Updated: Oct 17, 2020
There is a parable I love about turtles and giraffes. I return to it over and over and find that at times it helps me release the desire to control other people and let go of frustration I may feel that they don’t see a situation the same way that I do. Both a turtle and a giraffe see the world from their own unique viewpoint. A turtle is surrounded by low brush, weeds, rocks and other short obstacles. Not very tall when compared to a giraffe, the turtle can only see what is close around it. A giraffe on the other hand, has a much different vantage point. With its long neck, a giraffe can see up and over much of the low brush, weeds, and rocks that obstructs the turtle’s view. The giraffe can stand tall and access and eat the leaves in the trees, and even see towards the horizon. It may stumble on rocks and low brush, but for the most part it continues on, unaffected.
The turtle’s vision of the world is much different than the giraffe’s vision, right? Does the giraffe understand what it is like to be a turtle? No. And conversely, the turtle cannot understand what it would be like to see the world as a giraffe does. No matter how much they each try to convince each other of their worldview, it doesn’t work. A turtle is not a giraffe and a giraffe is not a turtle. Is one animal better than the other? Absolutely not. They are just different.
Many people go through life trying to be a turtle, when they are surrounded by turtles, and they believe they too should be a turtle. But they have always felt different. Misunderstood. They see and know things differently. They are a giraffe. Should they waste their time trying to convince the turtles around them that the way a giraffe sees the world is the right way? Of course not, this won’t work. Nor is it true. They should just stand tall and be a giraffe. Don’t worry about the turtles around them, who are busy being turtles. It is only when they stand tall, that they can see over the trees and realize there are other giraffes out there, who are just busy being giraffes. Let the turtles be turtles.
This may sound like a judgement against turtles. It is not. The world needs both turtles AND giraffes. Neither animal is “right”. They just are. What the world doesn’t need are giraffes who are trying to fit in as turtles. Just. Be. A. Giraffe. Don’t focus on the fact that not everyone sees the world as you do. Focus on being a giraffe, and stand tall in your giraffness. The world needs all kinds. I always say how boring it would be if we were all the same. Stand tall and inhabit exactly who you were meant to be, without getting caught up in comparing yourself to all of the other animals around you. The world needs you. Just as you are. Standing tall and aligned with the animal you are meant to be. There is strength in that.
If this parable speaks to you, I encourage you to watch this clip of TD Jake on the Oprah Show – where I first heard this told. It comes back to me often, when I find myself trying to convince someone of something that just doesn’t seem to make sense to them. Am I trying to get a turtle to see the world like a giraffe? If yes, then let it go. And focus on being a giraffe. Or a turtle. It really doesn’t matter which. The point is in recognizing that we all see the world from our own unique viewpoint.
Can you relate to this story?