Diana wasn’t the perfect Princess.
She was a senior member of the British Royal Family and mother to the future King.
But she had problems with her mental health and a troubled marriage. She suffered from loneliness, isolation, and endured relentless intrusion by the media.
Historically, the royal family had always been a closed shop, their unofficial motto being “never complain, never explain.” They showed neither emotion nor any hint of personal drama.
But Diana’s enduring appeal was that she was different to them. Unashamedly human. One of us.
As a young woman I was inspired by her because, like the rest of us, she was fragile and vulnerable – but she was brave enough to actually show it.
Crucially, Diana knew it was of vital importance that all people felt loved and valued, something that the ‘greed is good’ 1980s mindset had neglected. And she didn’t just talk the talk, she truly walked the walk.
Throughout the 1980s/90s she inspired millions of people by bringing empathy and sensitivity on a huge scale to a modern world, a world where advancing technology meant that people were connecting with each other less and less.
She refused to shun those most vulnerable in society, those deprived areas that were normally ignored by the rich and famous.
Instead she went out of her way to show these people that they mattered. She made them feel special, making physical contact with sick and dying people, shaking hands with AIDS victims in the UK, visiting the Henry Street development in New York’s Lower East Side and spending time with patients at the Harlem Hospital.
There were no news items showing her shopping till she dropped at big label fashion stores; instead we saw her making time for those less fortunate, because she knew that they, more than anyone, needed love and compassion.
I recently started Elephant Academy’s Maitri course, and I was struck by this Japanese expression which Waylon shared with us:
“If you’re the nail that sticks up, you’re the one that gets hammered down.”
This immediately put me in mind of Diana, and compelled me to write about her today, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of her death.
Because she WAS that nail sticking up.
She remained true to herself and actually gave a care, using her profile to raise awareness of issues that were taboo, or simply shut away in those days, taking criticism not only with courage and vulnerability but also with a sense of humour.
In the UK, Diana was known as The People’s Princess. This year I am celebrating Diana’s memory by privately renaming her as the Maitri Princess. I feel inspired to follow her example of making friends with every part of herself, and as a result, being of benefit to others.
Nowadays, when there seems to be so much negativity in the world, this quote from her has touched me the most:
“Every one of us needs to show how much we care for each other, and in the process, care for ourselves.”
I’ve written this out and stuck it on my bathroom mirror as a little reminder to check in with myself, as some days I can forget to be kind to myself and others.
It’s not always easy when life gets stressful.
But that’s okay.