Before anyone else can love you, you need to love yourself.
Do you have respect for who you are, and do you protect your sense of self from the people and things in the world that threaten and diminish it?
We don’t all respect ourselves as much as we need to, and establishing your self-respect is essential towards living a fulfilled and happy life.
In this article, we explore the idea of self-respect, why it’s important, and everything you can do to start creating your self-respect today.
What is Self-Respect and Why Is It Important?
What does it mean to have self-respect?
For someone who wasn’t taught to value the importance of self-respect and upholding your own needs, it might seem a bit unnecessary to care so much about self-respect.
After all, as long as you satisfy your daily needs and don’t upset anyone else, does your “self-respect” really matter?
It’s not like you’re ever going to turn against yourself and actively work against your own best wishes.
But people without a strong sense of self-respect do hurt themselves in a number of ways, mostly without realizing it.
Self-respect is a crucial component for happiness because it gives us the internalized barrier that allows us to value ourselves, especially when others want to hurt us or take advantage of us.
Instead of giving in to the wants and demands of the world around us, self-respect keeps us aware of our dignity as a person.
When a person lacks self-love and self-respect, they can fall victim to a number of serious social and personal issues.
Understanding Self-Respect: Self-Respect VS Self-Esteem and Ego
To learn how to have self-respect for yourself, it’s important to exactly understand self-respect, where it comes from, and the differences between self-respect, self-esteem, and ego.
To begin, self-respect comes from within.
While it can be difficult to define because it’s an abstract concept that may be relative to each of us, the foundations of self-respect revolve around the idea of being someone that you are proud of, and not being ashamed to showcase that pride.
It comes from an internalized sense of dignity that has been protected and cultivated from the stressors of the world; knowing what it means to have honor, and how to keep your sense of honor intact.
These small yet important personal rules aren’t always universal – something that may be dignified or honorable to one person can be meaningless to another – but as long as you understand what your “rules” are and how to uphold them, then you can begin growing your sense of self-respect.
Ultimately, self-respect comes from within, but it also comes from the interactions the self has with the world around you.
While you can tell yourself that you are a dignified and honorable person deserving of respect, these will all just be words until you give yourself the opportunities to prove it to yourself.
Self-respect comes from within, but it requires interactions and events outside of the self to truly grow.
Self-Respect, Self-Esteem, and Ego
We understand that self-respect is your respect for yourself, and how proud you are of your dignity and your ability to uphold your values and beliefs.
Many people use self-respect, self-esteem, and ego interchangeably, but are these terms truly synonymous with one another, or are there differences that need to be highlighted?
Here’s how self-esteem and ego differ from self-respect:
Many people routinely experience the feeling of having self-esteem without having much self-respect, and the difference between these two is the evaluative framework that comes with self-esteem.
Self-esteem means that you esteem yourself, meaning you have evaluated yourself positively and hold yourself in high regard.
But self-esteem can vanish once you start evaluating yourself negatively – during your lowest moments, when you miss opportunities, and when you fail to meet expectations.
Self-respect means accepting yourself unconditionally, because you understand that your values as a person are respectable and dignified.
Self-respect is much more formidable than self-esteem, because self-respect isn’t contingent on short-term successes and failures.
Related: How a regular guy became his own life coach (and how you can too)
Wherein your self-respect is your personal and internal respect for yourself, your ego is how much you understand and perceive your importance as a person.
Self-respect has a ceiling – once you respect yourself, you cannot continue growing in respect for yourself.
But ego can continue to inflate uncontrollably if it is stoked too much by yourself or those around you.
This can be a result of self-esteem growing too much from inflated senses of your own accomplishments, or others unreasonably hyping your status.
When a person falls in love with their own legend, their ego outshines their self-respect, and this can unfortunately lead to a corruption of the persona.
Before we get stuck into ways to build respect for yourself, let’s go over signs that you’re lacking respect for yourself.
8 Red Flags You’re Lacking Self-Respect
1. You are a doormat
You let other people do whatever they want with you. Even when you don’t like it or you know it’s wrong, you don’t speak up about it.
2. You crave attention
You are in constant need for validation, because you lack the self-esteem to live for yourself. You will do whatever it takes to get attention, even if it means making a fool of yourself.
3. You overexpose yourself
You give too much of yourself to other people, even when those other people have no care for you at all. You make excuses for the bad people in your life.
4. You are desperate for love and sex
You don’t have sex because of love or fun, but because it is the easiest way to make yourself feel like other people care about you, even when you know they don’t.
5. You are sloppy and untidy
You don’t care enough about yourself to give yourself a nice place to live. Your home is messy, untidy, and filthy.
6. You lose your identity
In relationships, you lose your sense of self. Your personality becomes your partner’s personality – their likes, dislikes, and habits become yours.
7. You overindulge
You don’t think about your own health. You overindulge in drugs, food, alcohol, and more. You never prioritize physical or mental wellness.
8. You accept abuse
Verbal, physical, and mental abuse seems acceptable to you. You justify their actions, believing that you deserve it.
How to Build Self-Respect: 10 Steps
Although self-respect comes from within, it certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Our level of self-respect can often be influenced by social factors including the people we interact with, how others interact with us, and how we engage with the world.
Boosting or maintaining one’s level of self-respect may require constant work.
The first step involves looking at everyday habits that may not seem very significant, but are actually detrimental to our sense of self-respect.
Here are some things to watch out for:
1. Stop Talking Down On Yourself
There’s tough love, and then there’s complete self-deprecation. As you complete tasks or simply go about your day, watch how you communicate with yourself.
Things like “you’re so stupid” or “I can’t do this” can deeply affect how you perceive yourself.
At times, it may feel like these harsh words are necessary to urge yourself forward.
And while it’s true to give yourself real criticism from time to time, it’s just as important to remain kind to yourself, especially during times of weakness or failure.
Replace negative self talk with something more empowering. Remember: you aren’t the enemy. Your body is a vessel working tirelessly to bring you where you need to be.
Related: What to say when you talk to yourself: Self-talk and why it matters
2. Learn to Establish Boundaries
If you grew up in an environment where saying no feels rude or dismissive, then setting boundaries might be unthinkable to you.
The problem with too much leniency is that it has the potential to lead to abuse.
When people don’t show up on time or aren’t considerate enough about your emotions, you’re signalling to yourself that your feelings, your time, and your efforts aren’t as important as other people’s.
The next time you’re meeting a friend and they’re late, don’t feel bad about saying something.
Got invited to something you would really rather not do? You shouldn’t be compelled to do things you don’t want to do.
Establishing boundaries is a healthy exercise that reinforces your self-worth.
3. Get Rid of Toxic People in Your Life
Speaking of establishing boundaries, there’s a chance you might be ruffling a few feathers by standing up for yourself – and that’s completely normal.
What isn’t normal, however, is being made to feel bad for valuing your own time and space.
Being mindful of your own self-deprecating habits won’t mean much if you surround yourself with toxic people.
Teaching yourself to be good to yourself and have self-respect is difficult enough as it is; having toxic people around just makes it all the more challenging.
The sooner you cut out toxic people, the freer you’ll feel.
Without them in your life, you won’t feel the need to second guess everything you do or say, which could really help bump up your self-respect.
Related: Toxic people: 10 things they do and how to deal with them
4. Stop Comparing Yourself With Others
While scrolling on social media, you’re bound to compare yourself with others.
You’re either feeling bad comparing your achievements to someone else’s or you start judging other people’s lifestyles to make yourself feel good.
Either way, you are breeding negative energy and allowing that affect you in some way.
Stop falling into this mental trap. Make it a point to stop judging and empower not only yourself but the people around you too.
5. Speak Your Mind
There’s a fine line between speaking up your mind and saying whatever you want.
By speaking up your mind, we mean letting yourself say what you want to say when it matters most.
When you’re in a meeting and someone interrupts, that often feels terrible and can make you feel scared about speaking again.
Holding interrupters accountable for their actions help restore self-confidence. And this doesn’t exclusively apply to work.
Speaking your mind and saying your piece can be empowering, whether you’re talking to colleagues, friends, or family members.
6. Don’t Apologize Unnecessarily
Apologizing is a knee jerk reaction for a lot of people. If you’re doing this just to be polite, consider what it could be doing to your self-confidence.
Apologizing once or twice is fine, but the truth is these unnecessary apologies build up and reinforce the narrative that you’re always at fault, even when you’re not.
Once you save your apologies for things that actually warrant them, your sorrys will feel a lot more empowering, and apologizing becomes dignified instead of embarrassing.
Related: My life was going nowhere, until I had this one revelation
Overcoming the Lack of Self-Respect
Achieving a healthy level of self-respect doesn’t happen overnight. The good news is that there are things you can do to slowly but surely build it back up:
Define your principles and stick to them: You don’t have to do things you don’t want to. Figure out the things you believe in and stick with them.
Upholding your convictions is one of the best ways to practice self-respect.
Never settle for less: Never settle for things, whether it’s a relationship, your life goals, or your career path.
The fact that you think you could do better somewhere else (or with someone else) is a sign that you’re not where you’re supposed to be.
How else are you going to give yourself the life you deserve if you don’t even have the self-respect to stop living a life you don’t deserve?
7. Prioritize emotional stability
Teaching yourself to brave through the storm will give you confidence in your own strength.
It’s a way of telling yourself that yes, you can cry, yes you can feel bad, but you won’t let these negative emotions take over your life.
Related: 7 surefire ways to cultivate emotional stability
8. Learn how to forgive yourself and others
Cutting away toxicity involves more than just staying away from toxic people.
By forgiving yourself and others, you are teaching yourself to move past heavy emotions and negative feelings.
More importantly, forgiving yourself is an invaluable lesson in self-respect because you’re teaching yourself that you’re so much more than just your past mistakes and slip-ups.
9. Listen to your intuition
Sometimes making the right decision is as simple as listening to your gut. Whenever you’re faced with a difficult scenario, take a step back and listen to what feels right.
Chances are your life has equipped you with the right tools to deal with the situation in the best way possible.
10. Accept criticism without letting it break you down
An important component of self-respect is being secure enough in yourself that you’re able to accept criticism and move towards self-improvement without feeling insecure.
Being accepting of people’s criticism isn’t the same as letting people define what you should do, think, say or feel.
Ultimately, self-respect comes from a place where you’re able to take in constructive criticism and use that to empower yourself instead of letting it define you or change the way you see yourself.
Why Do So Many People Have Trouble with Self-Respect?
1. Uninvolved Parents.
Much of the development of our mind and personality occurs during childhood, so parents are often the most important factor in determining how we develop mentally.
When children do not have parents who are involved and offer unconditional love, this can traumatize them at the earliest age for life.
Parents who have mental health issues themselves or are faced with substance abuse issues and other problems can find it difficult to be the best role models and guardians for young children, failing to give them the attention, guidance, and care they deserve.
This can significantly damage the self-respect and self-esteem for young children moving forward.
Any kind of abuse can lead to long-term trauma, including emotional, mental, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse.
When experienced at a young age, these experiences can lead to long-term feelings of guilt and shame, because it’s often the only way for people to explain what happened to themselves.
Why did they experience this abuse; why did they deserve it; and why did no one come to help, at least not until it was too late?
3. Body Image.
Body image is one of the greatest factors in determining our self-respect, and either improving the way we see our body or learning to live with the body we have is the best step forward for most people in finally discovering their self-respect.
It’s important that children are taught to have healthy relationships with food, overall nutrition, and exercise, or else they will resort to unhealthy behaviors like fasting, smoking cigarettes, self-induced vomiting, skipping meals, and more.
4. Unrealistic Goals.
Having too much pressure on yourself and setting goals that you simply can’t reach is a huge proponent in having little to no self-respect.
There are also cases where a person has excelled for most of their life but suddenly experiences a mental drop-off, and can’t cope with the sudden shift in success, thus losing all their self-respect.
5. Negative Thought Patterns and Peers.
Negativity must be avoided for one to achieve optimal self-respect.
Whether it’s negative thought patterns or negative peers, both sources can make a huge negative impact on the way we see ourselves.
You might use your feelings and thoughts against you, convincing your brain that you are inferior or worthless to those around you because they might be bullying you or teasing you in certain ways.
These can lead to cycles that you are unable to break out of, leaving you trapped in a negativity loop that drains all your self-respect.
How Self-Respect Will Naturally improve Your Life
Self-respect goes hand-in-hand with a variety of other healthy personal improvements. When you set boundaries and hold others to those standards, you experience a sense of empowerment, which could improve your self-esteem.
Establishing self-respect is a gateway to other positive habits, interactions, and feelings about yourself and the world around you. When you start prioritizing yourself and loving who you are, things will naturally fall into place and you’ll become a happier, healthier person because of it.
Here are some things you’ll notice once you’ve built up a healthy amount of self-respect:
1. You’re more positive
Suddenly the world won’t feel so bleak and dark anymore. Gone are the days when you suffered a negative perception of yourself.
With a more positive outlook, you’ll feel more optimistic about your future and your position in the world.
Related: 8 tips to be more positive while you’re stuck at home
2. You’re more daring
The things that used to scare you and make you insecure suddenly don’t feel so daunting anymore. When you start confronting the internal discomfort you feel, you have more confidence to test yourself and live outside your bubble.
You’re more resilient towards criticism: Self-respect builds character. As you become more emotionally stable, what other people think about you suddenly don’t hold so much weight.
3. You’ll enjoy being with yourself
The more you respect yourself, the more you like yourself. You’ll no longer feel the need to fill your time with mindless interactions with other people.
You’ll become more patient with your relationships and stick with people that are worth your time and affection.
4. A greater sense of moral nerve.
Your character becomes fortified, and you become a person who is willing to fight for your beliefs and values.
You don’t need to care about other people’s acceptance; they will accept and even admire you because you know how to embrace yourself.
5. A greater ability to love and be loved.
You develop traits that allow you to become a better friend, family member, and partner. Other people will take you more seriously because you have learned how to take yourself seriously.
6. An internal source of happiness.
You no longer need to look beyond yourself to find your happiness. Your happiness exists in your satisfaction with yourself, not in the fleeting validation of other people.
Related: I was deeply unhappy…then I discovered this one Buddhist teaching
We Teach Others to Respect Us When We Start Respecting Ourselves
The positive effects of self-respect manifest from the inside-out.
You start by defining who you are, upholding standards for yourself, and then ensuring that the people around you hold themselves to the same standards.
Self-respect allows you to separate yourself from the world, without taking yourself from the experience of living.
It gives you the ability to perceive your unique value and position in the universe, while partaking in meaningful and healthy relationships and activities.
When you teach yourself self-respect, you’re showing others how to respect you.
When you show them your life has intrinsic meaning and that your time and space have value, they start projecting the same kind of energy towards you.
Before you know it, self-respect has evolved into a self-empowering tool into a personal compass guiding your interaction with others and the world around you.
You may also like reading:
- What J.K. Rowling can teach us about mental toughness
- My life was going nowhere, until I had this one revelation
- How to love yourself: 15 steps to believing in yourself again
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