We have a dog. His name is Boomhauer and he brings the joy like no other dog I know. At least to the people he loves. The rest of you, well he doesn’t have much use for you. Boomhauer loves who he loves and dislikes who he dislikes. No guilt on his part. He’s just being who he is.
Boomhauer is comfortable in his own skin. Since I know I struggle with this sometimes and other people I know do as well, I decided to go to the source to see how he does it. So I interviewed him. Hopefully my translation from Husky howls & German Shepherd yammering into English is fairly accurate. If not, I’m sure Boomhauer will express his displeasure by using his beagle skills and skunking in my lap.
How are you today Boomhauer?
I’m a little annoyed that you woke me from my 15th nap, but other than that I can’t complain too much.
You seem like you couldn’t give a rat’s arse what other people think of you. How do you do that?
It took me a while to learn, but I decided a while ago that aside from the people that are important to me, others’ opinions of me don’t really matter.
That sounds a little harsh and self-aggrandizing…
Well, I am the most beautiful creature to ever walk the earth, at least according to MY Girl, otherwise known as your daughter, but that’s really only part of it.
Can you please elaborate on that?
As a puppy, I was always trying to figure out exactly how to make everyone around me happy. I felt it was my job and if I didn’t do it, no one else would. I tried everything I could think of. Following them around, sitting on their feet (and faces), bringing them trophies like the corners of pillows and the toes of socks. I even tried to make our house a little more habitable by removing a few pesky pieces of wood from the coffee table that people would stub their toe on. While I would get some encouragement, I felt like I was being judged far more often than praised. Nothing I did was enough to keep them all happy all the time.
That seems like a lot of pressure to put on yourself.
It was exhausting! Even taking 30 naps a day, I found myself with no energy left at the end of the day. And as time passed, it became more difficult to ever feel rested. And the more tired I got, the less I was able to keep anyone happy. Let alone find any peace myself.
But you seem so full of joy now. What changed?
I came to the realization that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please all the people all of the time. So I quit trying.
You mean you just didn’t care anymore if anyone was happy?
Yes and no. I began to tune into the people around me. And myself. It turns out that in my desire to please people, I often neglected to do the things that they really liked. I would run around the yard, chasing off squirrels and all kinds of other threats, and I would get a “good boy,” but it wasn’t enough. So I took a little while to observe the people around me. When I stopped running around I began to notice that it’s often the little things that matter the most to people. The good morning I would greet them with when I got out of bed. The gentle nuzzle of my nose against a hand to say hello. The exuberant greeting at the door and then my long run down of all the things I had done and seen while they were gone: the sunbeam I slept in, the dog I kept away from the house, the pesky UPS guy that has such a loud truck, even about the squirrel that taunts me through the living room window. In sharing my authentic self and what brings me joy, I was able to bring them joy as well.
So instead of doing more, you did less?
Yes. I quit chasing my tail to entertain them and I focused on the things that were in my power to provide. I also took the time to figure out what I wanted & what made me happy in the process.
And what does that mean?
By slowing down, I learned that I enjoy many of the simple things. A good conversation, a snuggle on the couch, a walk (if I can ever talk those lazy people into taking me on one), and of course, a chewy bone. No life is complete without those on a regular basis. I didn’t have to run all over the place, trying to be everything to everyone, I just had to be me. I am enough.
That’s a really difficult thing for a lot of us to do. Can you give us a little advice on how to just be ourselves?
First of all, you have to stop and realize that you are the only you in the world. There has never been and never will be another perfectly imperfect creature exactly like you. Your talents, your faults, your dreams, your purpose. It is all unique. And valuable. That’s the hardest part. From there, it’s a whole lot easier to figure out that the people that value you, will be there no matter what. And merely the act of being your authentic self, and sharing that with people, brings both you, and them, joy.
That sounds super easy, and difficult all at the same time.
It is. But it is worth it. Being comfortable in your own skin means courageously embracing yourself, faults and all, and sharing the real, unadulterated you. And true intimacy is being able to ask for what you need from the people in your life. I try to do that every day. Why else would I constantly roll over and ask you to rub my belly?