How My Beloved Dog Helped Me Face My Biggest Fear
It’s still not clear, in my mind, when I began to downplay a significant passion of mine, which budded in my heart at a very young age and I kept to myself until I finally opened up last year at 54. While I long dreamed of becoming a freelance writer someday, I had an underlying fear of rejection which, over time, increasingly shrank me into living a life according to other people’s expectations. And what I’ve realized while journaling this past week is that Lexy, my beloved dog, helped me break through that fear.
Give thanks and post pictures of Lexy, I thought.
A few years ago, I created an Instagram account in order to follow my teenager and his trampoline stunts. Not knowing what to do with the account, I thought I’d use it as an accountability tool to keep me in check with my wish of living in gratitude: I’d post pictures of my beloved dog and caption three things I was thankful for.
Fond of writing, I challenged myself to express these in a way that could work from either her or my perspective. It was a pleasant exercise that also kept me in touch with my son’s passion.
Previously, I hadn’t been too active on social media, my reservations inhibiting me. My Facebook posts, despite only being viewed by friends and family, were few and far between. I would think long and hard before commenting on someone else’s post, too, often passing after a long hesitation. It’s of no surprise that I started my Instagram account in private mode, didn’t show my name and had one follower: my son.
It soon turned into Lexy’s account with a grid of furry ears, ragged beards and cool wet noses. Behind the scene, it brought me closer to her as I increasingly paid attention to capture her moments, quirks and smirks. I started to look at the world through her lens: one that is real, simple, and true to herself. This calm and reassuring ease of being bonded us.
Little by little, I tried.
I didn’t really know what a hashtag was (a pound-sign label that categorizes and helps find content on social) and wouldn’t have dared risking the spotlight anyway. Then, one day, I learned and tried one for a post of Lexy laying in the grass: nervous, I inserted #dandelions in the caption as part of our three gratitudes. This was a huge step for someone who didn’t want to be seen. I was risking being found by strangers which, for me, carried the possibility of being rejected. But, feeling somewhat safe behind my beloved dog’s photo on Instagram, I dared.
And I’m not sure why I did, really. It’s not like I was trying to build a following. Perhaps, unknowingly, part of me wanted to see if my fear of rejection was valid. Or still valid, rather, as I had experienced rejection in the past. Or perhaps, subconsciously, I wanted to see if I’d grown strong enough to handle rejection. Then again, maybe I was just looking for connection and that need superseded my fear. Regardless, nothing resulted from the use of this one hashtag. It was uneventful.
So I repeated the experience with another post and, groping around, began using more hashtags.
Not only did I not get harmed in the process, but I also soon discovered a wonderful community of welcoming dogs on the platform, pets with unique and fun personalities given a voice by their owners. Did hashtags lead them to our posts? I’m not sure, but I was having fun following their adventures and Lexy was making furiends.
While timid at first, it wasn’t long before my doggo started engaging with her furiends’ posts, partaking in dog chats and joining in pooch parties. Undercover, as Lexy, I increasingly dared engaging in various cute, caring, vulnerable ways in this public setting. While no one could see me, I was being myself. And I discovered that was ok. My voice, was ok. Lexy was even making more furiends.
Put it on the calendar and don’t look back, I committed.
Hanging out more with Lexy during pandemic lockdowns, and tuning into her down-to-earth values, brought me closer to my secret little girl’s dream: it was still alive, burning like a pilot light in the background. So while planning my 2021 goals over the holidays, I resolved to open up as a writer and launch a personal blog five months later, on my dad’s birthday.
I told a few close friends; there was no turning back. I learned about blogging, sought help for branding and marketing, and toiled away at my first stories.
Meanwhile, Lexy kept laughing with furiends on Instagram.
The closer launch day got, the more scared I became: to get out there, to uncover my work, to show my face, to be seen. It felt like I was on a conveyor belt heading toward the end of the line, wanting to brake yet unable to stop.
In a cold sweat a week before the big day, I went to Lexy’s followers on Instagram and explained what I was doing. I asked if they’d be ok if I shared her account: it felt like a safe space and she could hold my hand to start. The pawsitive response was overwhelming. That day, and again on launch day, encouragement poured in from these kind furiends we had barely met.
Heart pounding and hands trembling, I also relayed on my Facebook page that I was launching a personal story blog. There as well, this time from people I knew well, support piled on.
We can really build up fear in our own head, can’t we?
My fear of rejection is still here, I noticed.
Behind my beloved dog, patient with my numerous photos, accepting me as I am and keeping me in tune with what’s important in life, I began uncovering myself and finding my voice.
It’ll soon be a year since I opened up. With her by my side, I’ve gained the confidence to say I’m a writer and continue to build courage around being seen, being true to myself. Like she is.
It’s not that there’s no rejection: not everyone connects with what I write or post on social media. It’s that I grow stronger in risking, facing and accepting potential rejection.
We can’t please everyone and that’s… good. It’s what makes room for all of our unique gifts. We just need to find who we serve best with those gifts. And I learned that rejection, really, is redirection. It’s a kink in the road that veers us toward where we’re meant to bloom and serve.
Who knew part of Lexy’s life mission was to guide me toward gaining the strength to roll up my sleeves, face fear, and go.
I’ve been asked a few times what prompted me to open up with my writing last year and I had no clear answer, until now: it was my beloved dog. With a little help from her furiends.
And I will be forever grateful.