Remember that person you respect? That person you look up to because at some point in her life she had to go through a ton of obstacles, for so many years, having to experience even pain you could only imagine happening to yourself, but she still managed to do the right thing, even though everybody thought it was hopeless? Perhaps that’s the epitome of something that deserves the hat tip while you utter, “Respect.”

On the other hand, I bet you can also name someone who had everything at their disposal, in their power, to destroy someone—however “destroy” meant—but they had the choice of not doing it because, hey, that’s just morally wrong now, isn’t it? But then, they still went on with the stupid and pointless attack? Well, how did you feel about that? Did that person earn your respect?

Respect is initially subjective. An incident can elicit all kinds of opinions and perspectives. But this subjectivity eventually turns into objectivity if a person, or hero, does something or lives a life worthy of respect—by any definition and measure of “respect” anybody could use. The hero has features (or traits or character) that simply commands respect—anywhere he goes, whoever sees him or gets in contact with him. A virtuous character or deed (assuming it’s motivated by good intentions, of course) always contributes to the notion we all know as the common good.

It becomes objective because the things that make the hero worthy of respect are not limited to that person only. If those same features or traits are being exhibited by a second person, then that second person will most probably elicit respect in his own right, too.

In that regard, we can say that respect is a universal thing.

Now, let me ask you: What did you do lately as a form of respect for yourself?

Let’s Talk about Self-respect

What is it, anyway?

Well, for one, self-respect is usually associated with the other “self” words like self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love, and self-reliance. Sometimes it even gets interchanged with them.

But really, self-respect is just the same respect you would have for someone else like the one I described earlier.

To understand it more, let’s take a look at the two kinds of self-respect.

The first is recognition self-respect. This has to do with one’s social sphere: one’s membership in a clan, class, or group, any of which may have some form of influence.

The second is evaluative self-respect, which can be earned through merit, and, by the same token, can also be lost. It will depend on how one views herself after a show of virtuous character in going through tough challenges.

In other words, these kinds of self-respect require one to 1) recognize she’s worthy of self-respect, and 2) strive to understand and do things that are in accordance with the good, which further reinforces her sense of self-respect.

If the foundations of a person’s self-respect are well laid, she’ll have a healthy outlook in life that no failures or social hostility can destroy. On the contrary, people raised in dangerous environments tend to have a distorted view of reality. They think they’re not worthy of self-respect. What the heck is it, anyway? They think nothing is worth striving for because if they try to doing something huge, nothing good ever happens. Why bother trying?

I used to think belonging to some family or group that bears some special and “innate” respect is all hogwash. After all, isn’t this how stupid ideologies came about and took millions of lives? But that isn’t the point. It’s that you must recognize you are worthy of self-respect. It starts there. It will keep you going in your journey of doing what you believe is right.

Why People Lose Respect for Themselves

At the risk of sounding like I want to blame somebody (again), it’s just a fact of life. And most probably it’s not really the fault of those people you could also be blaming. Everybody is part of the cycle…or perhaps, culture. Maybe “culture” is simply human nature.

What am I talking about?

Well, just think abusive parents or bullies or a bad neighborhood or those politicians. They might have directly done something to you that caused you to lose your sense of self-respect…

… but have you ever wondered whether those abusive parents have been abused, too? Whether those bullies were bullied and, well, also abused by their abusive parents? Whether a life-threatening neighborhood is just a symptom of a corrupt system created by people that don’t give a shit for their fellow humans? Need I say more about politicians?

When someone has been neglected or has missed the least encouragement she needed to develop into a whole and healthy individual, she grows up thinking these sick, pathetic, everyday observations she makes are the norm. And when they’re the norm, you wouldn’t think about challenging them. Teach a kid to always obey without questioning and you kill his soul even before he reaches adolescence.

This goes on into adulthood without learning the basics of self-respect and as a consequence, all the other kinds of toxic behaviors and relationships follow. If there’s no self-respect, she bows down and clings to an external figure just to have the respect nobody else has “given” her.

It’s pretty simple all in all: A person may be born to a long history of people ignorant of the idea of making themselves a priority above anything or anyone else. Doesn’t make the time to learn about and challenge this sickness. And then makes babies and so the eternal cycle carries on.

It’s really about breaking the chain and deciding you want to have some genuine respect for yourself.

Educate Yourself

As you go along, you’ll learn more about yourself. But the most important thing is to do that one thing (or two, and they may change) you feel and think is worth your time.

Your book has already been written. You’ve had all your experiences, been dealt with people you didn’t choose, and learned all the lessons. You can’t just put them all aside and start over, from scratch. No, you will be carrying all of that, wherever you go. In your freakin’ heart, mind, and soul.

But that doesn’t mean you should just accept everything without fulfilling your purpose—aka, in practical terms, without doing the things that make you and others happy. And I mean true happiness out of virtue and not out of our hedonistic nature.

Look around you and it’s impossible to find everybody living what they’re called for, reaching their full potential. It’s just so damn easy to be lazy and toxic and be judgmental of others and all that.

Remember, aim for the good. Uphold the good. Self-respect will follow.

Even after having gone through unimaginable pain—or rather, especially after going through it—you deserve to respect yourself and give it the chance to become who and what you should be.

Therefore, feed your mind, know yourself, do something and find your way to a fulfilling life. I guess, in short, I just wanted to say, don’t be lazy. Okay?

Let’s take a look at some examples. I listed ten things of which we should be doing more, and ten we should be stopping.

Do these more often:

1. Do that boring task. It makes you sharper, and more importantly, more emotionally resilient and stable. Be grateful you get to do it.

2. Be patient. Think you haven’t achieved anything in your life yet? Maybe you’re always looking for quick answers. It doesn’t work that way. Learn, but it will take time.

3. Work out. Your body only needs to move. You don’t need the gym or any fancy equipment to stay healthy.

4. Meet other people to overcome anxiety. Your brain is a powerful thing but was only conditioned to think otherwise.

5. Reach out to other people. Make time for people you love. Respect your humanity. You’re not an ant.

6. Impose strict deadlines on yourself. You are here to excel. Give yourself a chance to reach its limits and see how that helps with the life mission you choose.

7. Allow yourself to do shitty work. Believe it or not, it’s how you learn to do amazing work.

8. Be alert with your thoughts. Why torture yourself when no one is inflicting it upon you? Learn to forge a positive mindset.

9. Make time and put some effort to do what you like. Don’t be tyrannical with yourself. Discipline doesn’t mean torture. Be happy.

10. Read books. It combats the idle mind, and for what sitting and staring for a while is worth, it can make you happier, too.

Stop doing these:

1. Stop bringing your phone to bed already. You need to rest. Sleep—and the amount of time needed for it—are a part of life. Don’t under-do it.

2. Stop worrying about what other people think about you. When it comes down to it, they’re really only thinking about themselves and how good(-looking) they are…not about someone special like you.

3. Stop passively entertaining yourself all the time. Think TV, memes, Facebook. For being passive, they actively drain your mental and emotional reservoirs, eventually depleting what should have been your contribution to humanity.

4. Stop planning and start doing. You’ll learn more in doing. Just make a general plan, and deal with the sophistication as you go along.

5. Stop complaining. It’s not that a lot of people are having it worse than you. It’s just that you can do something productive instead.

6. Stop believing your distorted thoughts. Or things distorted people say. We are in the age of truths. (Fake news abound, sure, but it’s really not that hard to check.) Might as well start educating yourself and looking for those truths.

7. Stop thinking you’re no good. If you dig deeper, you’ll see that it isn’t really your fault (that you’re thinking you’re no good).

8. Stop second-guessing everything. This is how you get paralyzed when you should be moving, doing and creating.

9. Stop suppressing your emotions. Stop fighting them, too. Learn to live and work with them.

10. Stop looking for shortcuts. Do that when you’re a master of your craft.

One Chance to Learn and Not Screw Things Up Forever

Can we go back to that question and change it a bit?

What will you be doing as a response to the respect you have for yourself?

Remember: you have a role. Whatever that is. Even if no one else understands why you should be playing that role. Just as long as you think it’s the right role for you.

Considering all your quirks, habits, behaviors, temper, and weird dispositions, you have to respect yourself after all those years in the making, up to this point.

More than being alert, it’s a combination of offense and defense, aggressively doing the tasks you believe in, and disregarding, sometimes shutting off, those that make you decay as a person.

Self-respect can be easily silenced by your human proclivity for comfort, convenience, and entertainment. However, if you let that happen, you’ll pay the price down the road—from an identity crisis to existential crisis, simply because you didn’t try, with just a little effort, to understand who you are, and to allow yourself to just happen.

Don’t go wandering looking for and begging or manipulating others to have a fake sense of self-respect. No one will give it to you. No one should. It’s all on you. But it’s not that hard. You’re the one who knows yourself the most. What you crave and what you hate.

Maybe start working with yourself. (If you haven’t noticed, yes, there’s another “you” inside you, and it may be that other you that’s messing things up.) Maybe negotiate with yourself whenever some sort of dissonance happens. Maybe talk with yourself with a changed tone and vocabulary. Maybe stop torturing yourself over trivial stuff.

That’s how you respect yourself. But don’t start anywhere else. You already know where to begin. Just don’t fight it.

(Image Credit: Tina Rataj-Berard)

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