I’ve thought a lot lately about self-respect and what it means. The dictionary defines self-respect as, “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.” I like that definition, I really do, but when I’m thinking of self-respect, I am thinking of it as it relates to other people.
The phrase stuck in my mind is Eleanor Roosevelt’s, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This, to me, means that a person shouldn’t feel bad about oneself based on other people’s judgments.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because of a series of incidents that made me question my feelings about my past choices in life, my personal philosophy, my relationship to the other humans of the world, and my self-worth.
The idea that working to better myself makes me a bad person is… preposterous. The idea that I am a bad person because I want to treat everyone else as equally valuable of love and care? Bizarre. The assertion that I am a terrible person for being friendly to everyone I meet online or in the world? Strange and confusing.
I recognize that I could only feel bad about being my true self if I let other people make me feel bad about not being something else. I don’t feel bad about being myself, because I know how hard I have fought with myself to allow my heart and soul, instead of society’s judgments, be the driving force in my life. It’s simple: I know who I am, I am happy to be a work in progress, and I feel hope that I will eventually figure out my place in the world. Nobody can take that from me. I won’t let them.
That doesn’t change the fact, though, that I do find myself in impossible or unpleasant situations because I don’t actively realize when someone is trying to make me feel inferior. I have spent so much of my life being disrespected by others that it is normal to me. Even when other people point out someone treating me badly, I automatically assume it must be a problem with me.
I am realizing, today, that there is really a problem: I still think other people are more important than me. This is not treating everyone with equity, because I am not treating myself as a someone worthy of equal treatment. So, that is it – the one person I am not treating well is ME.
This made me realize that I am not sure if I know how to treat myself with respect. I mean, I do understand it to some degree, but I don’t feel as if I know all the details. I found an article called “12 Ways to Show Yourself Respect (And Teach Others to Do the Same)” and read it. I went through the list to figure out where I am showing myself respect and where I am falling short. That article defines self-respect as “a deep sense of self-worth and self-love to show that you are worthy of receiving love and in turn, giving love”. Incidentally, this exercise made me realize that I feel a sense of fear when I think of teaching other people to respect me. That is going to change.
Here are the twelve ways to teach oneself self-respect, and my evaluative responses to each:
- Figure out what makes you respect yourself.
– I respect myself for building the life I have made.
– I respect myself for never giving up, even when everything feels hopeless and I feel like life is excruciating.
– I respect myself for speaking up when I feel I need to, even when it is difficult, especially when I know that speaking up on my behalf may cost me a relationship.
– I respect myself for understanding that other people have different perspectives because they have had different experiences. I like that I take the time to listen and try to understand other people’s thoughts.
– I respect myself for taking the time to think and talk through problems when they continuously arise in my heart and mind, because I recognize those things need to be addressed.
– I respect myself for always wanting to help others when I know I can.
– I respect myself for knowing when I need to take time for self-care, or self-soothe to help myself work through overwhelming emotions.
– I respect myself for my ability and drive to learn and experience new things with an open heart and mind.
– I respect myself for taking the time to ask others about things I do not understand.
– I respect myself for being able to look at my life critically and say, “I need to work on this.”
– I respect myself for knowing how far I’ve come and having confidence to know how far I’ll go.
- Be honest about who you are and who you aren’t.
– I am growing and learning. I am changing. I know who I am and I don’t let people off easy when they tell me who they think I am. I am a good person. I look at the world with wonder. I look at the world with love. I am not perfect, but I don’t have to be. I learn from my mistakes and I make an effort to live a life worth living.
- Respect yourself by taking action around things that excite you.
– I definitely don’t have a problem here! I love to learn and I love to figure out new things. It’s what keeps me going.
- Stop trying to hard to be “normal”!
– Still working on this. My default is to believe I’m abnormal and flawed, and I am sometimes acutely aware of the reality that I don’t react to the world “normally”. I am still coming to terms with this understanding of myself in relation to the world. It’s a work in progress.
- Don’t let other people define your boundaries.
– This is a huge one. I fail here in many ways. I still automatically defer to other people’s preferences and hide or ignore my own. This is not something I enjoy or wish to continue. I need to learn to find the right balance here.
- Learn to say no.
– Again, needs work. I learned to say no, but I still sometimes go against my “no” feeling at times. I don’t know why, either. I do know, though, that I don’t want to automatically treat my feelings as less important than other people’s.
- Date the partner who is SURE he or she wants to date you.
– There’s not much to say here. I think this means that I should not settle for anyone who treats me badly. I should not settle, even if the alternative is to be alone. There is no need to suffer in another unbalanced relationship. This means that I should not put forth more effort than my partner to make our relationship work. I should not have to change everything about myself to please someone else. I should be able to voice my wants and needs and have them met with consideration, not criticism.
- Let whatever you get done today be enough.
– This is sometimes tough for me, especially when I am feeling upset. I feel like I’m letting myself down when I am emotionally overwhelmed and can’t get anything done. I am getting better at accepting that I did what I could do despite the setbacks. That is enough for now.
- Know that you are not your genes.
– No problem here. I recognize that I have the power to change my life in the ways I want to change it, despite my dna.
- Apologize with self-respect.
– This is a rough one. I apologize a lot, often for things I didn’t do on purpose, making people uncomfortable, and for being myself. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to everyone just for existing. This is not healthy. This is probably the most difficult item on the list for me, because it goes back to that deep-set feeling that I’m not “good enough” for others. This needs to move to the top of the fix-it list. I want to consistently feel that it’s okay to be myself, without apologizing for being myself.
- Be willing to accept reality.
– I think I do try to look at situations from the best possible perspective. I make excuses to myself for other people’s bad behavior, I try to help them out of their bad situations. This is exactly what leads me to deferring to other people’s preferences, though. I help someone too much, and then end up feeling obligated to maintain that level of assistance, even when it is at my own expense. This is not healthy.
- Write love notes to your body.
– I made peace with my body years ago, so this one is all good! 🙂 I am happy to have a body that functions so well, and I feel good about my body.
I definitely still have work to do. But, I look forward to doing it because I want to look forward to a life where I can count on being treated well by the people I love.
Take care, friend.