Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ugly Duckling

I have been taking care of my nephews this week while their parents work hard to feed all of us. They are 3 (almost 4) and 19 months. My youngest nephew really likes ducks, a growling quack was one of the first "words" he uttered. Last fall, I got a copy of the soundtrack from Hans Christian Andersen which has a copy of the Ugly Duckling on it:



We were listening to this song in the car (as we do pretty much every single day) and when it was over my older nephew said, "But I thought all the birds told him to go away." As I tried to explain the story to him, I realized it wasn't really an easy concept to explain. "Well, they did tell him to go away, but then he wasn't ugly anymore so everyone liked him." That just sounds wrong. Be pretty and everyone will love you? Awesome.

Obviously, I didn't explain it to him that way. I said something more along the lines of he wasn't a duck at all...he was a swan the whole time! It didn't really answer his question, but he was satisfied. The whole thing got me thinking about how much our immediate social circles can influence the way we feel about ourselves. Our families and friends and coworkers can have such a lasting (and sometimes devastating) effect on our self esteem and our well being. I have known people in the past that made me feel like less of a person, people who made me question my worth simply by living their own lives. Our backgrounds, personal beliefs, decisions and individual insecurities can easily plant that little seed of self doubt in the people around us. It works both ways.

I don't really think there is a way to protect yourself from this type of thing. I think it is human nature. The only thing you can change and work on is yourself. You can work to be more perceptive. Remind yourself that everyone is different and what works for them may not work for you and that is okay. It's better than okay...it's what makes us unique and beautiful and lovely. You can work to be more encouraging to the people around you. Try to pay attention to when they need a pick-me-up or just a smile. Sometimes it is hard to push aside your own worries (they can be so demanding), but it is definitely worth it.

7 comments:

Lis said...

Gail Carson Levine wrote a book called 'Fairest' about a really ugly girl who not many people like. In the book she ends up turning beautiful and it saves her life. (They don't kill her because she's beautiful and they just couldn't kill someone beautiful.) So if she had stayed her old ugly self, she would have been killed. It gives you a lot to think about.

Lin said...

Awesome. I actually have that book and know exactly what you are talking about. And it illustrates what I mean by this working both ways. Being extremely beautiful has its disadvantages the same as being unfortunate looking does...and they both can have a major effect on who we are.

Miri said...

The truth is that people are just incredibly shallow. We make tons of judgments about people based on their looks. Like if a guy you don't know comes up and compliments you, it can be either really sweet or really creepy, depending on how good-looking he is.
Here's something I wonder: Are people like that all over the world, or is it specific to some cultures? If you go to undeveloped parts of Africa, do they do the same thing? Is this a trait of human beings as a species, or just of modernized societies like ours?

Miri said...

I got distracted by the thought about other cultures and forgot to finish what I was going to say. People are shallow and that will never change, so like Lindsey says, what we have to do is learn to see ourselves the right way, and accept that maybe others won't. People who judge based on looks don't understand what really matters, and it's important to remember that so we can learn not to let it affect our view of ourselves and others.

annie said...

i never thought about what a strange message that story sends! maybe maren won't be growing up with that one. :)

Meg said...

In Hans's defense, I don't think the idea was, "Someday you'll be pretty and then everyone will love you!" I think it was more along the lines of, "Everyone is different and someday you'll find people who appreciate your personal kind of beauty - or you'll learn that being beautiful doesn't mean being like everyone else." I know that was the case with me.
On the other hand, if you aren't willing to dig into it a little, it does seem to be saying that people will like you when you stop being ugly. :)

Lin said...

Just so you know, I do like the story and I get Hans's moral...just trying to explain that to a 3 year old isn't easy. At least it wasn't before. haha.