In the vein of learning things about life and business from parenthood, I realized the other day that children’s books could offer us just about as many reminders about ourselves. The really good ones teach lessons on confidence, are ripe with imagination, and are designed to inspire. And considering primarily I exist in a world of board books and a pint-sized tyrant who demands Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? on repeat, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the lessons in this genre of literature.
This all hit me the other day when I was reading one of my daughter’s other faves The Pout-Pout Fish, which I can get down with much more than Brown Bear, thanks to its clever sing-songy playful language and fun illustrations. We read it just about as often, so much so that the other day she was saying the Pout-Pout Fish’s signature phrase — “Blub, bluuuub, bluuuuub” — in her sleep. Literally.
So the short version is that the book is about a miserable fish who is glum and gloomy, with sad eyes and a huge pout.
Throughout the book, different sea creatures find various ways of trying to cheer him up, to which his response is the same:
“I hear what you’re saying,
But it’s just the way I am.
I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.
(And then this is where the “Blub, bluuuub, bluuuuub” comes in.)
Spoiler alert: Towards the end, this silver shimmery fish comes over and kisses Mr. Fish. This is when he realizes he isn’t a pout-pout fish after all — he is a kiss-kiss fish, with a kiss-kiss face, for spreading cheery-cheeries all over place. Adorbs.
So during my most recent reading if this book, I had an Aha! Moment at the same time as Mr. Fish.
How many of us going through life thinking about ourselves, “But it’s just the way I am.” It is thought about a myriad of things, day in and day out — shyness, creativity, taking chances, playing it safe. Maybe a teacher or family member told you something along the way, and you internalized it as a belief. Maybe you failed at something a long time ago and you decided that failure is an forever and ever, always fact about you.
What would this world be like if people let themselves discover their true selves and true gifts?
The pout-pout fish isn’t a story about “turning that frown upside down.” It’s about changing your perspective entirely because chances are many of the negative things you believe about yourself aren’t true. He was a kiss-kiss fish all along, just as you've been creative all along or assertive all along or a sales person all along.
Who is waiting to come out when you challenge your own status quo?