I’ve been through some tough shit in the last few years, and I honestly don’t know if I could have made it out the other side without my dog. Every day when I get home from work or school, no matter how long I’ve been gone, there she is with her smiling face just as excited to see me as she’s ever been. To her, I’m her world, and no matter what I do or how I may be feeling at the time, she never loves me any less. Dogs are such great creatures and specifically pets because they are inherently capable of something that seems to be incredibly rare these days: unconditional love.
Once you are established in your dog’s mind as the person who provides for them and constantly loves them, the feeling is instantly mutual. Nothing you do will take away their love. You may need to yell at them or even hit them for being “bad” but the moment you are able to forgive them and decide to love them again, whatever you may have done has long been forgiven. They were just waiting for you to come around again. My dog is certainly not the most intelligent in the world, and if you talk to anyone that knows her well they’ll probably say that she’s pretty dumb, but she has still managed to teach me a great deal over the past few years.
Why can’t we all be more like our dogs and simply love people, without having to put some sort of price or condition on it? The answer for most is that we are not yet able to even love ourselves unconditionally, making it impossible to love others that way. We’ve all got some sort of flaws or things that we think we need to change about ourselves and for some reason people tend to focus much more on this than on all the good things that can also be found. We tell ourselves things like “If I could just lose ten pounds,” or “if I could just get that promotion,” making the love of others and even ourselves dependent on things like this and also the self-image that you harbor of yourself. It shouldn’t be so hard just to accept yourself for who and what you are and love yourself with all your heart.
Today’s culture and society is certainly not helping this predicament. It’s not just in our own heads now that we find flaws, but we are constantly receiving messages all around that we need to change things or fit a certain mold. Other people think it’s alright to point out flaws in others and say they need to change something, when really it’s the one putting you down for who you are that really needs some work. The only way to really love yourself for who you are these days is to be able to rise above all of this outside criticism, and not give in to the popular belief that you need to be a certain way or fit a certain mold to be happy.
The only true form of complete happiness must begin with unconditional love of oneself. Sure there are plenty of things out there that provide temporary happiness, but all of those will fade as soon as you are done with them, and you still have yourself to deal with when it’s gone. When you constantly think that there is something wrong with you or that you should be different in some way, you will find these thoughts occupying far too much of your time and expending far too much of your precious energy. If you could manage to focus just a little more on the positive things about yourself and those around you, the world would certainly be a better place; not only for you but for everyone.
Since so many of us have such a hard time loving ourselves unconditionally, and in turn are incapable of loving others unconditionally, conditional love is unfortunately the only type of love that most people have in their lives. Phrases like “I’ll love you forever if…” or “I’ll never love you again if…” are far too common in today’s world. People tend to only offer their “love” based on certain conditions or circumstances, and I put that in quotations simply because that’s not real love. Real love is loving someone no matter what and accepting them completely with all their flaws and failures. People are who they are, and making them feel the need to change that in order to feel love is downright wrong.
Because of this world full of only conditional love, people constantly find themselves bending over backwards for others trying to earn their love. Maybe if people just felt loved all the time instead of constantly being judged it would be a little easier to actually love yourself. The constant barrage of outside messages saying you need to do certain things a certain way or you won’t be loved is creating a culture of rampant depression and people only doing things for others and not themselves. We should be able to feel love just for being ourselves and not for trying to be something we’re not.
It’s amazing what even a single person that is capable of unconditional love can do for those around him. It resonates like a wave and the more people that are able to feel unconditional love from others, the more people that might actually be capable of unconditional love down the road. That’s why my dog has been able to get me through so much the past few years. Having any sort of unconditional love in your life, even from an animal, can make you a much happier person. It’s no wonder that people with dogs seem just a little bit happier than those without. And if you’ve never owned a dog, you should. They’re awesome. So let’s all get dogs and learn a little something from them. And let’s start finally loving ourselves first and foremost so we are capable of actually loving those around us without making it contingent on something.