Birds of a feather

A sense of be­long­ing al­lows us to em­brace our unique­ness

Life & Style Weekend - - MIND - WITH Rowena Hardy

DO YOU know Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen’s tale The Ugly Duck­ling? I found an old car­toon clip of it the other day and was re­minded about its pow­er­ful mes­sage. Here is my mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion. When a mother duck’s eggs hatch in a farm­yard, one of the hatch­lings doesn’t look like the other duck­lings and its dif­fer­ences are quickly no­ticed. He’s told that he’s ugly and is dis­owned by the mother. He ex­pe­ri­ences ver­bal and physical abuse from the other birds and an­i­mals on the farm. How of­ten do we hear to­day that young chil­dren are treated un­kindly, aban­doned, marginalis­ed or bul­lied and abused by oth­ers be­cause they don’t seem to fit or are dif­fer­ent in some way? The young duck­ling leaves and finds com­pany with wild ducks and geese un­til the flocks are wiped out by hunters. He then finds shel­ter with an old woman but is teased and chased away by her cat and hen. Some­times we look to other groups and in­di­vid­u­als to con­nect with but things hap­pen and cir­cum­stances change and we can be left alone again be­cause some mem­bers of the new group don’t ac­cept us. The lonely duck­ling notices a flock of mi­grat­ing swans and is de­lighted by them and wants to join them so that he can get away but he is too young to fly. We of­ten look up to oth­ers and as­pire to be like them but some­times the tim­ing is wrong or we don’t know how to become like them. As win­ter ar­rives, the duck­ling is found and given shel­ter by a farmer but is scared by his noisy chil­dren and runs away. At times, we find tem­po­rary com­fort with those who are kind and well-mean­ing and ac­cept us for who we are but we may become fear­ful of oth­ers around us and want to run away. The duck­ling takes shel­ter in a cave and man­ages to sur­vive un­til spring when he sees the flock of swans re­turn­ing. We can hide away and get through but it doesn’t feel as though we are re­ally liv­ing and en­joy­ing life be­cause it seems no­body re­ally cares and ac­cepts us for who we are and we can become iso­lated as a re­sult. Now fully ma­tured, the ugly duck­ling can no longer en­dure the hard­ship and lone­li­ness and de­cides he’d rather be killed by the beau­ti­ful swans than con­tinue feel­ing iso­lated. But in­stead of at­tack­ing him, the swans wel­come and ac­cept him and it’s only when he looks at his re­flec­tion in the wa­ter that he re­alises he is one of them. He joins the flock. We all need to have a sense of be­long­ing with our own flock or tribe. When we find our fit it gives us the space and op­por­tu­nity to em­brace our unique­ness rather than be iso­lated be­cause of it. In that en­vi­ron­ment we are able to thrive. Have you found your flock?

Rowena Hardy is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, per­for­mance coach and part­ner of Minds Aligned: www.mind­saligned.com.au

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

◗ An old-school fairy­tale still has rel­e­vance in this some­times harsh world.

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