Or did he always find himself thinking, for the rest of his life, I'm still the same person I always was, and I was an ugly child so I must still be ugly now? Maybe he could tell that the other swans were beautiful, but could never think that he was. Or maybe he thought They look like me; they must be ugly, too. Maybe he thought that they were only being nice to him; they didn't really think he was beautiful. They just felt sorry for him.
Maybe he wanted to believe that things were different. That the ducklings had all been wrong about him. That he was beautiful and he belonged and his own kind loved him. But there was always that nagging doubt, lingering from those formative years of constant rejection, that memory that wouldn't let go --
I'll always be an ugly duckling.