Dog Poop and Shame
When people look at our dog Gabby, they almost always say, “Oh, she’s so beautiful.”
Gabby, however, isn’t beautiful by breed standards. She’s actually a mess. Her muzzle isn’t boxy enough. Her back sloops. Her hips splay. She’s about twenty pounds too skinny.
And that’s mostly all because she was abused and starved her first year of life, tied by a chain to a tree in the Alabama fields.
But Gabby isn’t about shame. Gabby is about being – being joyous, loving, and keeping her flock of kittens and people and one other dog safe. Gabby doesn’t have shame about her imperfections.
“She’s the prettiest puppy ever,” people coo to her when we take walks.
“Who’s the beautiful baby?”
Or sometimes it’s just a simple, “Oh, what a beautiful dog.”
Gabby has no shame about her broken body that doesn’t meet AKC standards. She has joy even when she’s broken, hurt, limping along or having a bad fur day. We can learn a lot from Gabby.
On the entry “shame v. guilt” on her blog, Dr. Bréne Brown writes,
Dr. Bréne Brown“I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.”
For many women and men, shame has a lot to do with not looking pretty enough, perfect enough, sexy enough, good enough. We stare at our eyes and worry about their shape, our lack of lips, our lack of butt, our lack of symmetry. Lacks. It’s always about lacks.
Gabby has no shame about how she looks because she’s a dog. People have no judgement about her lacks because they aren’t constantly fed how she’s supposed to look as a Great Pyr. They just see her dog soul shining through, her kind eyes and her fluffy, white fur.
We can’t quickly erase all the beauty programming that the media, our relatives, and even our friends and lovers have fed us, but we can know what triggers our shame and call it out.
Shaun says things like, “You are so beautiful.”
And I cringe.
I cringe and ask, “What about the scar on my stomach?”
And he’ll say, “Still beautiful.”
And I’ll keep cringing and say, “I think I’m losing my lips.”
“I have no eyebrows.”
What Shaun has is a great ability to pull me out of my shame spiral, but also empathy. It’s why he was a fantastic cop when he was a cop.
Brown writes this in the Semantic Scholar,
Brown againWiseman identifies four defining attributes of empathy: (a) to be able to see the world as others see it; (b) to be nonjudgmental; (c) to understand another person’s feelings; and (d) to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings (1996). Empathy is almost an opposite to shame.
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