Every morning, I walk by a small, tranquil lake. And every morning, I see six ducks grouped closely together, either swimming or resting on the banks. Five are white Peking ducks, and the sixth is a lone, female mallard. Quite an odd combination.
I’ve often wondered why that solo mallard would choose to hang out with a completely different breed of duck, and I've been curious about what happened to Mr. Mallard.
The other morning, it hit me. "Wow, I can relate to that mallard!" Over the last decade, I’ve often felt like the “odd duck” in the group; as though I don’t quite fit in.
The truth is, most of us have experienced that uncomfortable feeling at some point in our lives.
The “odd duck” complex might strike upon retirement (what do I do now?), if you have moved to a new city or started a new job where you don’t know a soul. It hits children when they enroll in a new school, and young adults when they leave for college. When you are widowed or divorced after many years of marriage, it’s especially easy to feel that way. I’m sure many can relate.
The feeling is universal. And it’s no fun.
The question is, what are healthy ways to cope when we feel like the “odd duck?”
-First and foremost, my answer is always to pray. Tell God that you’re feeling like you don’t quite belong, and ask Him to comfort you with His presence. He will.
-Secondly, ask God if there is someone that you should reach out to today. I’ve found that introducing myself to a neighbor and asking someone to go to lunch or dinner isn’t that hard. Yes, you have to step outside your comfort zone a little, but it’s worth it. (After all, the worst they can say is “no!”) The best cure for a pity party is to focus on someone else.
-Realize that others struggle with feeling like the “odd duck,” too. They might not have the courage or the initiative to reach out, but would be so grateful to be the recipient of your kindness.
-Step outside your comfort zone and try something new! Join a book club, take a painting class, learn a new sport. Learning is invigorating, no matter our age. And it’s a great way to meet people,too.
-Pick a cause you believe in and volunteer. You'll be doing something to make a difference and will connect with others who believe in a common cause.
-Be inspired by Ms. Mallard for building community with ducks who are different! It’s good for us as humans, too. Yes, you might feel out of place to be around people who have different views or backgrounds than yours. But learning others’ stories and hearing their perspective is a wonderful way to grow and gain compassion. And it’s a great way to love people, too. Isn’t that what life’s really about?
When you feel as though you don’t quite fit in, it’s easy to say “why bother?” Please don’t. It’s a pit that just gets deeper. Call someone who loves you and understands your situation. And then force yourself out into the world. The first step is always the hardest.
Ms. Mallard looks quite content living life with her white, feathered friends. And we can find that sense of contentment, too. Yes, it takes time, courage and initiative. But it’s possible, Friends.
(And I’m not a quack!)