January 12, 2020

To The Black Sheep & The Ugly Ducklings – A Final Unapologetic Message

As you are now aware, I am in the process of sharing my final thoughts with the world, one personal message at a time. This message contains my final words and thoughts to the black sheep and the ugly ducklings of the world…

Dear friends,

First, I am going talk to all the ugly ducklings…

You all know the story of the ugly duckling, right? The baby duck that was born ugly and different than the rest of the baby ducks, but grew up to be a beautiful bird of some sort? I’m guessing that’s the story that applies to many of us.

The thing is, most of the people in the world are not naturally beautiful in physical appearance. Most of us are born ugly ducklings, plain at best. We continue on through life as ugly ducklings, especially around the time of, dare I say it, Junior High?

I was always the fat kid growing up, which back then was the exception and not the rule. I had no confidence whatsoever all the way to college. I was severely bullied for more than six years. I wore big, ugly glasses. I hid in the bathroom stall during lunches. I scribbled my picture out in the yearbook in seventh grade, determined not to ever have to look at my hideous self in the future…

I believe it was in Tina Fey's book that she quipped something to the tune of, "nowadays, if you're not pretty, you go and you make yourself pretty."Well, here I am, now. A nearly 40-year-old all grown-up, absolutely beautiful swan... Psh. A beautiful swan with a fucked-up brain, gloriously frumpy dad bod, and still with the inability (four decades in) to even look at myself in the mirror for more than a moment.

To this day, when someone tells me I’m attractive, it’s like a freight train comes out of nowhere and barrels right into their compliment, obliterating it into a million pieces before it can reach whatever part of my brain might actually believe it.

I’m good at hiding it. I learned long ago to just say, “thank you,” and to not immediately blurt out something sarcastic or self-deprecating, even though it’s all I desperately want to do.

Once an ugly duckling, always an ugly duckling, it seems.

Or, far more accurately, once an ugly duckling, always a duck with ugly duckling issues that creep into life’s moments when you least expect them.

I wish I had an answer for all of you who also grew up feeling ugly in a beautiful world. I don’t. I only have advice that has helped me personally navigate this realm. My advice is this…

Don’t spend your life trying to be physically beautiful if physical beauty is not natural on you. That shit will get exhausting in a hurry.

While it may seem cliche, spend your life instead trying to be humanly beautiful. Be kind to others. Be assertive. Keep your word, no matter what. Include those who don’t get included very often. Be a cheerleader for the underdogs around you. Strive to have compassion always and empathy when it is necessary. Say yes to people who need a helping hand. I could go on for a thousand pages, but you know what makes a person actually beautiful.

I can’t tell you how many incredibly (physically) beautiful people I have met who became physically ugly to me once I caught a glimpse of their rather ugly personalities. It’s a lot.

Likewise, I can’t tell you how many fellow ugly ducklings I have met who became incredibly (physically) beautiful to me once I caught a glimpse of their absolutely beautiful personalities. It’s also a lot.

We’ve all heard that beauty is on the inside. That is true, but when that beauty shines, people become beautiful on the outside, too.

As for myself, the truth I have had to accept is this…

It does not matter how hard I work at it, I’ll never be on the cover of a magazine.

I weighed 330 LBS when I graduated high school and eventually put on another 20+. No matter how in shape I have gotten at any point in my life, I’ll always have a body under my clothes that says, “this dude used to be really fat” in its not-so-fine print. Even at the time I snapped this picture for a fitness challenge I had going on with a friend, that was my body’s truth…

That picture was taken at the peak of the most fit I have ever been in my life. The photograph is real and unedited (besides a drama filter). I really did that once. Fuck yeah.Yet underneath those clothes, even though I had big pecks and strong toned arms, I had big pockets of fat on my lats and a pudgy pocket of fat in the ponch area. I still had what one doctor called "walrus skin," which means no matter what I do, I'm going to have a permanent layer of fat that is just somehow attached to my skin and will never get thinner.At that time in my life, those few things were the only things I could seem to see when I got naked. Even though I was fucking ROCKING it, I couldn’t see anything else.

Friends, I know what it’s like to always feel like the ugly duckling, and life for me just got better once I finally admitted to myself that…

I’ll never have 8% body fat.

I’ll never have a visible six-pack.

I’ll never have perfect posture.

I’ll never get rid of those weird formerly-fat areas on my body.

I’ll never walk without my feet pointed in weird directions because my knees are knocked.

The truth has happened too many times that no matter how much I try to run from what I hate about my physical appearance, it always catches back up to me as soon as I slow down even a little.

I’m an ugly duckling. It’s who I was born, and it’s who I always will be. That’s just life.

But I’m also beautiful to a lot of people. I don’t say that pompously. I say that because it’s true, and I need to hear myself say it because saying it is so fucking hard to do. What I do for others, what I share with others, and what I am in the lives of others is what makes me beautiful to them. And that is something I can actually believe without mental filters bouncing it into another universe.

I assume if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are also an ugly duckling. Don’t cringe at that label. Remember, the duckling became beautiful in the story. An ugly duckling is an awesome label to have… So long as you also become a beautiful version of yourself in the end, whatever that may look like.

I’m not saying don’t exercise or take care of your health. Definitely do those things. It will make you happy to become healthier and more fit. I am learning that all over again (for the umpteenth time in my life), right now.

What I am saying is don’t put a lick of your self-worth into the way you look unless you’re putting at least a hundred times more of it into the person that you are. I know… Way easier said than done.

As humans, we tend to usually only take notice of the really beautiful tiny percentage of people who walk by us, and we barely even notice everyone else. Learn to remind yourself that the physically beautiful people are a tiny percentage of the population. I tell myself that sometimes to put things into perspective and I make myself count all the people walking by instead who are just… normal in the looks department. Doing so always works like a charm to make me feel like I’m not the only ugly duckling in a sea full of beauty.

On a humorous side note, I don’t know why it happened this way (welcome to Utah), but I have a lot of physically pretty friends. They’re sincerely good people, my friends. I love them. And fuck do they work hard to be as sexy as possible on the outside. More power to them. Absolutely.

That being said, I do love telling them (especially when I’m drunk)…

“One day we’re all going to find ourselves playing cards together in a nursing home. You’re going to look at me and say, ‘Dan, you have barely changed at all.’ Then I am going to look at you and say, ‘holy shit, you’ve really gone downhill.’

Perspective, my fellow ugly ducklings. It’s all about perspective. In the end, almost all of us are going to be frumpy, and fat, and hunched over.


Now a message to the black sheep, whom I have found are usually ugly ducklings along with me, or at the very least get along best with the ugly ducklings of the world (thus the reason I created the art for this post)…

I have always considered myself the black sheep. In my family… In my co-parenting relationship… In my neighborhood… In the blogging world…

I have always been the one who thumbed my nose at other people’s rules, and tried to do what I felt was right and not just what was wanted by others.

I grew up in a strict, conservative, religious, high pressure subculture. My family was as much a part of it back then as anyone’s in Utah. I was the one who didn’t fall into line. That made my life hard as the black sheep.

In business meetings, before I was a blogger, I was the only one who would argue with the boss at management meetings because I felt there was a better way sometimes. Being the black sheep made my life hard at work.

When I left the business world to chase the sudden opportunity to be a writer, I was the blogger who refused to do what all the other bloggers in the community were doing, and I quickly found myself surrounded by angry, very vocal bloggers who had been around a lot longer than me. That made my life really hard in the blogosphere.

I can easily think of a thousand different times that being the black sheep made my life really fucking hard compared to how it would have been had I just fallen into line with the average humans around me.

But… I just couldn’t ever do it. Conformity has just never felt right to me. And do you know what?

I can easily think of a thousand amazing things I have accomplished or have in my life only because I was the black sheep.

As the black sheep, I got to be on the forefront of the mass exodus out of the Mormon church that is currently happening. I got to be the one who showed my siblings and cousins that it’s okay, life goes on, and love doesn’t go away just because they choose a different way. I got to teach my son to think for himself growing up instead of fighting so hard to believe whatever he was born into.

As the black sheep, I got advancements and promotions in the business world. My refusal to fall into line caused serious beef with others sometimes, but it also made me stand out as someone who would do what he knew was right for the business.

Out of hundreds of millions of blogs when I started mine, I had one of the top handful of blogs in the entire world at one point. I got there not by following the formula that all the other bloggers were trying to push onto each other, but by doing whatever I wanted, however I wanted to do it, and not giving two shakes about whether or not I fit into their ridiculous blogger club.

I would never go back and choose a life where I wasn’t the black sheep. I love being a black sheep.

If you are also a black sheep, don’t feel bad about it; feel like a fucking badass, because that’s what you are…

At least that’s what you are if you use your defiance against the norm for the good and betterment of the world around you.

The vast majority of people in the world, for some strange reason, strive to keep each other down. I have no idea why this is human nature, but I promise you it is. Humans want other humans to thrive, but just not too much. Humans want other humans to be happy, but just not too happy. Humans want other humans to succeed, but only if they themselves are succeeding at the same pace or faster.

That’s what rules are made for, you know.

Rules are not made for the average person who tends to fall into line. Rules are made for the black sheep. After all, it is only the black sheep who threaten to leave the rule keepers behind or make their lives more difficult.

I am not talking about laws, to be clear. Laws (for the most part) are important for society to function as a whole.

No, I am talking about rules… The things we make up and declare must be kept by other humans because we think those rules will make our lives easier.

Black sheep look at rules when they are made, and they loudly declare, “BY WHAT AUTHORITY?!”

Black sheep look at rules, and they see only the limitations that are being placed on them, and not the benefits that other people are trying to sell as the reason for the rules.

Productive black sheep look at rules and say, “thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to do what I think is right and what will work best for me and the people I love.”

If you are a black sheep like me, do not ever stress yourself out trying to conform to the mean. Sure, life may be way easier in some ways if you do, but you will do nothing but limit yourself in all the most important ways at the same time.

My dear black sheep and ugly ducklings…

If you know how to embrace those labels and utilize them, you will become (by far) the most beautiful people in the room. To me, anyway.

You should now come hang out with me some time. You drink whatever the hell you want with me. I’ll drink some sort of delicious alcohol with you even though the world says the drink in my hand is nowhere near manly enough.

That’s what being the black sheep is to me… It’s always enjoying the drink I am holding because I just don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about it. I make my own rules. I abide by my own code. And so should you.

Dan Pearce | Dan Pearce Was Here (formerly Single Dad Laughing)