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I just got back from enjoying this beautiful day and taking my dog, Mali, for a walk. Right at the end of the walk, we needed to turn right, but Mali saw another dog coming toward us. This dog is obviously well-trained and well-behaved because it wasn’t even on a leash until the owner saw that we were approaching.
I have to admit; my dog training has not been perfect, far from it actually, and Mali isn’t that great on walks…especially when she sees another dog. We have VASTLY improved from how we used to be, but we are a work in progress. I continue to try and train her, but our bad habits are pretty ingrained and I only sort of know how to correct them, so…to say the least…I feel some serious shame about my dog parenting.
As this other dog and owner approach, I’m fighting Mali trying to get her to take the turn, but she is locked in on this other dog, and what does she do when she doesn’t want to listen to me…yep, she lays down so she has ultimate resisting power. Awesome. I continue to try and get her to turn without completely dragging her, but she is resisting and as the dog gets close enough that Mali thinks she can meet it; she goes a little bonkers trying to get to it. As I am holding Mali back, I shyly say hi with a pleading look of sympathy to the guy, and he seems to let out a disapproving snicker as they pass, and I finally get Mali to move my way.
I don’t know anything about what the master dog trainer who passed me by was thinking, but shame was flooding through me, and I started to get defensive and judgmental as we returned home. I continued to reflect on this as we got back into the house and then something different happened: instead of continuing down the shame spiral I typically would, I said to myself, “How can I recover and move on from this?” and of course I thought of Brene Brown…she is my hero! I thought for a minute and said to myself, “I can practice some self-compassion and then I can practice some gratitude.” Seriously, did I just say that to myself! Who is in my brain thinking all rationally?? But that is what I did:
- I am not a master dog trainer, but I am learning and I am trying. Most importantly, I show my dog love and compassion, and even though I feel shame about not being able to train her to behave well on walks, I still get her out for walks because that is healthy for both of us.
- I have no idea what that guy was thinking, nor is it any of my business what he was thinking. I should not judge him or his thoughts based on my feelings of vulnerability.
- I am grateful for the beautiful sunshine and calm day we were able to experience.
- I am grateful for the ability to recognize my shame triggers, look at them differently, and have a more productive reaction to them.
- I am grateful for Brene Brown and Kristin Neff and the work they do and for sharing it with the world. It has made such a significant positive impact on my life.
As we learn new tools, it is imperative we begin to integrate them into our lives to make progress. Next time you recognize yourself going into a shame spiral, ask yourself what would Brene do :) and then take action to get there. If nothing else, practice some gratitude; it does wonders to change your perspective.