Everyone Steps in Dog Poop

 In Blog

Everyone Steps in Dog Poop
By Justin Wright

People are afraid to get help when they need it. We all deal with our own irrational fears as human beings, but this one may potentially be the most harmful. Awareness about mental health, and the disorders that many suffer with, is just now gaining traction, yet many go without seeking the help they desperately need. As human beings, it is our job to shift this understanding. It’s okay to have problems, and it’s important to understand that seeking help does not make you weak.

We are pack animals by nature; we have a basic psychological need to be accepted and supported by our community. In many cases this need is beneficial and has helped keep us alive for generations. Unfortunately, this need for acceptance is also at the root of many social fears. Being accepted is so important, in fact, that many would rather suffer in silence than face the possibility of being ostracized.

This phenomenon extends to self-development as well. In order to develop mentally and emotionally, we must be willing to admit that we currently have faults which need improving. If we are afraid to own our faults, then this progress is impossible. We cannot fix that which we refuse to see; this is why all rehab programs start with accepting that we have a problem. This is often one of the hardest steps, all driven by the fear that we all share.

Social anxiety

Social anxiety is at the root of this fear. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist, recently published a book titled How to Be Yourself which discusses social anxiety in detail.

“Social anxiety is often thought of as a fear of judgement or a fear of people, but that’s not accurate. Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we’ll be judged or rejected as a result.” – Ellen Hendriksen (1)

It is these perceived deficiencies which prevent us from sharing our true selves, or even admitting and taking ownership of our faults. What is important to understand is that we are not the only ones who feel this way. The magic happens when we open up, when we start to own our mistakes, our faults, and our errors. It helps bring down the walls of those around us because the same solidarity that we seek within our communities makes us empathetic with others going through similar struggles.

Everyone steps in dog poop

One important thing to understand, always, is that everyone has their own struggles. No one is perfect, everyone has skeletons in their closet, and, regardless of external appearances, everyone is fighting their own personal battles. This can be a difficult thing to understand when we are bombarded with photoshop, Instagram filters, and the age of influencers where everyone appears to be “living their best life.”

In summary, everyone steps in dog poop sometimes. While you may not want to admit that you too have poop on your shoes, it doesn’t change the fact that we all have more in common than we think. Sometimes it just takes a matter of shifting perspective to realize that your problems are not entirely unique, and someone else is struggling through the same thing. More importantly, there are likely people in your current circle dealing with similar issues.

It is time that we all be a bit more open about our faults. In order to embrace a growth mindset and become the best version of ourselves, we need to run towards, and not away, from our mistakes. Failures are a great opportunity for learning, as long as you understand that failing does not make you a bad person. As Ray Dalio describes in his book Principles, failing is perfectly acceptable, but not learning from that failure is not. (2) Remember: the first step to learning is accepting. When we accept our mistakes, and accept those around us despite theirs, we can begin making progress.

Secure your oxygen mask first

There is a reason that, in an airplane emergency, they tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you lose consciousness, it doesn’t matter how much you want to save those around you. Once incapacitated, you lose the ability to assist anyone else. Mental wellness works much the same way. Until you start working on yourself and your personal development, you can’t help others in your life.

How often do you try to listen to the problems of loved ones and provide your perspective? How often do you find others admitting their shortcomings to you while vehemently denying your own? Embrace your whole self, embrace your faults, embrace your failures! Until you take a good, honest look in the mirror, you cannot expect to help those who come to you for advice.

You deserve to be selfish when it comes to your mental health. You deserve to be the best possible version of yourself. Don’t feel guilty for needing to focus on your own mind and your own thoughts. In the same way that we often experience social anxiety thinking our problems are unique, many of us feel guilty for focusing on ourselves instead of others. What is important to understand is that, as much as we may want to help others in our lives, we can only do it if we put our oxygen mask on first.

Set boundaries

While there will be people in your life who support you, who push you to grow, and who openly share their faults with you, there are many others you will encounter who live in a world of denial. These are the people who refuse to look in the mirror, whose social anxiety has crippled them and prevented them from embracing their faults. The story is usually the same: nothing that happens to them is their fault, they are always being dealt a bad hand, life isn’t fair. Those who view the world in this way cannot grow until they shift this mindset. They need to go from being a victim to taking ownership of their own existence.

The problem with people like this is they can’t complain unless they have someone to complain to. They seek out friends and family to be the targets of their rants, because they crave an audience to unload their negativity on. They seek the validation of others who also think life isn’t fair and who are equally dissatisfied with their circumstances. Misery truly loves company as they say.

People either bring energy into our lives or take energy out, there is no middle ground. These negative people drain our energy and look to bring us into their circle. We must set firm boundaries so that we do not succumb to their views. Nothing will hold you back more than those who refuse to take ownership of their own destiny. Understand this, and understand that these situations are just like the airplane emergencies we previously mentioned. Firmly secure your oxygen mask by setting limits on the time you spend with these individuals. Have an honest conversation with them about their impact on your life and, if they cannot see the light and respect your wishes, sever ties and move on. The temporary pain is better than months or years of being held back.

Elevate your circle

Just like it is your responsibility to be selfish and take care of yourself, you owe it to those around you to be a positive beacon for them. The people we spend the most time with are the people who will, in large part, determine the trajectory of our lives. If you surround yourself with winners, you will also be a winner. You also need to realize that you are a part of that circle. Your contributions, your viewpoints, and your actions will also affect the success or failure of the group as a whole.

The more you embrace your own shortcomings and take ownership of your failures, the more those around you will do the same. The more comfortable you are with receiving criticism and discussing your faults, the more comfortable those in your circle will be with similar feedback. Imagine how much more you could accomplish if you were constantly surrounded by people checking and balancing one another with the goal of making everyone better?

Optimizing team performance

This process is the underlying key to optimizing team performance. If you want your circle, your team, your company, or any other group to operate at its peak, you must all embrace your mistakes and learn to critically analyze your failures. Learn to extract the lessons from these situations and use these lessons to continue growing as a person. It all starts when you realize that you are not the only one on the sidewalk with dog poop on your shoes.


(1) Tucker, Ian. “Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen: ‘We are each our own worst critic’.” The Guardian, 4 Apr. 2018, www.theguardian.com/science/2018/apr/14/ellen-hendriksen-we-are-each-our-own-worst-critic-social-anxiety-disorder-interview.
(2) Dalio, Ray. (2017) Principles. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


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