Most Of Us Are Ugly Ducklings

Our early hatching is lauded, our late hatching a reason for worry.

We’re expected from our earliest years be like the other ducklings. (Well, better than others but not stuck up about it.)

If we keep flying when it’s time to swim there’s medication to calm our out-of-bounds impulses. If we like to sing but can’t quack there’s a star chart to reinforce more appropriate sounds.

We’re graded on the dexterity we demonstrate when curling our beaks under our wings at nap time, tested on our ability to dip our heads under water, judged by our willingness to stay in line. Poor results means doing these things over and over again until we thoroughly detest ourselves for not measuring up.

When we don’t do as well as expected we’re told we just need to try harder to be the very best duckling we can be. We’re told that we aren’t living up to our potential. We’re told we need to get our priorities straight (or a growth mindset, or grit, or an attitude adjustment).

Ducklings from more affluent families might be enrolled in perfect-your-waddle coaching camps. Their preening may be assisted and their diets enhanced with imported bugs. Less fortunate ducklings may just get some quack tutoring.

When we’re still not like other ducklings most of us try even harder to be normal. Remember those reindeer who wouldn’t let someone different play their reindeer games? Yeah, peer culture is harsh that way, especially when we’re segregated with our age-mates rather than interacting with many fowl sorts in the larger community.

As adults, we measure our own success against the most attractive and capable ducks. That’s painful, but it’s what we learned from our earliest days on.

This isn’t to besmirch ducks. Ducks are great, particularly at being ducks. But some of us

are swans,


or storks,

or kingfishers,

or great blue herons.

Some of us aren’t birds at all.

 We’re frogs,



or dragonflies.

Every creature in and around the pond is necessary. Each is integral to the larger ecosystem’s wisdom.

We have to be extraordinarily stubborn day after day, year after year, in order to be ourselves.

The ugly ducklings of this world, the ones who still aren’t who they’re “supposed” to be, are the ones with the vision big enough to create a future for us all.

All images in the public domain. 

24 thoughts on “Most Of Us Are Ugly Ducklings

  1. I always wanted to be an otter when I was a kid… and as for the ugly duckling period? This resonated deeply with me… “Needs Improvement”… “Can do better”… “Not good enough”… yep, heard all that and more… still lingers in the recesses of my soul…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such a great read! When I got to the picture of the swan I sighed because I spend many days in the company of (literal) swans and they aren’t particular beautiful creatures … but then I read on and my heart sang! Brilliant points.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Laura, for this perspective on striking a balance between being true to ourselves while feeling comfortable among those around us. We are all in this together. Without realizing it, we allow layers of societal leavings to pile up over the years, obliterating whatever self-confidence we initially possessed. François LeLord’s character Hector offers several pertinent observations: “Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.” “Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are.” “Rivalry poisons happiness.” Your post has launched me onto an interesting tangent. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura, I loved this post!

    Where did you find these cool copyright free images? I’m starting to bank public domain images for use in the book, wordspa poetry handouts, and the websites and facebook pages. Any advice?

    I am so happy I got turned on to your blog!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ducklings are swans on the other side of the world.

    I’ve got naturally tanned skin because I’m Indian, caramel flan according to my friends, and someone like me is offered lightening creams and skin whitening serums every time I step into a drugstore when I visit home.

    On the other side of the world, my friends would give anything to have the same skin tone as me.

    Ducklings aren’t ducklings everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

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