probably talk about the importance of loving yourself
almost as much as I talk about the importance of loving
other people. I am not encouraging people to be
self-indulgent and focused only on themselves. You
must love other people to have a truly fulfilling life,
but you have to start by loving yourself. If you
hate yourself and neglect yourself, what are you going to
do when someone comes along and advises you to love your
neighbor as you love yourself?
have trouble loving yourself, think about the ugly
duckling. Remember how the little foundling
embarrassed his mother and his siblings by being
different? How his mother was constantly explaining
or making excuses to the neighbors for his behavior and
his looks? Then one day, tired of making excuses,
she cast him out of the nest.
duckling wandered about the world, alone and forlorn,
until at last he met kindred spirits who gave him the gift
of reflection. Encouraged, the duckling looked into
the still water of a pond and saw for himself the truth
his duck family hadn't seen--that he was a beautiful swan.
the mirror-holder often turns out to be someone outside
the family. I held the mirror for Stewart, a chubby
boy who attended a camp where I was a counselor before I
went to medical school. Every afternoon the
counselors chose teams by alternating picks--an effective
way of balancing out the talent but an excruciating
experience for the kids who are not picked until the end.
had some experience as an ugly duckling myself, I saw how
badly it hurt Stewart to be passed over round after
round. I decided there were better things I could do
with my picks than choosing a winning softball team.
One afternoon I made Stewart my first pick. When I
saw how happy it made him, I decided to pick another
clumsy camper on the next round, and another the round
after that. Before long all the really clumsy kids
and poor athletes were gathered around me and I was forced
to start choosing some who were only mediocre.
team win that afternoon? No. Did we have
fun? Yes. We had more fun before we took the
field than our opponents had all afternoon.
day I chose Stewart first again and continued to choose
someone unlikely on every round. Same thing the next
day and the day after. By the end of the week, a
group of ugly ducklings had stopped dreading the
choosing-up ritual and had started looking forward to our
afternoon games. No longer outcasts, they started
thinking of themselves as my regulars, and though we never
won a game, we had spirit. We were a team and we
loved playing together.
end of the two-week session Stewart brought his parents
over to meet me. They said with surprise that for
the first time, he actually seemed to have enjoyed camp
that year, and they were very pleased. I didn't tell
them what had made the difference. I met a lot of
surprised parents that summer, parents who had dropped off
ugly ducklings and were picking up swans.
all unborn swans, and have within us the power to be swans
and to create swans. A caring schoolteacher or a
physician who is unafraid of showing unconditional love
can be a mirror in which students or patients discover
their own beauty. I've had patients call me asking
for Jack Kevorkian's phone number. When they learned
they were swans, they found self-love, repaired
relationships, and cured their diseases.
the topics Siegel
covers are how to find
peace of mind; how to
love, encourage, and
forgive other people
as well as yourself;
and how to thrive in bad
times and survive the
good times. For those
ready to be uplifted by
the soothing repetition
of time-tested homilies,
Siegel delivers the goods.