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!)