We have all felt like ugly ducklings, misfits, fish out of water, ugly stepchildren; use the analogy that works for you.
We’ve all known rejection, the struggle to fit in, the desire for unconditional love.
These are the themes in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Ugly Duckling.
Take a moment to watch the classic 1939 Disney animated version, or read the original story.
All our stories are similar yet different.
Despite being born into a loving home, I grew up thinking of myself as an ugly duckling. A handful of life events were devastating. My first grade teacher actually told me I was stupid. Kids made fun of my looks in middle school. I even had a boyfriend who begged me to let him see me without makeup, then laughed hysterically when I did. These are not the kind of events that make us into healthy, happy, well adjusted individuals with appropriate levels of self-esteem.
You have your own stories, your own memories, your own pain.
In the story of the ugly duckling, we find a creature that was born happy and healthy. The pain he endured was the result of rejection, not fitting in, and being misplaced. He was not a duck at all, but rather a graceful and beautiful swan that was hatched in the wrong place.
We all have to work through our crap. We have to do the hard work of the soul to regain our true selves and find out place. We have to come to a place where the past no longer defines us.
I will never forget the day that I realized I was not stupid or ugly. It was a lightbulb moment when my world changed. It was also a milestone in a season of tremensous personal growth. I had to repent, forgive, and change my mindset; I had to be reborn to my true self.
In Andersen’s story, we find the following ah ha moment when the duck saw his reflection in the water:
“His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.”
We all suffer sorrow and trouble. They key is what we do with it.
Later in the story, the duck is shocked to receive bits of bread and cake thrown in the water by humans who admired his beauty.
“Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”
You have incredible worth. But maybe you need to re-find it.
Do the hard work of the soul. Face your demons. Examine who you really are compared to what others think you should be. Do whatever you must; read books, get counseling, open yourself to others, be willing to revisit your mistakes.
In the end, you will accept who you are, rediscover your beauty, and be able to receive the love of others.
You will experience true happiness you couldn’t image while you were an ugly duckling.