‘The Ugly Duckling’ provides a lesson in beauty and acceptance for everyone, regardless of gender.
“The Ugly Duckling” was, ironically, about a male bird, written by a male poet, Hans Christian Andersen, who was a tall boy who felt uncomfortable in his own skin. I get that. But in this case I don’t know that it matters. Gender is beside the point.
The bird in the story has to go through hell and back because he doesn’t fit in. And superficially he is damn ugly. Just when he is about to throw in the towel, he saddles up to the most beautiful creatures he has ever seen on the theory that dying at their hands is better than continuing to live.
To his amazement they embrace him with open arms. Even more amazing, he realizes he is one of them: a swan.
Isn’t this the ideal for which we all strive when it comes to beauty? We all have the ugly parts we have to confront again and again. We all feel alone in the world at one time or another.
And then one day we not so much emerge as beautiful on the outside, but we begin to radiate a sense of belonging from the inside. We finally realize there is a place for us on this planet, a spot that has been waiting all along. We see that our fears have been nothing but shadows.
Our society continues to accelerate in pace. More and more is done on the Internet based on skin-deep, split-second impressions of external attraction. We are all getting further and further from the hard-earned beauty of the ugly duckling. Kim Kardashian reigns supreme.
Why work to find your place in the world when you can have plastic surgery and have virtual sex with the man or woman of your dreams?
If beauty is about really knowing another person—and knowing yourself—I sometimes wonder, “Does that even happen any more?”
Think of how a parent feels about a child. It absolutely doesn’t matter what that kid looks like to the rest of the world. When she smiles or laughs or dresses up for her first date, there is no one more gorgeous on the planet. The surface of the thing is informed only by knowing what resides underneath. That kind of gorgeous is more true than the battle of the dresses in People Magazine.
How about we replace the word “beauty” with “love.” I love you for all that you are, not because your hair is a certain color, but because I know you. I know that you have overcome cancer, or survived a war, or written an amazing novel. You are beautiful because you touch my heart.
Let’s stop thinking that it’s up to the rest of the world to choose our personal beauty quotient. Like the ugly duckling, it’s up to each of us to find our way to our inner swan. But once there, no one can knock us off. The beauty that radiates from the inside out is invincible.
And that goes for men and women equally.
—Photo Pinti 1/Flickr
More on Women’s Obsession with Beauty