Posted on May 31 2022 by Kat Vadam
Feeling inadequate. Always faltering, failing, falling. You give it everything you have, but it’s never enough. Like all the potential in the world should somehow be in the palm of your hand, yet you just… can’t… grasp… it. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to do anything right. I know this is a feeling many have felt. I know this is something many deal with on a daily basis. I know that I am not alone.
This knowledge never stops the struggle. This knowledge never makes it better. Sometimes, all that can be comprehended is the realization that I should be able to meet my goals, to hold my potential in my hands, and to meet my destiny head on. I should… I should…
And still, I can’t. And here I am, stuck in between what I am and what I should be.
Welcome to anxiety. Welcome to depression. And welcome to May, Mental Health Awareness Month. It isn’t ever an easy topic to discuss, but in this day and age, with so many people suffering in silence, I want it to be known that you are not alone. And, as silly as it sounds, I wonder if this message is better received through the struggles of a beloved video game character who was never really allowed to feel like she was good enough.
I wonder if Zelda, Princess of Hyrule, through tears and trials of her own, can speak to all of us, the broken, the fearful, the inadequate.
So, here we go.
“What is wrong with me?”
For anyone who has played Breath of the Wild, you know the struggles Princess Zelda endured 100 years ago: an inability to unlock powers she’s been told she should have, after a lifetime of prayers and cries and passing out in the freezing cold waters of Shrines as she opens herself to goddesses unhearing. Her ancestors held within them the ability to confer with spirits, her mother and grandmother heard them speak. So she should, too, right? It’s in her blood. It is who she is meant to be. All she has ever heard is how she simply must unlock this hidden ability supposedly within her to be great, to be powerful, to stop evil in its tracks. Like it is her sole duty to her kingdom.
Yet, the spirits are silent to her, power eludes her, and her prayers go completely unanswered. She begs to know why she cannot hear them, and why she cannot perform the magic of her predecessors for the sake of Hyrule. It is a helplessness that I felt so deep within me while playing, because she asks the very question I have asked many times myself.
Not why I cannot save Hyrule, of course, but, “What is wrong with me?”
When I try so hard to even make it through life, be the person I know I should be, while others count on me and tell me, “You can do this,” “You’ve got this,” “You can get it if you just keep trying,” and the answers simply elude me, as though I alone am holding myself back. But I am trying, I keep going, and I fail, time and time again.
All I am left with is that dreadful question, repeating its mantra in my mind over and over until I can only believe, “What’s wrong with me is me.” A cold feeling echoed within Zelda’s tears as she sobbed at the Spring of Power. She was the cause of her own failure. She was not good enough, and neither am I.
“Everything I’ve done up until now… it was all for nothing!”
I will never forget when I saw the first bit of Zelda’s breakdown during the 2017 Switch Presentation trailer. How hard it hit, how it made me stop in my tracks and stare at the screen, mouth wide open. This had to be arguably one of the most — if not the most — emotional scenes in any Zelda game to date. An indication of the story to come once the game was released.
All her pain, all her feelings of hopelessness and grief, everything culminated in this one completely raw moment as her kingdom crumbled, her friends died, and she and Link ran through the rain, hand in hand. She had tried everything, and nothing worked. Her world fell apart.
“So I really am just a failure.”
Those words still reverberate within my head. They hurt, goddesses, did they hurt when I first heard them, because I know I have said the very same thing about myself. I am a failure. Nothing I have done has mattered. I can try and try and try, but it’s going to be for nothing.
I can only let people down. In panic attacks of my own, I know what it is like to break and tell myself, “I’m a failure. I’m just a failure.”
Just like Zelda.
I know I cried when I saw that whole scene during the game, because what she felt was so real. I still struggle to watch it when I play the game time and time again. Yet it’s probably my favorite memory, for the simple fact that I understand.
And I know I am not alone.
“Courage need not be remembered, for it is never forgotten.”
Watching Zelda cope with her feelings of helplessness, of inadequacy, honestly gave me a connection to Breath of the Wild that I did not know I needed, and I think maybe others could have felt the same. To watch her sob in the rain as she lamented her own fault felt like watching myself cry. To watch her shoulders droop when she was reminded that she had yet to fulfill her purpose dropped my own shoulders as I thought back on memories of my own.
And then to see her break through the pain… to see her power unlocked. Watching as her confidence swelled as she finally found the strength within herself to do what needed done, and to keep evil at bay. There was hope, a hope I know I still need reminding of sometimes.
Zelda’s trials in Breath of the Wild cannot be understated. She may be fictional, a character in a video game, but what she struggled with is very real. Many suffer in silence what she felt, inadequacies as she balanced what she believed she should be and the girl she truly wanted to be. She felt genuinely happy within her studies, as we find small joys in our own hobbies and talents. The little things that keep us going, keep us strong as self-doubt constantly beats us down and consumes us. And she found confidence and bravery within herself, not from the spirits. Not from the ancients who had ignored her pleas. Not from those who reminded her of her failure.
She found it all within herself.
The importance of finding these very human struggles of anxiety and depression within a game so loved is massive. Representation matters: mental health is not easy to talk about when it comes to real life, but to see ourselves represented in this character we’ve known through the years can help.
Within Breath of the Wild, within Zelda herself, many of our struggles are brought to light. They may not be the exact same struggles, but the feelings are there. And to me, that gives hope. Through that hope, I can open up to you, my readers, so that maybe, just maybe, someone reads and knows that it’s okay. You’re okay. Your feelings are valid.
You are not alone.
Kat Vadam is a grad student, mother of one, proud cat mom, and partner to someone far nerdier than her. Someday, she plans on giving up all her worldly possessions to move to the forest and become best friends with a korok. Were it so easy.