“Wouldn’t it be sad if a Labrador spent its entire life trying to be a Jack Russell”

Written by CAL Therapist Katy Pey

Working with young people with eating disorders, body dysmorphia and low self-esteem has shown us just how critical we can be about the body we live in. What we often don’t think about is the pressure to be someone that we are not. This includes having a different body size, features, or even just changing the fundamental things that make us, us. This is where I often quote an amazing analogy “Wouldn’t it be sad if a Labrador spent its entire life trying to be a Jack Russell”.

If we think about it realistically, a Labrador could never gain the body and stature of a Jack Russell. Many of the young people I work with often say they would feel sad for the Labrador if this was its expectation. Rather than being happy in our own bodies, as human beings we often strive to achieve another’s. Difficulties arise when the body we try to achieve is not physically possible or maintainable. Furthermore, the lifestyle of a Labrador would not fit that of a Jack Russell. Expecting a Labrador to do half the amount of exercise and to not throw themselves into every puddle would be unfair. Yet we expect our own bodies to attune to a lifestyle they may not be designed for either.

Wanting to look how we did when younger is another topic often discussed with regards to body image. If we look at how a dog ages from a cute, vibrant, bouncy puppy to an older dog with grey hair and reduced quality of coat, we describe positively how “mature” or how “wise” they seem to have become.  Yet when we look at our own body, we speak negatively and wish to look as we did 10 years before..

A Labrador will never be a Jack Russell, it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect that to ever happen. Instead we need to embrace who we are and focus on the positives that we have. Whilst a Labrador might find it unfair they can’t fit into smaller spaces like a Jack Russell, or be picked up and carried, they make up for it by running and jumping and swimming which is what their bodies were made to do.

Being ourselves and living in our own body can be very hard for those suffering from negative body image. It is important to try and remember how unfair and sad it would be to expect a Labrador to look like it did as a puppy or to shrink/change its features to look like another breed. In the way that we care for a dog, we need to care for ourselves. In the way that we say positive comments about a dog, we need to say this to ourselves, and in the way we embrace each dogs differences in appearance we need to embrace our own.