Love Your Animal
You have an animal who needs your love.
Susan always wanted to understand how she can love herself. Most of the time she felt hopeless because even after reading many self-care books she didn’t find any way to practice self-love. Her friends often told her, “you need to love yourself.” This advice always made her angry because they never told her how she could do that. So it was a continued struggle for her. She wanted to give up but deep down she knew self-love is essential.
One day, she was walking in a park when she saw an old man sitting on a bench with a pen and paper in his hands. After a moment, he began drawing something with his colorful pencils. Soon the drawing was complete, and there was a beautiful heart on the paper with a word on it “LOVE”. She took a step ahead and said to the old man,
“Your drawing is so wonderful. Can I ask you a question about love?”
“Sure, go ahead,” he replied.
“I don’t understand how can I love myself, I always want to practice it but I don’t know what is the way to do it. Can you give me any advice?”
“You have an animal and you need to take care of that animal.”
She looked confused by what the old man said so he explained,
“First of all, you need to stop thinking of yourself as a human and begin treating yourself like the anxious little animal that you are.”
She was still puzzled, trying to make sense of the old man’s suggestions. So he broke it down further by asking,
“Have you ever seen a frightened cat?”
“Pretend you have just adopted that frightened cat from a cage. You don’t know anything about this cat’s history and you don’t need to know. You can see she has been abused and she is afraid of being hurt again. Now imagine this: It’s your first night with that cat and she is in deep fear. How would you treat her? Would you shout at her and tell her she’s a fool or stupid? Would you kick her out of your home? Would you lock her in a dark room? Would you keep her starving or let her eat garbage? Would you let her stay in an environment where other cats can attack her every day?”
“No,” said Susan. “I would take care of her.”
“Wonderful. It means you know how to love an animal. You would give her a warm and safe bed, healthy food, a cozy environment, walks in the sunshine, fresh air, and clean water. Naps, tenderness, affection, playtime, and lots of patience. That’s how you love an animal.”
“But that’s an animal,” she said. “It’s easy to love an animal.”
“Well, that is great news, because you’re an animal, too,” said the old man with a little smile on his face and continued speaking,
“Let me tell you how I do it. Sometimes the only way I can pull myself from the edge of terror or self-hatred is by asking myself, How my animal is feeling right now? Then I pay attention and notice my racing heart, my trembling hands, my shortened breath, my knotted stomach, and my shaky legs, and then I say, “It is very difficult for an animal to live.” I ask my animal, what would make you feel better? Does a light walk? A friendly voice? A treat? A nap? My animal teaches me how to take care of itself, and it shows me how to care for myself.”
“It’s time for you to adopt yourself. You have one dear and vulnerable animal: yourself. Can you embrace that responsibility?,” he asked in a soft voice.
“Maybe…” she said.
“I hope you can. Remember, we can rescue ourselves from the darkness of life by giving ourselves the loving home we’ve earned just by virtue of being alive.”
Tears were shining in Susan’s eyes. That day, she decided to think of herself as an animal and began doing for herself by imagining what she would do for a frightened, anxious little animal.