This morning I was out walking my Cavoodle, Leo. As we approached a local sports oval, I heard a woman in the distance chastising someone. "That is totally inappropriate!" she growled. I couldn’t initially see what was going on because the section of the oval where she was standing was hidden by a facilities block. But as we passed the building I saw her in the middle of the oval hovering over a large, slightly overweight, black Labrador. A small brown dog on a leash stood nearby next to its owner.
I don’t know what had transpired between the two dogs, but I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of this woman saying such a sophisticated sentence to this slobbering dog. As if it would understand the words "that is totally inappropriate."
Leo and I continued our walk to a nearby park where I let him off the leash to run around. About 10 minutes later, we were meandering our way back towards the oval when I noticed the lady with the Labrador approaching. The dog bounded enthusiastically up to Leo with it's tail wagging and started sniffing his behind, as dogs' do. Normally Leo accepts other dogs' sniffs graciously as a matter of common dog courtesy and then reciprocates. But for some reason, he started barking wildly and snarling. The black Lab quickly backed off with a look of wounded innocence. I felt extremely embarrassed, and what came out of my mouth totally amazed me. "Leo," I shouted, "That is totally inappropriate!"
It is easy to judge other people's behaviour from the sidelines, thinking what a stupid or strange thing to do, but perhaps we are not as different as we imagine. One of my psychology professors used to say that seeing ourselves as others see us is probably the hardest thing in life because our eyes are pointing outwards. Even in the age of Zoom, we might think we see ourselves as others see us, but do we really?
The closest experience I have truly had to this is dispassionately watching a video replay of myself talking to others. If you have done this, you will know what a horrible and painful experience it is. Most people can't believe how awkward and awful they think they look and sound. And yet this is often a distorted interpretation, again proving my professor right. Perhaps it's best just to love and accept others as they are, and apply the same compassion to ourselves.
I'll leave you with the words of the Scottish poet, Robbie Burns:
Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us.
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