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Self-love simplified

Happy Valentine’s Day — or happy Day of the Heart as they call it at my son’s school.

{Can I just say I can’t believe it’s February? I’m finally feeling really well-prepared for September … of last year. Well, then. Onward.}

So, a couple days ago we got a puppy. Nine weeks old, the little thing. She’s a bundle of joy and exuberance and quite possibly the cutest thing ever. She’s already mastered peeing on her special pad. But poop? Not so much.

Stay with me a sec so I can link up self-love with puppy poops.

I recently read the most succinct, powerful definition of self-love that I’ve ever come across, from author and therapist Terry Real. I paraphrase:

Self-love is the ability to hold yourself in warm, positive regard, regardless of your shortcomings, failings, or folly.

Being a good friend to yourself, even when (especially when) you mess up.

Being gentle with yourself, even when (especially when) you feel old, ugly, or useless.

Being playful with yourself, even when (especially when) you’ve let someone else — or your own self — down.

Being celebratory of yourself, even in (especially in) a world or family or culture that doesn’t see you or value you.

Some of us shy away from self-love because we think we might get stuck up and full of ourselves. Arrogant. Out of touch. Suck all the oxygen out of the room.

That’s called self-aggrandizement. Narcissism. Overcompensation. Not self-love.

Some of us shy away from self-love because we think we’ll learn better if we are hard on ourselves (or others) and that otherwise we’ll get “soft” and never learn to do our best. Self-love is for sissies, we think, and we want to be warriors!

But pretty much, when we beat up on ourselves (or others) as a way to “teach ‘em a lesson” what we (or they) learn is to treat ourselves (and others) with that same level of violence and contempt.

Put simply, we pass on the habit of cold, mean regard.

And what’s more, we don’t learn to enjoy doing our best. We learn to fear NOT doing our best. We learn to fear the loss of the love and standing that may come if we fail, flounder or misstep.

The difference between all that blowhard stuff and real-deal self-love is what’s going on inside you. Do you hold yourself in cold and mean regard, or do you hold yourself in warm and positive regard?

The owner we got our puppy from told us the best way to train the puppy is positive reinforcement only. Meaning, when she fetches and brings back the chew-toy, she gets a dried liver treat. When she pees on her special pad, she gets a dried liver treat. No yelling, certainly no hitting, and no rubbing her nose in it.

Self-love means being kind, positive, and warm with your inner puppy.

Reminding your inner puppy that you are learning all the time, doing the best with what you’ve got at the moment. Helping your inner puppy to retain (and grow) all her natural joy and exuberance.

Self-love doesn’t mean you let yourself totally off the hook for your shortcomings or inadequacies. Do clean up the messes you make. Do say sorry when you’ve misstepped. Do figure out how to do it better next time instead of stepping in the same puddle of folly again.

Just like I can hold this dear puppy in warm, positive regard even while I train her not to poop on my rug, we can all hold ourselves in warm, positive regard.

Now, it’s your turn. Come on over to the discussion and let us know one thing you WON’T be doing this Valentine’s Day.

For this day, this February Day of the Heart day, I wish for you that most precious and dear thing: self-love.

It’s way better than bon-bons, red roses, or those weird candy hearts, I promise.

Holding you in warm, positive regard,

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