The Ugly Duckling


As has been the case for the last dozen or so years, I’m currently staying on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, spending my days walking, swimming, paddling, floating – thoroughly immersed in the magnificence of nature that this area offers.

Today I was kayaking with a wonderful companion for an hour or so, a few hundred metres from the shores of the bay. We were enjoying the delights of paddling quietly along, a little removed from the frolicking of beachgoers closer to the shore. After the heat of yesterday, our watery playground was less hectic, with only a few jet-skiers buzzing past.

At one point we stopped paddling to allow the beauty and tranquillity of our surroundings to wash over us. As we drifted serenely with the tide, and the water lapped gently against the side of the kayaks, we looked up to see a flock of pelicans flying overhead. Such graceful creatures, soaring and gliding with the air currents so effortlessly. In the midst of their magnificence was a tiny little bird and we pondered if it was a young pelican, or another species who had decided to go along for the ride.

I was reminded of the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling ( and as we continued to drift, we discussed the analogy of this young bird who was so challenged by his difference, and who tried so desperately to fit in with his unaccepting peers. The recipient of much derision, he carried a great burden of sadness in knowing that he seemed unable to belong within his community.

Of course we know why … he was indeed a beautiful swan, gifted with incredibly unique strengths that set him quite apart from the ducks he tried to emulate. Unacceptable to them because of his difference, it became apparent that this difference was in fact his brilliance.

There have been occasions when I have felt like The Ugly Duckling, wondering why on Earth I can’t just figure it all out and fit in with what ‘everyone else’ seems to be able to do with such ease. Have you had such an experience? Trying to learn the skills, to acquire and apply the knowledge to undertake particular tasks or roles to a standard of others around you? Like The Ugly Duckling, we can bemoan the fact that we might never match the accomplishments of others.

Consider then, the tale of The Ugly Duckling, and consider how your difference is your brilliance. Reflect on how your difference is the strength of who you are, and of all you have to offer. Perhaps you haven’t yet heard the call of the wild – the inherent impulse that will draw you to your authentic self, and allow the pulse of your brilliance to emerge, just like it did for The Ugly Duckling. But we must trust that we are perfectly placed to allow that emergence into our authentic self, and gift ourselves the freedom to become who we were born to be.

We must trust our innate wisdom.

About Jennifer K Miles

I am an educator, researcher and writer, passionate about storytelling and its power to change perspectives of self. Through undertaking the journey of my own transformative learning, I now work with adults to support them in drawing forth stories of the strength and potential gained in their lives, as they move towards the creation of their stories as yet untold. My three beautiful adult boys are the most precious part of my story, and continue to walk with and support me in undertaking my PhD research. I write about story and transformative learning ... the circumstances of our lives and the stories remembered; influences on the construction of our self-identities - positive and negative; critiquing the assumptions and limitations we have come to accept about ourselves, our potential, and our place in life; daring to imagine a story untold.

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