Birds of a feather
A sense of belonging allows us to embrace our uniqueness
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
◗ An old-school fairytale still has relevance in this sometimes harsh world.