Ugly Duckling Syndrome: What It’s Like Being a Late Bloomer

ugly duckling syndrome

What is ugly duckling syndrome?

Ugly duckling syndrome is a condition whereby a person begins life as an “ugly duckling” child, but then blossoms in to a “beautiful swan” later in life. It is based on the story The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson, which teaches us that the beauty we spend our lives searching for is often found hiding within us.

So what’s it like being an ugly duckling?

People suffering from severe cases of ugly duckling syndrome are those who don’t bloom until late high school or early college years. And, as a matter of fact, these individuals are also seemingly vampires. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration — but I can say that they never seem to age. If you’re curious to see some before and after pictures of those suffering from ugly duckling syndrome, check out this brilliant (and very memorable) reddit post. This comment was gold: “I came to laugh at some ugly kids. Came away feeling like an ugly adult. Screw all of you gorgeous bastards”.

Personally, when I think back to my middle school days, all I can remember is chasing the 8th grade goth guy I was crushing on (the school loser), being extremely persistent even though I was ignored on a regular basis. I remember guys laughing and saying, “You’re not fat, you’re big boned”. At least right now, I can say that I’m definitely not fat. In fact, many people in recent time have told me that I should probably eat more steak. Looking back at pictures, it looks like I had developed curves earlier than most girls, that I over-tweaked my eyebrows, and my cheekbones weren’t as prominent as they now are.

Here are a few things that women with ugly duckling syndrome experience:

We have a hard time accepting compliments.

It’s tough for women with ugly duckling syndrome to take a compliment. In fact, we tend to think people are being sarcastic. Sure, you can say my sweater looks nice, but I’m just going to stare you down with my resting bitch face. Speaking of which..

Staring makes us paranoid.

Albeit years ago, there was once a time where any staring sort of attention was a form of psychological bullying. People were staring because they were silently judging us, or joking around with their friends. So, when us ladies with ugly duckling syndrome grow into swans, we immediately grow paranoid when people stare. What they have trouble recognizing is that the stares are coming from people who are legitimately admiring your beauty!

We’re confused when other women see us as intimidating.

It’s easy to be totally confused when other women see you as competition when you grew up not-so-pretty. In fact, a lot of the time it just flat out doesn’t register. If you get bad vibes from other women, you immediately start to wonder, “Was it something I said?”.

We tend to be too trusting of people’s intentions.

Since we grew up as nothing special appearance-wise, we’ve always gotten by on our personalities rather than our looks. But when our appearance improves as we start to age, we’re not always on-guard when it comes to dating. AKA: Some men are focusing on our looks, rather than our personalities. And it can be very tough to spot.

So where does that leave us? Is there any hope for ugly ducklings?

Celebrities with Ugly Duckling Syndrome

Do you have ugly duckling syndrome? Share your experience with us!

Photo by Xvire, flickr

Jocelyn Mills
Jocelyn lives and breathes Quirky Daily. And wine. Mainly wine.
  • I am going through all of this and it’s very hard!

  • Jennifer Lake

    I just stumbled upon this post doing a google search about ugly duckling syndrome. It’s so spot on! I can totally relate to it, especially in dating. I assume I’m being sought out for my personality (since I’m really funny) and I don’t realize I’m being manipulated because now I’m really hot. So I am writing my own blog post, after finishing reading Nice Is Just a Place in France by The Betches, about how women can go from having the Ugly Duckling Personality to the Beautiful Swan Personality. Being intimidating and too trusting is something that’s plagued me, haha. Going forward, I hope it only gets better, growing out of my ugly duckling persona.

  • Eric Adonis

    this post sums up my life perfectly. people always tell me how handsome i am, but i dont see it. i hate it when women stare because i dont no their intentions.

    • Natasha Hamlet

      English literature and poetry? That’s awesome. I’m sure there are many “swans” out there who also have an interest in things like that. Since we did not grow up as self-absorbed as those who were always told they were attractive, I think it helped mold our personalities into something less shallow and more eccentric.

  • Kivey1010

    After the age of 35 was when my life changed. Out of no where, RA moved in with full force. This disease caused me to loose 70 pounds in less then a month. I have always been the nonthreating, heavier female friend to males and females alike. My new size cost me a 20 year marriage and now the most amazing love I have ever experienced. Both situations ended due to my inability to understand intentions of others. In my eyes I never changed so I don’t find myself a target to be hit on. I am in public relations, so conversations with strangers comes easily. After the weight loss, what i felt was a normal exchange was seen by my partners as me being hit on or seeking attention. I have been given feedback that I indimidate female peers. The confidence my parents instilled in me is no longer seen as I am OK with being over weight and secure in my work abilities. Now it’s perceived as cockiness based on looks and it has detracted from my work skills. Although I have been 5’10” and a size 4 for 8 years now, I just started seeing someone to help me understand or accept my situation. My biggest struggles are accepting compliments and seeing others intentions. I look in the mirror and still see the girl that was a head taller then everyone else, who is OK with her “big boned” football player build.