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,
“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.”Dr. Bréne Brown
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,
Wiseman 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.Brown again
Empathy allows Shaun to be kind and patient when I’m being a dork about how I look when he’s giving me a compliment.
This is true about self publishing. I was teaching a workshop about publishing on Friday and some of the students were like, “There is such a stigma to self publishing still.”
And another guy was like, “That’s because some of those books suck.”
And that’s true, but some are brilliant. I said that.
I also said, “There are some traditionally published books that suck, too.”
We have to figure out to not worry about other people determining the worth of our work. Taste is subjective. Some people love Drake. Some people can’t stand him. That doesn’t devalue Drake. Same thing for Adele or Stephen King or Jayson Reynolds.
Yes, some self published books haven’t been copy edited or might not be structurally sound, but those books don’t determine the worth of your book.
Your book is yours. Its value isn’t about all the other self published books in the world. Its value is determined by your ability to communicate your story. Its value is determined by the joy and sense of accomplishment that it gave you when you wrote it.
Writing Tip of the Pod
Don’t go into the shame spiral. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve created.
Dog Tip for Life
Poop is nothing to be ashamed about.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!
Wiseman, T. (1996). A concept analysis of empathy. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 23, 1162–1167.
Looking for help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for theSAMHSA National Helpline.
Looking for help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!
The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here!
“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”
“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!
My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!
It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.
PATREON OF AWESOME
Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!
This week’s podcast link if you can’t see it below!