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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Agony of The Ugly Duckling

I loved The Ugly Duckling story as a child. Today, I admire it on so many levels. Many people criticise it as the ugly duckling has no part to play in its transformation. After all, nature did everything; what did the poor bird do? Wait for the usual course of nature. But that’s the whole point of the story, isn’t it?

The ugly duckling never existed, not in the real sense of the word. It was never a duckling; it was always a swan. The only way a tiny swan would seem odd, clumsy, and ill-favoured was trying to fit it into attributes of a duck. All its variations made it unacceptable as a model duck. If the little bird had been brought up as a swan, no one would’ve termed it ugly. The little swans are supposed to look like that, act like that. The ugly duckling had a horrible time, because everyone perceived it a duck.

Ugly duckling

The irony is that though the ugly duckling doesn’t actually exist, it exists everywhere in the world around us. It exists in our mind, and outlook. In fact, it is so much imbibed in our DNA, that our society is full of ugly ducklings. But, instead of blossoming into magnificent swans, they mature into beautiful ducks.
No, that’s not a typo, I do mean ducks. How can a swan transform into a swan? It stands to reason you can’t transform into something you already are.

These ugly ducklings don’t ever realise their true worth; they never find themselves. Instead they begin the vigorous process of transformation with helpful inputs from acclaimed experts in various fields. A swan transforming into a duck requires immense hard work, and determination. It might seem impossible, but it happens all the time. Transformation can take place in any field—physical, emotional, professional—all you have to do is find the right expert. Your ambition in life is to play a lead role in duck tales? You can turn into a flawless duck. It doesn’t matter whether you’re born a swan, hen, crow or an eagle. Why be yourself when transformation can give you much more—fame, popularity, success. After all, isn’t that what really matters?

When the transformation takes place in the physical realm, it is termed as makeover. One of my close friends underwent a rhinoplasty, or what is known as nose job, many months prior to her wedding. And not because her fiance had any objection to her nose.

I remember asking her, “Why? Why would you do that to yourself? It’s a complicated surgery. It doesn’t matter to your family, fiance or any one. Then why take a risk?”

Her answer: “This is for me. You’ve no idea how it feels to have a flat nose. Everyone made fun of me all my life. I want to look beautiful for my wedding.”

Oh, but she was beautiful even without the perfect nose. At least, I thought so; many of her other friends thought the same. But, of course, it only matters what society thinks. What if tomorrow everybody decides that flat nose is ideal? Will everyone start doing a nose job to achieve it? I bet they will.

It’s not just about looks either. This relates to every aspect of our life. There are guys afraid of doing what they like if it is considered effeminate, girls suppressing their nature to conform to society ideals. Many a talented carpenters grow into doctors/engineers/bankers. After all, the main purpose of career is social status, not doing what you like.

And imagine what would happen when these new ducks chance upon a gorgeous swan after their painstaking transformation. Most of them manage to contain their misery within themselves, but few turn nasty. They can never forgive their foolishness. They feel someone must pay for it, and someone—the ugly duckling—does. When they are waddling with their perfect group, and they come upon a confused little swan (or to be accurate, an ugly duckling) still in the process of finding its place in the world, these new beauties are the first to ridicule it. Their reaction is worse when they see a group of ugly ducklings trying to support each other. Why should they stand there, and let someone else grow into a swan, when they were forced to become a duck, and more to the point, when the swan seems more alluring?

Being an ugly duckling is a sad fate. And it keeps getting worse. All the poor mites ever wanted was belonging to some world. So, once they transform into a duck it should be easy, right? It isn’t. Deep within the lovely exterior facade lies an ugly duckling, who knows it is not a real duckling. Yet it doesn’t know that it’s a swan. It has no idea why it still feels lonely when everything appears great. The pain is twofold. First, they didn’t belong, and then (if they are unlucky) they belong to the wrong fold.

So, if you feel like an ugly duckling, and can’t find your place in the world yet, remember, you might not be a duck; you maybe a swan or some other bird. Please don’t turn into a duck. The hardest path for an ugly duckling is to grow into a swan. Don’t say, nature does everything. Nature can be the cruelest of all.

It is very difficult to believe in your own beauty when the world denies it. Beauty, is after, all in the eye of the beholder. And how can it exist when no one sees it? Our world is not full of ugly people, but it is filled with ugly perceptions.

P.S. The Ugly Duckling is a fairy tale written by the author Hans Christian Andersen.  I have used the term to denote the impressionable kids (and youth), who are generally labeled as misfits, problem child, and so on, by the society who fails to understand them.


  1. Such a pity that so many of us depend on others to realise our self-worth.

    But thankfully we start accepting who we are and then wonder, why it took us so long!

    1. When we accept ourselves and realise our worth, it is worth all the trouble it took till that point.

  2. A beautiful post, Kiran. We should learn to see our inner beauty and try to be a beautiful person first, rather than an ugly person with a beautiful face.

  3. A very nice thought provoking post!

  4. Superb! I totally agree with your views. We are not robots to be alike. We are individuals with uniqueness. That is why this world is beautiful.

    1. yup, Sindhu, the differences make this world beautiful.

  5. Totally agree with you.
    We must recognize our worth and feel proud and confident of what we are.
    Those who feel they are 'losers' or 'ugly ducklings' must remember that we can't please all the people all the time & not all nose-jobs or any such artificial transformations result into something everyone loves.

    1. True, Anita. No one can please everyone all the time. Those who truly like you accept you for what you are.


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