Sault Star Columnist Explores ‘Ugly Duckling’ Self-Concept

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A better parent and a more compassionate, self-aware adult emerged

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How do you arrange your quilt of memories?

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I recently received an unexpected email from my first puppy love. I was slightly obsessed with this dear boy, showering him with attention and gifts from kindergarten to grade 6. He was the only apple of my eye for those eight years, and I even wore shoe laces with his name on them. These days, I think we would almost call the 12 year old a stalker.

As we catch up and remember, I can’t help but think that the quilt I sewn in my mind at the time was sewn with more holes and flaws than I expected. You would think that I would shield myself from the unhappy moments of my life with a comforting and indulgent blanket of thoughts. Instead, I knitted my quilt with straight pins pointing outward, stitching myself up every time I wrapped myself in them.

I think it’s fair to say that I grew up feeling like the Ugly Duckling. Since my first love was unrequited (at least I thought it was) and I had my fair share of divorce and abandonment issues, I always felt less than ‘enough’. I dated the wrong men, in a horrible cycle that took me decades to break.

Now after talking to my elementary school crush, I see my quilt of memories quite differently. My crush just wasn’t interested in girls at this age, it wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in me in particular. Granted, we’re all our worst critics, but I’ve been especially hard on myself. I really need a more forgiving fabric in my duvet. Funny how a different perspective on the past can soften it. It’s liberating to finally let go of my ugly duckling.

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Having said that, I want to thank him for what turned out to be his goal. As a parent, I made sure my kids grow up knowing how special, attractive, smart, kind, capable and funny they are. I did not water down; I focused on the positives. My goal was to raise confident and independent children (much like my first crush). I believe I achieved this goal, and I’m not sure this would have been my main goal if I hadn’t had the years of training that I did.

Also, I will thank my ugly duckling self-image for the fact that over the years I have been told that I have no idea how beautiful I am, and that is part of my beauty. I squirm uncomfortably even as I write this, because I still have a hard time accepting compliments. I often thought that people were lying to me. There are days when I admit that I am better preserved than many in my age group. There’s also the occasional mood and the look where I feel my milkshake might ‘bring the boys to the yard’, if they just knew where I lived.

I thank my bad memories of my formative years, and low self-esteem at the time, for helping me focus on my children’s self-confidence and bringing me closer to my own. I am in awe of the mistakes on my cover of past memories, but delighted to be able to remove painful protrusions from an area.

Now it will be much nicer to wrap myself in my quilt of memory as the years go by. With this new reveal, I might consider using a seam ripper on other rough areas to see what I can do to soften those as well.

Here is the love of puppies, reconnection, remembering and the journey of a lifetime to compassion and self-awareness.

Nadine Robinson’s column airs most Saturdays. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @theinkran.


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