Sometimes Annie loves to hug and cuddle – sometimes she doesn’t want to be touched. It’s all okay! As long as I don’t take it personally…
A horse’s body is hers to rule – she gets to decide what she does and does not want done to it – how she does and does not want to be touched. We need to respect how she feels and what she says about her personal space. Annie is a great teacher of this lesson – while we post many photos of cuddles and kisses, Annie only likes to be touched when she feels respected, honored, and up for it. She is not the type of horse that strangers can run up to and hug – that would feel like quite the violation to her. Her close physical affection is given out like a gift. In many ways, I am so grateful for Annie’s particularly – she has taught me great respect for the body of a horse, pushing me to always ask permission, even just to touch. This has helped me earn the trust and affection of so many horses much more quickly.
Sometimes however, with Annie particularly, if I am feeling a lack of self confidence or a lack of self worth, I find myself seeking her attention and physical affection as a way to validate myself. When this happens, I start to get needy; this causes Annie to pull her body away, and my already low self esteem at that moment suffers the rejection.
When I’m feeling desperate and in need of exterior validation, I sometimes verge on begging for Annie’s attention. I want to hug her neck and kiss her nose, but the more desperate I become, the less she wants to participate in these things. The more desperate I am to love on her because I need her to validate me as a person, the less she wants to be touched – the more she pulls away. It’s not that she doesn’t love me, but she is very sensitive to intention and energy. When I get into this needy state, I’m actually not very focused on my loving feelings for her – it would seem I’m more focused on seeking exterior forces to tell me I’m worthy. The underlying energy here feels frantic and unstable.
When I am feeling great about myself and do not need the validation, I come in with a purer desire to love her, no expectations. In these moments, Annie is so much more likely to come up to me and happily & enthusiastically give me kisses, hugs, cuddles, and scratches. The energy between these two approaches is so different. When I’m feeling love for myself and who I am, I am able to focus more on the love I feel for others rather than the love (or lack of) I am receiving/feeling at the time. We can get so consumed in our need validation that we lose touch with the love we actually feel, both for and from others.
"Obsession is not love, Infatuation is not love, When someone ignores you Or treats you poorly, carelessly, Or with indifference that's not love - That's a lack of love For yourself, for trying to fill Your missing pieces with theirs But when someone is whole And you are whole And you act in kindness and benevolence, vulnerability Through strength, Love becomes an exchange With another person - And that is It's truest form." Atticus, Love Her Wild
It can feel hurtful when I am feeling low about myself and Annie pulls away; in my already compromised state, the rejection has a bit more sting. However, I believe it’s one of the greatest lessons Annie can give me in that moment, because it teaches me the incredibly important lesson that we cannot truly find love, acceptance, and self worth solely outside of ourselves – it must first be discovered, cultivated, and built from within. If we want to be accepted and accept others, we must first accept ourselves. If we want to feel loved and love others with deep compassion, then we must love ourselves exactly as we are. When we stop trying to fill our seemingly “missing pieces” with another, whether human or horse, and instead discover our own fullness, we are able to really love the ones we care about in the purest way.
It is so easy to take “rejection” from a horse or a person deeply to heart – the less love we feel for ourselves, the more crushing it is. If we do not know our own worth, when a horse rejects us, we take it personally. I know I certainly have. Horses know when we are desperate for validation and when we feel unworthy, and often times, the more needy we are, the more we need them to validate our self worth, the more distance the horse demands. If we take this personally, we may live our lives feeling rejected and terrible about who we are – but that is not the lesson of the horse. It may seem counter to how the rejection feels, but furthering feelings of unworthiness is not the point they are trying to get across. Quite the opposite actually
The lesson of the horse is to accept ourselves fully – to love ourselves fully – to be ourselves fully. Once we do, the horses are naturally drawn to our spirit. Horses like Annie don’t validate us when we are feeling unworthy or needy of false validation – they want us to know and never doubt our own worth. They don’t want us looking to other people or animals to judge our worthiness – if we gauge our worth based on the opinion of others, we are susceptible to the constant up and downs of ever-changing opinions. As easily as someone can inflate us, someone can rip us down and destroy our self view. We are at the whim of the opinions around us – as unsteady, fluctuating, and irrelevant as they may be. If you do not know your own worth, when someone says “I love and accept you for all you are”, you may never fully trust this from them or believe them. If you do not know your own worth, when someone rejects you or says terrible things to you, you may believe them full heartedly.
If you do not know your own worth, you are subject to an ever changing sea of opinions and judgements that ultimately are not about you – merely projections of others thrust upon you by people who also may not feel good enough. It’s not a very stable way to live, and the horses know it.
Horses love who we are – they want to see us in our truest form – they want to see the authentic, weird, beautiful you. YOU – are worthy. YOU – deserve love, they say.
The horse wants us to know: we are deserving. We are deserving of acceptance, forgiveness, and love.
From others yes… but firstly, from yourself.
We have permission to feel all of these things for ourselves.
You are enough, just as you are, and no one needs to validate that except you.
It’s in moments like these when horses really mirror us and show us the aspects of ourselves that need love and care – if we don’t feel worthy, they mirror that feeling right back at us. They give us an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly and grow. This insight is invaluable. If we listen to the lessons of the horse, it can change our lives. The lesson here is to bring in more self love. It’s a beautiful message if you think about it, and a fundamental one of the horse.
The more we accept and love ourselves, the closer the horses want to be to us. They are attracted to our confident self love. However, I know it’s often times easier said than done to feel deep self love… I really understand that. At times, it can be hard to cultivate, so we need to be so kind with ourselves when building our self love and acceptance back up.
How can we cultivate love for ourselves? How can we bring our compassion and kindness inwards? It can be so hard to treat ourselves with compassion and love… even if we would easily accept our “flaws” and mistakes in a close friend, often times we find ourselves (and only ourselves) undeserving. Undeserving of acceptance – undeserving of forgiveness – undeserving of love. So many of us harbor guilt and feelings of unworthiness inside, perhaps where no one sees.
It’s my thought that the first thing we need to do is be gentle – be gentle with ourselves. It’s a one-step-at-a-time process. Acceptance for who and where we are right now in this moment is key.
Not when I start doing X , not when I change X about myself, not when I reach X goal – right now, as I am, it’s enough.
Gently learning accept all aspects of who you are, “good” and “bad”, right now in this present moment… it’s a wonderful beginning.