Are you a duck?
There is a scene I love in the movie Love Affair. The old, wise woman is describing the behavior of her nephew, and she says something so profound and thought provoking. “He’s a swan, he just thinks he is a duck.” As she talks about the activities of a duck, her message becomes incredibly clear, when we don’t know who we are, or we don’t recognize our greatness we have actions and activities that are beneath us, or that don’t allow us to shine like the stars we really are.
The story she tells is one that many of us struggle with, it is the idea of being someone we are not, and this happens both consciously and unconsciously. Sometimes it is caused by fears, or trying inadvertently to follow the crowd because it is more comfortable than standing alone. At times, it is keeping quiet when we know deep inside we should speak up. It is when we perform to make others happy, when we do what is popular, or when we find ourselves doing things and acting out of character.
Who is guilty?
On any given day, we recognize this behavior with children, young adults and others who make the press for behaving badly, but I would like to talk about how often it occurs with adults. Group think is incredibly common with adults, in fact they have done studies on it. You are at work, and you go along with an idea you don’t believe in to pacify a boss, or a co-worker. A conversation is happening around you, and you throw in a comment about the person so you can be involved. This happens so often in everyday life we just explain it away, or ignore it all together.
Being different and unique can feel awkward. You stand out, people look at you strange, and you may not fit into traditional circles. I am sure I am not the only one who learned how to shut up after there were just one to many stares in my direction after a comment that people didn’t seem to get. Most people quickly catch the social cues when they see the reaction of others or when they find themselves penalized for telling the truth. All of those things are examples of acting like a duck.
Your voice is necessary
People need to hear from you, especially when your voice doesn’t match the status quo.
Your abstract opinion may stop people from wasting precious time and energy, or going in the wrong direction. Trouble makers really have gotten a bad reputation because their questions may slow us down, or they make us look at the options more carefully. Yet they are often the innovators; they have ideas that push us and make us better. We may want to ignore them, but truthfully they have some amazing ideas, or at least open up the dialogue and they make us think. We hate it when they ruffle feathers, but there is nothing like dogging a bullet because we listened for their rationale, even if we don’t agree with it.
“Yes men” are dangerous.
Going with the crowd, not acknowledging how we feel or think is dangerous. We all silently know when there is something more that we should be doing, or when there is another way we should be acting, there is a reason why we have a conscious. In the movie Love Affair, Warren Beatty’s character was famous and was the life of the party, but inside of him was an amazing and awesome person that wanted and needed to get out. He was known for his outlandish behavior, and he was chased by the press who were looking for a scoop, just one more thing to liven up the newsreels. When he was with his famous friends he acted the way he thought they wanted him to act, yet the depth of his character was far beyond what they were seeing. He was an artist, and he became an incredible football coach, none of which fit into the mold also known as the box where his friends put him. He was so busy chasing the image and becoming what everyone else told him he should become, he lost focus and direction. He was tramped by the social cues of others, and often times they were rewarding. He got attention, and he was richly rewarded for his bad behavior, but the true cost was he became what they wanted and betrayed himself, and the person he truly had the ability to become was hidden. In other words, he acted like a duck, doing things that weren’t becoming and chasing everyone else’s dream for him, while his lost precious time when he could have been chasing his own.
There are ducks everywhere, and you might be acting like one of them.
The social collateral for being unique and different is high. We often find ourselves challenged by the pressure to be silent and go back to the status quo. There is a Ghandi quote I love, and it is so appropriate here, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”. Have the courage to walk away from the status quo, become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Use your voice, and stand up and become all of you and be willing to act like the “swan” you are, and leave the ducks behind watching you. Be a chooser, by choosing to live the life of your dreams, and help others do the same.