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Why “The Ugly Duckling Childhood” Is the BEST Thing That Ever Happened to You

Why “The Ugly Duckling Childhood” Is the BEST Thing That Ever Happened to You

I was not a pretty picture as a child or teen — there is no other way to put it. Everything that could be wrong WAS wrong: I was overweight (to put it politely) with teeth sticking out like a rabbit, braces that didn’t help, weak eyes that needed thick spectacles, unwaxed arms and legs (think Amazon rainforests — that will give you the picture) and an oily head of hair which was fit to fry eggs over on most summer days. Don’t faint yet; that’s not all. The final nail in the coffin: I was a complete teacher’s pet (nerd alert!).

Needless to say, my childhood and teenage years consisted of “friendlessness,” embarrassment, mockery — you get the drift. I hated myself, and I hated my life. I often used to think about that fairy tale of the ugly duckling who all the other ducks ignored till she grew up to be a swan, and I used to wonder, will I ever be that Swan?

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The “ugly duckling” phase lasted a long, painful decade (and no, I didn’t transform into Cameron Diaz at the end of it, but at least the rainforest was gone), and it has taken me another decade of being an adult in the real world to realize that those years were the best thing to ever happen to me.

To all those who have had a not so pretty childhood like me, here are the things that you can be proud of thanks to that very phase.

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1. It gave you a “bring it on” attitude.

If you have handled insult and mockery at the age of ten and moved on, there is not much that can ruffle your feathers as an adult — not the politics at work, and not those nagging in-laws. In fact, the antics of the “bully boss” just make you want to giggle; he is a pet in front of that cheerleader you survived in sixth grade. Those difficult early years make you an expert at recognizing overbearing people, handling them with ease and completely shutting them out as required so that they have no impact on you or your confidence. So while your peers struggle and whine, you simply roll your eyes and move on!

2. It made you comfortable in your own skin.

Your life doesn’t revolve around wanting to be beautiful and getting appreciated by the opposite sex. As a child you didn’t survive with the crutch called good looks. While other kids were fussing in front of the mirror, you learned to (had to!) define your worth by other attributes: your mind, your character, who you are as a person. So while others spend adulthood still worrying about their looks (old habits), you are indifferent. You can put on the makeup and enjoy attention if you want; you can also ignore it completely and look like a wreck if you want. The power lies with you.

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3. It prevented you from becoming an egoist.

You may have grown up to be rich and successful; you may have grown up to look drop-dead gorgeous; or you may have grown up to become the most popular person you know — but, it will never go to your head. Inside the adult still lives that little child who remembers how it was to be down in the dumps. Humble beginnings keep you level headed and balanced. Besides, you have dealt with enough proud idiots in your childhood to ever become one. You only shoot for the stars; you don’t float among them.

4. It turned you into a true-blue friend.

What happens when a person has been judged and ignored for years? He doesn’t judge others. He doesn’t ignore others. You never toss a book based on its cover (because your own cover was pretty disastrous once!). You give people the benefit of doubt: you listen to them and you try to accommodate and simply accept the aspects you don’t completely understand — which is a perfect recipe for a lifelong friend. What is more, you know exactly how it is to not have any friends — you’ve been there! So you really value your friendships; you don’t have a lot of superficial friends, but a lot of love and depth in each friendship. That’s your motto!

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5. It helped you learn to be happy in your own company.

You have been lonely as a child, so you appreciate solitude as an adult. You don’t have the constant need for social validation or company. If people are there, you are happy; if people are not there you are still happy. As a child you have learned to spend time with yourself and even today, there are certain things that you love to do alone. You are effortlessly independent and connected with yourself. Some people would kill for that kind of peace you know!

These invaluable attributes are the gift of those early years. The investment lasted through your childhood but the return will last through your life. So look back at that little “ugly duckling” and thank your lucky stars you got to be one, because as it turns out, that fairy tale was true: ugly ducklings do turn into swans afterall.

Featured photo credit: nature.desktopnexus.com via nature.desktopnexus.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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