The BBC cartoon: Ugly Ducking has been teaching children life lessons since it was first written in 1805.
The Plot: a loving duck-couple is expecting a number of baby ducks and when they all hatch, there's one duckling that looks: different. Not ugly, but just different. However, the duck-parents disown this 'ugly' duckling, who then travels around the ponds and jungles, looking for people who would just accept it and be its friends. It was searching for somewhere to call home, but fails repetitively.
The 'ugly' duckling is obviously heart broken and feels ugly, unloved and has nowhere that it belongs.
Until one day, other ducklings who look and behave just like it, turn up and welcome it to the family. The 'not-so-ugly-anymore-duckling' finally regains its confidence, feels loved and realises its worth and starts living its life happily.
Meanwhile the duck-couple who rejected this duckling for being ugly (different), notice that it's found friends, and accept its existence. Not like the duckling cared anymore...
I don't know about you, but apart from my heart going out to this sad, lonely (fictional) duckling, I can personally pin point quite a few parts of the story to reality.
ACCEPT BEING DIFFERENT
Ducks aside, humans can be shallow. Whether its generations of building up images in our minds on who is beautiful and who is not, or just our preconceptions... we judge. Since 1995, online dating has been commercialising our shallowness. Nowadays we can take a whole 2 seconds to swipe left at the first sight of 'unpleasant' or 'ugly'. Meanwhile, the health and beauty brand: Dove fights back with their Self-Esteem Project for adults and children.
Children can go through a lot of self-doubt while growing up, leading to possible health risks from skipping meals or even being accustomed to bullying and mental pressure and even depression... just because they're different. According to Dove, 9 out of 10 girls in the UK have low body esteem. We can blame media as much as we want, models, celebrities, the internet, or Instagram, but we can't change what is.
It all starts with acceptance. Over the years, I have personally tried to embrace being different by accepting my 'flaws' as part of who I am. I've had a huge complex about my teeth, my height, my weight... the usual deal for many. But with time I have learned to accept it (or work with what I have). Only then, was I able to build on my confidence and most importantly, I stopped comparing myself endlessly to the rest of the world. This doesn't mean that I sit on the couch and eat all the food I want and walk out of the house with no make up and frumpy clothes (okay, sometimes...). I believe in being the best version of myself, and then loving that version of me.
If we work on improving our own image of ourselves, respect our efforts to be our best, we feel better and the same life will start looking beautiful again. When the 'ugly' duckling wandered around and was reassured of its beauty as a duckling, it finally started to see the same life it has, differently.
In short, be the Swan that you are!
We can feel lost if we don't know where we belong.
In a TED Talk: 'There's more to life than being happy', according to Emily Esfahani Smith, 'Belonging' is one of the four virtual pillars of a 'happy life'. Personally, I know when I am at home or with my family, I feel safe and at peace. There's no judgement, no make up, no fashionable attire and yet there's warmth and a welcoming feeling. Family for everyone is different. For some, family is not always blood-related. It could include your colleagues, friends, dog... it's where the heart is. Home is also where you reflect, feel grounded and recharge on your confidence, self-worth and energy to deal with the Big Bad World out there.
According to Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist saint, the four qualities of true love are:
3. Joy (to ourselves and the ones we love)
4. Equanimity (nonattachment, non-discrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go).
Clearly, the duck-couple who rejected the little duckling, had none of these four qualities and unfortunately, the world has quite a few people who don't have these traits to share true love.
If the duckling never ventured out to look for a home or friends, and decided to cry to its own misery in a corner of the jungle, it would never have known its worth and wouldn't have learnt about different types of ducks and birds around the ponds. It would not have found its family either.
Travel brings us insight, opens our minds to appreciate different places, people, nature, food and ourselves. So occasionally, if we get 'lost' in life or during a journey, we can see where it takes us and try to learn from the journey, rather than despise everything and avoid the whole ordeal altogether.
The sooner you stop caring, whether its about what your neighbours or distant relatives would think about your career choice, what your colleagues would think about how you work, or how much fellow commuters stare at you for wearing your favourite bright yellow dress... the sooner you will do more things that make you happy and become a better version of you.
The little duckling was only just born to find out it was unwanted by those who looked at it as different to them. However, with some wandering, some rejection, acceptance and some life experience, it would have known whose 'judgement' to take on board e.g. the opinion of close family members or friends who show it true love, versus the shallow opinion of others, who don't matter.
And while you're at it, why not commercialise this story as a TV advert for a car brand? (Well done Audi!)
You'll be pleased to know that this article is not about Galileo or Isaac Newton's 'Law of Motion' (unless you actually liked Physics in school).
Many of us resist change as we get used to our lives being on 'autopilot'. Whether it's because we prefer not to venture too far beyond our comfort zones, or we just don’t like the uncertainty of unfamiliar territory, or we start to feel like we are losing control over situations, routines, or even our lives.
when things change
Your job changes, your best friend starts dating someone (slowly putting an end to your regular nights out), you change schools, you become a parent, you get married, or divorced, someone leaves you, or you leave them, you relocate, or someone close to you relocates... all of these (and more) could impact us as individuals in different ways and can require additional mental and physical effort. Not knowing what to expect or do after times of change, could raise the temptation to resist it all and simply cling on to what we already have or know.
I personally hate change and resist it like the plague, but over the years, whether it's change that happened voluntarily or involuntarily, I have learnt one thing: change makes us learn, at least something, if we look hard enough.
1. learn about ourselves
When things change, we could learn more about ourselves and how we manage our emotions and situations in such times.
There are times when I may not even like how I behave with change, which is when I have learnt that trying to ground myself to my original principles and beliefs, sense-check them with reality and speak to my trusted sources (close friends, family, mentors, etc.), really helps bring me up to speed.
Part of me believes that once we come out of a lot of changes, our endurance, mental strength and ability to deal with future changes improves. As per the saying: Practice makes perfect.
From a personal development point of view, change could be a blessing in disguise.
2. learn about others
Change can also teach us a few things about others. Sometimes it can be a test of our relationships with, and our understanding of, other people, including those we think we know very well, and those we don't. Someone you barely know, could come and save your life or help you during times of change or difficulty, or someone (you think) you know very well could either help you when in need, or disappear and disappoint. We can't control how others behave and feel about us, but events and changes can make us learn more about the people who were, are and will be in our lives.
Change can also be exciting! It could open the doors to new opportunities for personal growth and experience, that you wouldn't have even thought were there.
To give some personal examples, for instance: my brother, sister-in-law and my two-year old nephew recently relocated from London to Dubai. Initially, the idea was just a 'let's see what happens if I apply' situation. When this materialised, it was a shock to the system: coming to terms with the fact that they won't be a fifteen minute journey away anymore (more like seven hours...) and we will miss our weekly live entertainment from my two-year-old nephew).
For them, this was a serious decision to get out of their comfort zone after almost two decades, including important lifestyle changes such as foregoing the luxury of having easy access to the pub, to needing an alcohol-license for the nominated male of the household (no, not my nephew). Jokes aside, I can only imagine how scary it could be to work somewhere so different (so hot!!) and adapt to their culture, save money and also live a fulfilling life, while they are out there.
Having said that, they overcame the inertia of preferring to stay where they were in life, based on a comprehensive SWOT analysis, and decided to relocate as the opportunities to experience a 'new life', to learn, and to meet new people from all over the world outweighed the sacrifice of their 'comfort zone'.
As a sibling, from my point of view, I see this as an exciting opportunity to come up with a new routine, travel to Dubai more often, explore the city and the surroundings of the U.A.E and also get to hear all about life in the Middle East through them.
the low point...
Having said all the positive things about coming out of inertia and the benefits of going through change, we can't ignore the fact that not all changes are good or work out well for everyone. Sometimes we could be left in a serious situation if say, we suddenly lost a loved one or we lose our jobs and have nowhere to stay. At that point in time, there may be little or no reason why that would be a good thing. However, if there wasn't hope, there wouldn't be a life worth living. I have mentioned 'optimism' earlier, and I believe that it's all about how we try to gradually turn the situation around, to the best of our abilities, with the given circumstances, over the long run. I have to admit that some of the most memorable things I have experienced in my life so far, was either a trigger for change, or because of change.
The moral of this article, at least for me, is that we all experience inertia in different levels and forms, whether it's physical or mental. However, we can look at it as an opportunity, find ways to adapt to make them work for us and also accept 'what is’...
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