The Real Definition of Tough Love + How to Know When to Use It

What comes to mind when I say “tough love?”

The most common definition of tough love is concern expressed in a strict way, especially to make someone behave responsibly.

But tough love is so much deeper and richer than that.

My 3 core gifts are TRUTH, TOUGH LOVE, and BOLD ACTION. Taken together: I use tough love to help others take bold action towards their truth.

So let’s uncover what does it really means to “use tough love.”

Tough love at the right time and in the right way leads us to growth, healing, and evolving to a better version of ourselves.

When I was 11 years old, my older brother and I were on horseback chasing the cattle from a nearby pasture to the farm.

My horse, Tia, had a foal at the time, and when my brother ran ahead on his horse to get some stray cattle, my horse’s foal followed him in confusion. This made Tia very anxious, but I stayed back with the herd.

When my brother retrieved the strays, I decided to run ahead so Tia could reunite with her foal. While we were running full speed through the pasture, Tia tripped in a gopher hole, and I went flying through the air. I put my hands down to stop my fall, and I heard a crack.

The pain was so great that I was dizzy and had a hard time breathing. I knew both of my arms were broken. Luckily, Tia was fine, happy to be reunited with her baby and grazing next to me.

My brother, having missed the whole thing, started yelling at me because the cattle were going in the wrong direction again.

When he realized something was wrong, he rode over. We were about two miles from home, and I was in excruciating pain. We had no cell phone. It was just the two of us, the horses, and a herd of confused cattle.

My brother looked at me and said, “You’ve gotta get back on that horse.”

“Are you crazy?” I said. “No way!” The pain was eye watering, and the visual of me flying through the air was replaying in my mind. As far as I was concerned, I was happy to never get back on a horse again.

Then, my brother got stern with me. “Allyson, you have to get back on the horse. It’s the only way home.”

I realized that I was in too much pain to walk, and I shouldn’t be left alone. He was right. I had to get back on the horse. So he carefully helped me back on Tia, and then he slowly led us back to the house.

My brother demonstrated incredible tough love by forcing me back on the horse with two broken arms because it was the fastest and safest way for me to get home.

Not only that, I have a deep love for horses and horseback riding. Had I not gotten right back on the horse, I may have developed a fear of something I adore.

Today, my 18-month old Freya is going through bouts of separation anxiety. It breaks my heart when the babysitter arrives, and she clings to me in tears. There are times, in fact, when I want to cancel my plans and stay with her and reassure her that mommy isn’t going anywhere. But I know it’s in her best interest to learn that when mommy leaves, she always comes back. In fact, leaving and returning in a loving and routine manner is the best way for toddlers to overcome their fear of separation anxiety.

More and more, we live in a world that fears and avoids tough love. We don’t want to hear our children cry or watch a loved one suffer. But sometimes that crying or suffering is exactly what they need for their growth or healing.

The true definition of tough love is: love expressed in a seemingly stern or rigid manner, and with the higher intention of enabling someone to heal, grow, or evolve.

So how do we know when a little tough love is in order?

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you or someone you care about struggling in a way that you or they appear stalled and unable to advance forward?
  • Are you or someone you care about repeating the same mistake over and over again?
  • Are you or someone you care about not able to see the reality of a situation?

Ultimately, whether tough love is needed or not, if you act with love and in service to others grounded in integrity, you can’t go wrong.

If you want to learn more about core gifts and tough love, then join my free webinar series that will continue on Wednesday, 28 February. During this webinar, you’ll learn on how to identify + infuse your core gifts into your business + personal life and use your gifts to supercharge your success.

As a result, you’ll be offering to your loves ones and ideal clients that which is uniquely and expressly you in a way that feels energizing and liberating. Sign up for the webinar series HERE. Those who sign up will also receive the webinar recording and some bonus goodies.

To you, uncorked, XOXO

If you’re interested in chatting with me about identifying your core gifts, schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation. We’ll put together a plan of how to incorporate your gifts in your personal + professional life.

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2 replies
  1. Sharon stroschein
    Sharon stroschein says:

    What came to my mind when I saw that picture was the follow up to that story. Thank you for not making your story about a “medically inept” Mom.

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