Have You Thought About Self-Respect?
Do you respect yourself? How can you know?
Self-respect is a complex subject. All the “self-“constructs—self-love, self-compassion, self-awareness, self-respect, self-esteem, self-perception, self-actualization—blur together and spotlight the self, an uncomfortable focus for many of us.
Self-respect is a new idea to me, and it’s more than, “I kinda think I’m okay as a person. I try to do my best. I love myself.” What, then, is self-respect?
First, What is Respect?
Let’s look at what respect means when directed toward someone else. When we respect someone in our lives, we esteem them highly. We speak to them thoughtfully. We value their insight. We work to be in reciprocal relationship with them. We listen to them. We care for them and work to meet their needs. If we’re lucky, we get to see them often and enjoy their presence. When someone speaks against them, we measure what we hear against what we know of the person, refusing to jump to conclusions.
In the same way, we can respect ourselves.
How Do We Respect Ourselves?
Self-respect is knowing and trusting ourselves and then holding our boundaries. When we know ourselves well, we uphold our self-view in a centred, grounded way.
If I respect myself, I:
- Esteem myself highly
- Speak to myself thoughtfully
- Value my insight
- Work on my relationship with myself
- Listen to myself
- Care for myself
- Work to understand and meet my needs
- Spend time with myself
- Enjoy my presence
- Measure what people say about me against what I know about me
Because I am touch with who I am and what I need, self-respect also guides me to:
- Act with integrity
- Live authentically
- Take appropriate actions and steps in response to any circumstance.
Self Respect Is Needed When …
The need for self-respect is triggered when our needs aren’t met, whether through our own actions or someone else’s. We don’t know we lack self-respect until we realize something is out of balance. Our need may be for nourishing food, a compassionate ear, yoga, or finishing a task. Someone in our lives may trip over a boundary we didn’t know we had, and we realize we need to do some self work around who we are and what we can and can’t allow in our lives.
Then comes the beautiful part. We take the spiralling journey inside ourselves to learn what we haven’t learned before—a new facet of ourselves, a new need coming to light, a new way to champion ourselves from a place of knowledge and strength. When we take the time to ask the question, “What do I need and want?” concrete reality shifts. Suddenly we don’t have to be who we were a few days or weeks before; we can be the new, more in-tune version of ourselves, with a level of respect that matches who we are today.
Unfortunately, no one else can do the work of going inside yourself and learning who you are at the core. No one can tell you what you really need and want—only you. For me, a recovering people-pleaser and peacemaker, respecting myself by setting a boundary falls on a spectrum ranging from trepidation to terror. Closing a topic of conversation or asking for help to meet my needs comes with the anxiety inherent to anyone breaking old behavioural patterns, and that’s okay. It’s part of the process.
Self-Respect is the Gift that Keeps On Giving
Self-respect, then, demands growth and change. The gift of doing so, however, is that as we change in response to this in-tune relationship to ourselves, our roots grow deep, unshakeable. I can’t be as easily upset this month by someone overstepping my boundary, because my respect for myself is deeper than it was last month. I am in tune with my needs. It is my responsibility to find ways to meet them and to know when someone can’t. I am grounded, full of respect, and I flourish.