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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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