What is self-respect? You might not know it… but for most of us, our most vocal critic is ourselves. We usually don’t even talk to ourselves with respect. The respect that we will normally show to others. This boils down to self-respect…
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We say it’s teaching others how to treat us. It’s showing others how we deserve to be treated.
How do we do that?
We start with ourselves. Repeat after us: we start with ourselves.
How did we arrive at this answer?
Read on, and find out.
What is self-respect?
Let’s first say what it’s not.
It’s not self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the good feeling we experience when we know that we’re competent (or really good, great, talented) at something. It’s the feeling we get when we recognize that we’re valued members of our family, friend group, workplace, and communities beyond.
We earn self-esteem by doing well at home, at work, and out there in the world.
Self-respect is deeper. It’s our innermost feelings about ourselves. Earning self-respect is something that we do on our own and for ourselves. No one can make us earn it, or earn it for us. No one can give it to us.
Growing up, did you learn to treat others with respect? Probably.
Did you learn how to respect yourself? Probably not. Maybe, sorta kinda.
That’s where this all breaks down for most of us.
Pushing respect for yourself to second place doesn’t work because, the truth is, you can’t respect others until you respect yourself.
So, what is self-respect, then?
Every decision you make in your life is determined by your self-respect (or lack thereof). Every relationship you have in your life is made (or broken) by your self-respect (or lack thereof).
How do you develop self-respect?
There are some questions ahead. When you ask yourself these questions, make sure you’re giving an answer that is true to yourself.
This is a time to figure out who you are and who you aren’t. Stop trying to be normal. There’s no such thing. There’s only you.
- What do I do that makes me respect myself?
Commit to doing those things. Make time for experiences and callings that feed your soul, that make your life worth living. What excites you? Do that.
- What do I do that makes me not respect myself?
We can’t change what we aren’t aware we need to change. So, pay attention to those times when you feel bad about yourself and work to identify why you feel bad.
- What did I do to contribute to this bad feeling I have about myself?
- What can I do differently next time so that I don’t wind up feeling this way?
Commit to making changes in your behavior. Control what you can control.
Remember that learning self-respect will take time and that even once you’ve made great progress you will still make mistakes sometimes, or revert to old habits you’re trying to permanently break.
Sometimes we let beating up on ourselves get in the way of trying again. There’s no sense in dwelling in that sort of self-punishment. Time is too precious for that.
What gets in the way on the journey to self-respect?
We go about earning it the wrong way. We think we can find our missing self-respect by getting more attention on our social media channels or by buying ourselves that newest must-have item that everyone already has.
We think that self-respect is selfish. It’s not. We worry that caring about ourselves makes us self-centered. It doesn’t.
We say “yes” when we mean “no.” We say nothing when we want to (or know we should) speak up.
So we need to learn how to put ourselves first without feeling guilty.
Would you rather like yourself, or be liked by others? Of course, both are possible, but maybe not all the time.
If you had to pick which to prioritize – liking yourself, or being liked by others – which would you choose? Can you expect someone to like you if they don’t actually know you? If you don’t like yourself?
We victimize ourselves, and we fail to recognize the role we play in a relationship or situation that is not working for us.
By embracing the idea that we teach others how to treat us, you’ll begin to recognize your own part in any relationship or situation that is not working for you.
So, remove the idea that you’re a victim. Because while it may be true that you’re being abused, you can only control your own actions. What can you change? How can you adjust your behavior to show better respect for yourself?
Remember, no one can disrespect you without your permission.
When you love and respect yourself you…
Respect your body and your environment
You only get one body, so you should treat it right. Build healthy exercise and diet practices, and enjoy treats in moderation. Start your morning by telling yourself something that you love about your body as part of your self-care.
Be purposeful about how you carry yourself, and how you express yourself through your wardrobe.
Take care of your living space. You don’t need to be a neat-freak, but you should come up with systems that work for you and those you share your living space with.
While you’re at it, respect those places that we all share as human beings, like the planet. Don’t litter. Recycle. Leave a public space as you found it, or better than you found it.
Do your part.
Get to know (and share) your interests, desires, needs, and fears
Don’t hide your passions or lie about your hobbies. There’s only one you, and we don’t want you to blend in.
Don’t fall silent about what you desire and what you need. Communicate clearly and compassionately. There are friends and lovers out there who will respect you for who you are, if only you’ll show them.
And you should only partner with the person who is sure they want to partner with you – we mean, all of you.
Don’t run from your fears. And don’t go on some ill-fated journey to become fearless. Have the courage to embrace your fears, so that they don’t get the best of you. Over time, and as you face them, you’ll build strength and they’ll fade away.
Set your own boundaries
Know your limits. And learn how to politely, but firmly, say “no.”
When someone tries to take advantage of you, and you say “no,” you let them know that you are not someone they can ask that favor of. It might take saying “no” a few times to fully communicate your boundaries, so stand your ground.
If your boundaries are crossed even after you’ve made the effort to communicate them, you’re in a relationship or situation that isn’t good for your wellbeing. Make a plan to get out of it. And follow through.
When someone tells you that you can’t do something, don’t take their word for it. Their advice, even if you’ve asked for it, comes with their own emotional baggage. You alone decide what you can and can’t do.
Let go of family baggage
You are not your parents or siblings. You are not your grandparents or your aunts and uncles and cousins.
So, live for you.
Your past is only a part of you.
So make amends with it, and move along to the present. The present is where it’s at.
Acknowledge your failures and weaknesses
Get vulnerable. Look at those flaws. See those failures. Accept them, and hear the feedback they’re there to give you. View them as opportunities for growth.
Take your goals and dreams seriously
Stop waiting for the perfect time to get started. The perfect time doesn’t exist, and to the extent that it does, it’s now. Start with something you feel you can achieve fairly easily, and achieve it. You’ll build confidence in yourself, and get excited to move along to the next challenge on your list.
Start with something you feel you can achieve fairly easily, and achieve it. You’ll build confidence in yourself, and get excited to move along to the next challenge on your list.
Accept that today was enough
At the same time, you can’t let your worth stem from how quickly you get through that never-ending to do list. When the day is done, let that be enough. If you can do better tomorrow, do better tomorrow.
If you can do better tomorrow, do better tomorrow.
Model how you want to be treated
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s The Golden Rule for a reason. People remember how you make them feel.
Do what you say you’ll do, or communicate that (and sometimes why) you can no longer do what you said you would do. Keeping your word builds trust in yourself and in others.
Pick a self-respecting someone to emulate. What do they do to exude an air of self respect? How does it inspire you to be better about respecting yourself?
Just imagine how exuding your own air of self-respect will inspire others.
Appreciate the behavior you like
Let someone know when they’ve made you feel respected, and especially when you notice that they’ve made an effort to change their behavior to respect you better.
Apologize with integrity
An apology is not accompanied by an excuse. So let go of your ego and your pride, ask yourself if you need to apologize, and if you do: apologize. Just apologize. Nothing more.
Self-respect is integral to self-confidence.
Eager to get better at respecting yourself?