 mph at some point. You have to REACH for the stars and not just wait for them to fall in your lap. I think all this mixed in with the right amount of faith, trust and destiny is the perfect recipe. We just have to figure out the right measures and be really hungry for the meal 🙂


  7. Ashley says:

    * less considerate was meant to be less fortunate* (slaps forehead)


  8. My fairy godmother gave me some good tunes to jam out to while working at walmart and scrubbing my single mom floor 🙂
    You know what my dream is?
    Being able to have a place to sing and a floor to clean.

    What am I going to do now that all my dreams have come true?

    I guess I’ll just keep doing that until prince charming gets off his ass and starts to clean the other side of my floor with me.

    Much love Maskd man.


  9. Felicia says:

    Well, I understand why the motivation site would not post this. Somewhere along the way, folks haven’t gotten the idea that it’s okay to just keep telling others if they dream long enough and hard enough that dreams can come true. It’s okay to be realistic and give people motivation. The term Cinderella Delusional Syndrome is such perfect description. It’s okay to say that dreams that you have a passion for require work and if it’s work you don’t like or end up hating than the dream is not really “the” dream. It’s so much a fairy tale to use Cinderella as part of motivating someone to reach for the stars by simplying hoping beyond hope. I know motivation is about making people feel good and positive but hard work along with determination makes a dream realized so much more rewarding than just stumbling into the right circumstances.


  10. 15sundevil77 says:

    I couldn’t help but think about Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” while reading this post. If you haven’t read this book already, I highly suggest it. It is an interesting look at “what” makes a person successful and why some people succeed far more than others. Gladwell argues that people do not find success in the traditional ways we think they do – by following their dreams and relying on their intellegence and ambitions – rather, people are successful due to a series of circumstances based on the world around them. A very unique and thought-provoking perspective when trying to wrap your own head around “success.”


    • unmaskd says:

      I’ve read Outliers, and while I found the theory intriguing, I couldn’t fully agree with it. Yes, the circumstances behind any success story play a more significant role than we typically assume and Gladwell makes a very compelling argument to support this claim. But I think he does it at expense of power of will, determination and talent.

      My view is that people who really “make it” do it not because but *despite* the circumstances. This is what makes them great.


  11. Diane_Can says:

    Interesting comment Rae. I like what you had to say. I didn’t get that unmaskd was talking specifically about “getting” applause. We are here to be all we can be, but we are also here to serve and make this world better for having been here.


  12. Cecelia says:

    Yah, Damsel In Distress fairy tales are definitely the kind of stories that are best left untold. But they exist unfortunately.

    I never really liked the Cinderella tale, nor Snow White but I have to say, there is definitely something about Rapunzel and her hair that caught my ear. Her name just flowed and so did her mane. Little Red Riding Hood- now there is some imagination.
    And if only the witch with the apple had botox, snow white would have lived her life instead of slept through most of it. What about mermaid tales….those seem to flow beautifully. Timeless tales about music love and the sea, but with all these oil spills, can they really survive to revive… I hope so.

    While our dreams may inspire the artwork of our lives, they are not the architecture.
    Rainbows are like illusions but they inspire hope because of tales of luck and if fate has it and you witness it at that snippet of time that it is there- it is by chance that you are there and probably pleased to see it despite its usual primary colours. Its luck to share with who ever else is witnessing it with you.

    Hope inspires newer tales- yet to be told. Why they are called Fairy Tales, who really knows but maybe they come from the whispers of Nature that we hear in the soundtrack of our heart when we leave the gate to its garden open. We all hear it differently and perhaps we lock it at night but we do not all have a locksmith.

    I had a dream just once that I unravelled a scarf and jumped up and I could literally float across a room. While that could only become a reality to someone if that someone indeed had the illusion of me doing so, or I am in powerful love and having a deja-vu. A sensation I hope to feel until I am old and grey, like my wardrobe.

    Susan Boyle had something to prove, it was not a dream it was her voice and everybody was taken aback with her from day one, because she believed in herself and moonstruck-slapped everyone upside the conscience.

    I wish she was on Twitter.


  13. Perfectly stated & I love this! Absolutely truth 🙂 When you do something you’re passionate & love, nothing will stop you but you. Thank you for your elegant words spoken to inspire many to keep living their dream


  14. Leigh aka not_broken77 says:

    fairy tales can happen for some people, but they soon turn into a nightmare or a reality check!
    and i agree that if you are that good, people will notice, but they also seem to notice people who are absolute bullshit and give them a break they do not deserve, let alone earned.


  15. psychicsarah says:

    *Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your Golden Hair…*

    Yep the halo effect …one of the uses of long blonde hair…gets ’em every time!

    As for Cinderfeckinrella

    I think the whole point of the Cinderella story is that the poor girl was singled out by *Destiny* and Prince Charming…

    She did not have to do anything but be herself …. Ohhhh here we go again….

    (Roasted Guinea pig any1?!)

    Cinders DID invest in her Dream in the only way available to her.

    Her dream was fairly basic…she simply wanted to get out of the house and into a pumpkin…away from the humdrum for just a night…we all need a night out on occasion right?

    Cinders did not try to escape her lot …she bided her time….she was patient…and awaited her Destiny *Moment*…

    She knew something special was going to happen…and it DID…so she wasn’t deluded!

    She tuned in to her unconscious and followed through. Her belief was vindicated and she was ultimately granted her wish.

    Cinders in her apparently static oppressive situation put thought, focus and energy into her *Dream*

    I don’t think she had notions of Prince Charming…he was simply the unexpected *icing on the cake*…

    Thank God she lost her shoe otherwise things may never have changed…

    The Universe lined up a synchronicity event which turned the course of her life.

    Even as Cinders tried to escape her *Dream* (because she did not feel comfortable with it beyond a point)….it would not let her go….

    HE would not let her go…

    Cinders’ Destiny was fulfilled through the random (?) loss of a shoe…

    Which just goes to show…

    Even if we put ourselves in the way of our Dreams we are still reliant on that Destiny Factor to deliver them.

    Strive as we might we may not get lucky unless the Synchronous moment supports our goal.


    • Ashley says:

      I’m gonna have to agree with @psychicsarah on this part. Cinderella wasn’t asking for Prince Charming, a carriage or a glass slipper. As a matter of fact..she was just minding her own business and being bossed around while humbly doing what she was told and what she felt she deserved. The only thing she was “guilty” of was wanting to go to the Ball she was invited to. Then the Fairy Godmother showed up and turned it all around. The rest is history as they say. But did Cinderella ask for this? I don’t think so. Actually, when Prince Charming came to claim his princess, Cinderella still sat humbly by. But I know this isn’t the whole point of your blog. But for the record, I don’t believe Cinderella was deluded. Now the readers on the other hand…that’s another story. They are now waiting for their Godmothers and instant claim to fame or a fairytale ending. And that’s the point I believe unmaskd is trying to make.


  16. psychicsarah says:

    The Gooood news is…if we invest enough focus, time and energy in our Dreams the Universe will likely give us the opening we seek…it is then up to us what we do with that opportunity

    If we have the X Factor in that moment then this will be noticed…

    If we don’t then we can kiss our dreams goodbye as TALENT is a prerequisite for worldy success more often than not…

    The delusions set in if we are striving for something we have no chance of delivering…Why try to be a popstar if you can’t sing?

    Susan Boyle was an amazing story because she had the *Voice* and the talent….

    The important thing is she didn’t LOOK the part

    Susan challenged our expectations that you have to be super cute to succeed in Show Bis….this (along with her talent) is why she caused such a storm….she was a normal Scottish middle aged woman from a grey suburb with apparently NO chance of making an impression

    The other thing is about Susan is that she *channels* an energy when she sings…

    For some reason all that time singing in Churches has given her a link to the Heavenly Realms…

    Now I might sound delusional saying this….but listen to her sing & U will C what I mean…


  17. PersephoneInsde says:

    I agree with the post and the idea of practicing, honing and relentless ambitiousness to capture your goals. I also strongly agree with @psychicsarah on the different perspective of ‘Cinders’ fairy tale wish not being Prince Charming, but a simple sense of happiness. I don’t want to take anything away from the inspirational ‘get off your ass and make life all you can’ kind of message @unmaskd’s post is meant to invoke (and does.) Simply put, my perspective is a bit different.

    Susan Boyle put all of this hard work and determination in and kept following her dreams of one day making it big, becoming famous (because this is what society tells us is the pinnacle.) Then she made it big and we all know that story took a turn far from Cinderella’s. Susan wasn’t ready for all that the not-so-pure world of fame tried to take from her and throw back. Reasonably so, she is a human being and no one should ever be submitted to such provocations, simply because they want to share their passion and form of artistry. So it makes me wonder, was Susan’s real dream to make it big and be a star, only because this is what we measure achievement by. Or was she really like the simplistic view of Cinderella, and merely wanted to be happy singing and sharing her gift with the world?

    Our dreams are real and most definitely achievable. The reality is too often our own dreams are mangled in the perspective of someone else. We may one day wake up and realize that dream we worked so hard for, really isn’t even our own. It’s a delicate balance and each day is a chance to redefine what we really want. We all have the potential to be legends, just don’t forget to define that big word. Also, expect that definition to change and don’t think your fairy-tale is over, just because there was a little change in the story line. The best stories are still the ones with a happy ending, at least they are in my opinion (the perspective of a simple girl.)


  18. psychicsarah says:

    OOps It must be all this of Cinders…

    I just found a RED slipper (& a rubber Duck) on the beach



  19. PersephoneInsde says:

    …a simple girl with a severe case of CDS (just not *that* kind of CDS.) 😉


  20. Dawn says:

    Cinderella stories rarely happen although having a fairy godmother is a nice thought. In this world to get what you want you either have to work your ass of for it or have a lot of money to buy what you want. Even dreams can be purchased for the right amount of money. Of course buying your dream does not give you the same sense of satisfaction as having accomplished it on your own and you are rarely successful in the long term if you aren’t willing to put in the work. My biggest problem has always been deciding what I want and sticking with it. I have interests in many areas so sometimes sticking with one particular thing has been difficult. Without that focus, even hard work won’t get you very far.

    Yes, it’s easy to see why this was rejected. People don’t like to be told they have work when they can just sit around and dream. The idea of having to work for something isn’t very motivational 🙂


  21. jdifarnecio says:

    I agree with Dawn that it was likely not published because it wasn’t very motivational, however true. It would be even less motivational if another key piece hadn’t been missing – it’s not only about working hard and being proactive in getting what you want, there has to be an actual opportunity there. If there is no opportunity, you can work at something all day long, still not going to change the fact that it just isn’t going to happen.


  22. JD_278 says:

    Fortune Cookie Wisdom for Wednesday, 9/1/2010:

    “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

    Thought it was well-timed, sage advice courtesy of my lunch from Hot Wok.

    For those interested in being a millionaire the Lucky Numbers on the back are 50, 47, 10, 7, 33, 15. 😉

    I remembered reading a quote by Tim Rice (lyricist who has worked frequently with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John) and thought it would go well here:

    “We all dream a lot – some are lucky, some are not. But if you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real. You are what you feel.”

    Be your own Fairy Godmother and/or Prince Charming.


    • psychicsarah says:

      That’s true….it is impossible to manifest the impossible….unless you FEEL it!

      A pure heart can manifest just about anything!


  23. areweoutoftime says:

    Took me a while to get around to reading this, but I’m here now, yay!

    The only thing that leapt out at me in this post that I felt I had to comment on was Unmaskd’s statement here: What is the story’s key message?… let me give you my answer. The message is, “Keep dreaming and your dreams will come true”.

    I had always thought that the key message was that nice people who work hard and honestly, are ultimately rewarded in some way. Well, that’s what I always took from it anyway.

    Cinderella is never rude, always obliging and works hard in the face of much opposition. In the end she gains a life she couldn’t even have imagined before. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that that message that I took from the story (nice people who work hard and honestly, are ultimatly rewarded) is false, but nonetheless that’s what I took from it.

    Presumably it’s fairly obvious why I believe that message is false, many people are nice, honest, hardworking, and instead of being rewarded are dealt blow after blow in life.

    In relation to Unmaskd’s argument that it takes more than just dreams to make success, I completely agree. We are, as someone else mentioned, living in an
    instant-world where we expect gratification immediately.

    I think most of us need to relearn the true meaning of hard work, and the correlation between wanting something and being willing to fight for it. Too often, I think, people want something, but they are not willing to fight for it. Not as hard as they should, anyway. I include myself in that sweeping generalisation by the way. Good post Mask.


    • psychicsarah says:

      …its all very right

      But the reality is that sometimes too things just fall into your lap!

      (admittedly a rare event but not to be discounted)


  24. Mike says:

    This is a great followup to the previous post, “A Lie, a Truth and a Used Car”. Ultimately, being yourself has everything to do with your dreams and aspirations, and you may or may not have to change things about you along the way to achieve that dream, but it’s all an evolution of an individual.

    As a recent college graduate looking to pursue my own dreams, this article is incredibly relative to the position I am in. Every single day I’m working, perfecting my portfolio/resume, and working on my website to publish. The world is so competitive out there, like the article says, you have to do as much as you can to get noticed in the world. I just “hope” that someday my hard work will pay off.


  25. Chanda says:

    I completely agree that achieving your dreams requires hard work and dedication. My own personal mantra is “I can do anything I put my mind to”, and it has served me well, but there is a certain amount of luck or chance that plays a part in it.

    It also means you have to choose your dreams within reason! Sure, I could dream to be a singer, but no amount of work and dedication could ever make that a reality. I don’t have the talent to make it happen…although didn’t William Hung from Idol fame record an album?!

    Really though, Susan Boyles’ story should be told to our children rather than Cinderella’s. Thanks for the post!


  26. Sunshine says:

    Dreams are reality if you discover how to embrace them. If your soul really wants beyond this glimpse of life your dreams will come true to infinity.


  27. DGAF says:



  28. Anonymous says:

    I hate when you really believe you can do something but it is impossible and how down you feel


  29. I think the point is that there is no such thing as a true overnight sensation. People who become famous seemingly out of nowhere have been working hard at it for a long long time. If you’re dreaming of becoming an actress, you need to be WORKING at it and taking every opportunity you can. Is it possible to be “discovered” on the street? Sure, one in a million chance, but you don’t put all your stock in that. You still have to be good enough and have worked at it hard enough by the time you’re “discovered”. Those contestants on The Voice? They’ve been rehearsing for weeks and weeks before their auditions and interviews. Everybody has to pay their dues. Everybody.


  30. Anonymous says:

    Just what I needed to hear.


  31. Anonymous says:

    This is touching, but dreams only come true if you work hard towards it.
    If you have dreams, and you are lazy then your dreams dont come true.


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