If you follow this blog you will become aware of two things: that I am a female stand-up comic and that I’m a lover of animals. I decided within the past year to put my love of animals into action and begin volunteering with a rescue and I have not regretted it.
Now here’s something not so obvious about me: I’ve struggled my entire life with low self-esteem. It’s kind of what happens when you grow up the scrawny nerd and you’re raised to be a perfectionist. It can’t be helped when you get your share of bullying and constantly hear about how nothing you do is ever good enough. I consider myself fortunate because I know there are so many people out there that have it worse, but this is my story so I’m telling it.
Being a perfectionist works to my advantage in a lot of ways, but sometimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help. In my own mind, I’m too short, I’m hard to look at, and my personality kind of sucks. I always have to make a joke, I accidentally interrupt people because I have a thought and get too excited to keep it in, and everybody tells me my voice carries which, and don’t lie to me, is a nice way of saying I’m obnoxiously loud. Really, it’s okay. I’ve come to accept this. Besides if you have the perfect life, stand-up comedy is not for you so if nothing else, it makes me funny. There’s my silver lining.
However, I have good news for anybody who thinks badly of themselves like I used to and in fact still do sometimes. None of that shit matters. No, I’m serious. It really doesn’t matter. You know what does? Your character. Do you do your best every day to be a kind person? Are you kind to everybody and not just people who are like you? Then you’re a person of good character. None of that stuff you don’t like about yourself is important. I’m telling you this because I had to figure it out the hard way and I want to make it easier for others. If I help even one person then I’ll be happy.
Two groups tend to sense kindness in people: children and animals.I seem to be very popular among my friends’ children. Even kids who don’t really know me tend to smile at me. Now that may be because they sense that I’m an aunt who spoils the crap out of her niece and nephew, but you never know so the true test for me was when I started volunteering and working with rescue animals.
After new volunteer orientation, I mingled with my fellow volunteers and the cats before visiting with more of my fellow volunteers and the dogs. When I rounded the corner, this female hound/pit mix made eye contact with me and surprised her handler by bee-lining for me. She was a shy dog and she’d never actually approached anyone like that before. So of course, I found myself unable to resist my urge to pet her and I saw a past in her eyes. We may never know the full extent of it, but it was clear that her life in rescue was the start of a new and better chapter. Shy dogs are often overlooked at adoption events, so I gave her as much attention as I could. A young woman came up and took to her right away. That woman adopted her within a few weeks. I felt like I witnessed and was even a part of the moment when that dog learned to trust again. Needless to say I was hooked and haven’t looked back. I didn’t choose the rescue life. The rescue life chose me.
Now what does this have to do with self-esteem? Well that’s simple. That dog didn’t care that I’m short. She didn’t even care what I looked like. She didn’t care about my jokes or any of my weird social quirks. She saw something in me. She knew just by sight and scent that I cared about her and wanted to help her. She’s not the only one, either. A notoriously picky male Chihuahua-Jack Russel mix approached me and jumped into my arms when I knelt down to pet him. My lap has also been jumped into. I’ve been leaned upon by dogs of all sizes. Leaning is a dog’s way of saying “I trust you. I feel safe with you.” I’ve had cats paw at me for attention which of course I gave to them. Look, all I’m saying is there must be something good about me. All these kids and animals can’t be wrong. So all that stuff I didn’t and well still kind of don’t like about me is eclipsed by their love.
St. Theresa of Calcutta once said “Do small things with great love.” Giving my time and attention to rescue animals probably seems like a pretty small thing, but it makes a difference. Showing people their personalities helps them get adopted into loving forever homes and makes room for us to save another. Nothing builds self-esteem quite like knowing that you’re making a positive impact on someone’s life and that’s how saving them saves me. I only hope now that reading this helps someone else.