Learning Self-Compassion

With a little help from Zelda.

The 13th memory from Breath of the Wild has been haunting me. It’s been happening for months.

At first I called it sympathy. In the memory, Zelda prays at the Spring of Power. By the end, when she’s heard no voices and awakened no powers, she’s nearly in tears. “Please just tell me,” she begs. “What is it…? What’s wrong with me?”

It was easy, on my first playthrough, to be sympathetic. Zelda’s trying her best, under pressure, with little to no guidance. In some ways, that memory felt universal.

I should’ve known it meant more to me.

After my initial sympathy wore off, I thought Zelda’s desperation was what resonated with me. The memory takes place around her seventeenth birthday. Where was I, at that age? I’d just quit tennis, a sport I’d wanted to play professionally. I knew a thing or two about wanting direction.

Even that explanation didn’t feel complete, though. After beating the DLC, I found myself wondering who Zelda might’ve been if her mother had lived and taught her to use her powers. That would’ve made for a very different game.

Then I wondered who I might’ve been, if I’d had a mentor too.

For years I’d repressed my sexuality. I didn’t know how to care for myself, so I lived an ugly, self-hatred spiral. How many times had I asked Zelda’s question? It wasn’t sympathy or desperation that made the 13th memory so haunting—it was my own sense of unworthiness, reflected back.

Self-acceptance and self-compassion are hard. In that memory, Zelda could use both. I could’ve, too—maybe from queer mentors or role models. Could they have helped me through some of my self-hatred? Who might I have been, without it?

I wish things could’ve been different for both of us.

By Natalie Schriefer

Natalie Schriefer, MFA is a bi/demi writer and academic editor. Her tech and gaming writing has appeared online with WIRED, Paste Games, Videodame, and others. Say hi on Twitter @schriefern1 or visit her website:

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