Lessons from Myths, Legends and Fairy TalesMusings

Lessons from Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales, Part 5 The Ugly Duckling

There are so many lessons that can be learnt from the Ugly Duckling.

From accepting people for their qualities, values, friendship and humility, not how they look.
That appearances can be misleading.
The importance of self-acceptance, resilience and the beauty of transformation.
That some of us are late bloomers.
That words can really hurt.
This story also raises questions about discrimination and bullying.

But I think for me, this story speaks to being true to yourself, the difference between fitting in and belonging and the importance of ‘finding your tribe’.

Although the Ugly Duckling couldn’t exactly change the physical self, he desperately tried to fit in. And oftentimes this is what we try to do…we assess a situation and become who we need to be to be accepted, to fit in. Belonging, on the other hand, does not involve us changing ourselves, it requires us to be who we are, our authentic, fallible selves.

As Brené Brown suggests: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

It is easy to mistake fitting in for truly belonging. And because belonging is a basic human need, many of us do whatever we can to ‘belong’, to be part of certain friendship or social group. We go as far as changing our interests, our clothing, how we talk and behave.

All too often, we feel a certain pressure to fit in, in ways that are not always in line with our identity and values. And sometimes this results in developing unhealthy relationships or going along with the crowd in the face of hurtful and/or dangerous behaviours.

We spend a lot of energy trying fit in, thinking that this is belonging. But there is a difference. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else and is often anxiety producing. We end up being constantly on edge feeling that if we slip up, we are out.

Belonging, on the other hand, is being accepted for who we are, our authentic selves. Belonging gives us a sense of security because we feel seen and valued. There is stillness, a calm regulation.

And so returning to the Ugly Duckling, when he found his fellow swans, his tribe, his true identity, he no longer needed to try and fit in. He already belonged.

Fitting in isn’t the path to belonging, authenticity is.

Find your tribe.

You won’t have to fit it, you already belong.

#belonging #authenticity #findyourtribe #walkyourwhy