December 18, 2018

This is what it Means to be Human.

Finlee is a red and white Pembroke Welsh corgi.

Like most corgis, what he lacks in height he makes up in heart. Finlee is almost always next to me—while I work, meditate, practice yoga, cook, and write this. He is my beloved constant companion.

The longer I love Finlee, the more he teaches me. He teaches me how to live, how to love myself, and how to love others.

This got me thinking about the impact animals make on us and the lessons they can teach. Anyone in life can serve as a teacher, if we are open to it.

Finlee teaches me all those things you’d expect from a dog. Live for today because life is short (especially in dog years). Don’t take yourself too seriously. Find joy in the routine, the everyday. Love everyone and forgive them their shortcomings.

But the biggest thing that Finlee teaches me every day is how to accept and love my imperfections.

Your ears are too big.

According to breed standards, a corgi’s ears are supposed to stand erect. Finlee’s ears are too big to stand up, so they flop over like a beagle’s. This is frowned upon in the corgi world. A big no-no.

When I first brought Finlee home as a puppy, I followed the breeder’s instructions to tape his ears so they would eventually learn to stand up. Ear taping is a common practice and, while it doesn’t hurt the dog, it’s definitely uncomfortable.

I taped Finlee’s ears for nearly two months. Despite my efforts, Finlee’s ears continued to flop over. I grew more and more disappointed that my corgi didn’t conform to proper breed standards, that he didn’t look “right.”

Like everything in my life, I wanted my puppy to be perfect and look perfect.

One day, after I finished taping Finlee’s ears, he looked at me with sad, yet patient eyes, as if to say, “Mom, I’m okay with my floppy ears, why can’t you be, too?” My heart broke in that moment as I realized that he didn’t care if his ears stood up or flopped over. He was perfectly fine with himself as he was, and all he wanted was to be loved as is.

And yet, here I was, trying to change him.

I immediately gave up the ear taping efforts. In that moment, I realized that the wise soul in a corgi’s body loved me despite all my imperfections. All he wanted was for me to do the same for him.

Isn’t that what all of us want—to be accepted and loved for who we are? To be given the permission to be ourselves, whatever that may be? This hit me hard, because it shined a light on all my own insecurities and constant self-doubt.

My own struggle.

Reflecting on my own insecurities and struggles with body image, I took note of how much time and energy I spend chasing perfection. We live in a culture that pressures everyone, especially women, to strive for unattainable beauty standards and physical perfection. If we don’t look like the images we see on TV and in magazines, we are convinced we need to turn ourselves inside out trying to look like them. And when we fall short, there is something wrong with us. We aren’t good enough.

It’s painful to think how much time and energy I’ve wasted over the years trying to improve myself, my body, my image. And for what? To meet someone else’s standards or conform to someone else’s opinion?

The reality is that perfection doesn’t exist. The ideals we see in magazines, movies, or breed standards don’t commonly exist in nature, so what is the point in exhausting ourselves trying to attain them? Ultimately, we can choose to let go of the pursuit for perfection. We can choose to relax into who we are—and let that be enough.

It’s our imperfections, physical and otherwise, that make us unique—interesting, even. And it’s incredibly liberating to let go of the idea that we need to be perfect, or an “improved” version of ourselves to be accepted and loved. It starts with accepting ourselves as we are and letting go of the notion that we need to be “fixed.”

The truth is, accepting yourself is more powerful than being accepted by anyone else.

So not only did I get over the fact that my purebred corgi has nonconforming floppy ears, I came to love them. Those floppy ears are fitting for Finlee’s silly personality and they make him unique. When people meet him, they almost always say how adorable he is.

Finlee reminds me that my physical imperfections aren’t things that need to be “fixed,” and the way I am on any given day is just fine. While my insecurities still resurface all the time, he serves as my reminder to love and accept myself, just as I am.

So, if you struggle with body image and pressure to look perfect, remember to be like Finlee, and embrace yourself—floppy ears and all.


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Jessica Ruff

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