“I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was the ugly duckling.”
–Hans Christian Andersen
The ugly duckling
Do you remember the story of Ugly Duckling?
The ugly duckling was told to be ugly by his Mother Duck, siblings and even the hens on the farmyard. The Mother Duck was shocked by how big and ugly he was. The other ducks were teasing and pecking him. They were making fun of him until one day the ugly ducking flew away. He believed he was the ugliest bird under the sun. He wanted to die.
He wandered around looking for a place where he belonged. Yet, he was an outcast in everywhere. He was clearly different. And even though he was intimidated, he chose to respond with kindness.
In the spring, he saw graceful swans on a lake and felt an urge to join them. When he was approaching them, he suddenly noticed his own reflection in the water. And he was taken back by what he saw. He looked alike. He was a swan, not a ducking. What a surprise! All other swans welcomed him warmly and appreciated him. And suddenly … they found him to be beautiful.
Even the kids playing around the lake complimented on the majestic look of the new swan.
How happy was he!
This little story is a metaphor how we feel when we are different from those around us. Even though these are lonely and painful times, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us.
Being different is about being an individual. And even though we long for confirmation and acceptance, our difference makes us special. It allows us to explore our unique traits and talents.
When we are different, we will likely not be understood, or appreciated. Perhaps we may even be intimidated or laughed at.
When we accept and embrace our difference with courage, we can better focus on seeing the value we bring in. It is a difference, not the norm, that sparks creativity and leads to progress.
When we find we are different than the people around, let us remember that there will come a time when we will find our flock. All the loneliness we have felt will help us appreciate the acceptance when we find it.
And in meantime, let us bring this difference into the world!
How can I appreciate the ways I am different from others today?