A lot is written about love in February – some of it wise and wonderful, much of it…not so much. I was tempted to simply ignore the subject this year, unsure of whether I could add anything of real value to the conversation and wanting to offer you something fresh and useful.

Then I realized there are certain messages that bear repeating, over and over again, until they are embraced and embodied in a genuine way. And here is the message I most want you to embrace:

Loving yourself is the foundation of genuine happiness, fulfillment and success.

And that most certainly includes happiness, fulfillment and success in relationships. Too often our romantic notions of love arise from a concept perhaps best articulated by Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire. Could anyone forget the scene in which he said these famous words?

“You complete me.”

He said it with such depth of feeling, and of course it melted sweet Renee Zellweger’s heart (and probably the heart of every woman in the viewing audience). I’m pretty sure there were tears in his eyes. It was so poignant, so profound, so…romantic.

And so misleading.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, including that scene. Yet I realize that the idea of a romantic partner who “completes” us reinforces a very false and damaging belief that we are somehow incomplete right now, just as we are. And a belief in our incompleteness – which almost always translates as “not enough-ness” – gives rise to all manner of pain, as well as the energy-depleting strategies we employ in an attempt to get rid of the pain.

You know the ones. They take a variety of forms, but at their core they’re all about garnering acceptance or approval from others, trying to live up to the expectations of our partners and families and society. We think others’ approval will “prove” to us that we’re okay, but it never does. It cannot. No amount of external validation can fill a perceived inner void.

And that’s really the crux of the matter: our false belief in our incompleteness is a misperception, and only we can change our own perception. Of course, someone who sees us through the eyes of love can help us tremendously in learning to see ourselves the same way, but they can’t do it for us. It’s the same as saying that they cannot complete us, because we are already whole…even as we are growing and evolving.

As we consider ourselves in terms of being whole yet still growing and evolving, we recognize the true beauty and power of a healthy, loving relationship. Rather than looking to our partners to complete us, we welcome them into our lives and hearts to support our growth. And what is growth but an ongoing expansion into our genuine, magnificent selves? It feels so good to be encouraged and appreciated, to be stimulated into expressing the very best of who we are. That’s what a great “growth partner” can do, romantic or otherwise.

Now that I think of it, if I was writing that scene in Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise would say:

“You expand me.”

I’ve recently been blessed by expressions of great love from unexpected sources, and I’ve felt keenly that, in opening to receive this amazing love, I am expanding my own capacity to love, to live, to create. It’s not about being completed; it’s about being open and willing to let myself be fully seen, heard and appreciated. And it feels really good.

So this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate our “enough-ness.” Let’s acknowledge our wholeness and our innate worthiness to be loved, just as we are. And let’s decide that our continued growth and evolution are the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves, and to the world.

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