Let’s begin by clearing up something: Self-respect does not make you narcissistic or conceited or self-centered ... in fact, it does quite the opposite. Self-respect is about amassing a deep sense of self-worth and self-love to show that you are worthy of receiving love and in turn, giving love.
The problem for most of us — myself included — is that we go about it the wrong way. We try to get a sense of self-worth by amassing "likes" on Facebook or getting a new gadget, when the truth is that external factors will never give us the self-respect we crave.
Here are 12 ways to show more self-respect:
1. Figure out what makes you respect yourself.
One of the concepts that allows me to respect myself is keeping my word to others. If I say I am going to do something or be somewhere, barring any emergencies, I feel best when I do what I say I am going to do. Doing work in the world I care about also musters up a lot of self-respect as does exercising regularly, starting my day with a green juice, and being under the covers by 10pm for a good night of rest!
2. Be honest about who you are and who you aren’t.
Once you know what makes you feel good (see step #1), continue to be clear — not only with yourself but with others. Leading with honesty is not only less work but more enjoyable.
If you know working outdoors at a farm sanctuary is what you're here to do, then you have no business working 9 to 5 at a local marketing company for the next decade. You're disrespecting your talents and interests and you're being disrespectful to a company that could hire someone who'd actually excel in that position.
I know that I am not honoring myself when I make social plans three nights in a row after work because doing so leaves me feeling depleted. I do my best to be clear about this with myself and with friends.
3. Respect yourself by taking action around things that excite you.
Yes, taking action on the unknown can be scary stuff. We're never guaranteed our ideal outcome and that can cause us to retreat, bigtime. But the most successful people I know aren’t afraid to try something new. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard and the rest is history. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began Apple in their garage. Alicia Keys harnessed her talent and fame to create a totally new venture, Keep A Child Alive. Through clinics, education, and medicine, the global pop star's not-for-profit is treating and preventing the spread of HIV in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.
4. Stop trying so hard to be “normal!”
The only way to stand out is to be your idiosyncratic, real, quirky self. It's easier said than done, but consider this: all those folks you look up to have taken ownership of what sets them apart and leveraged it to their advantage. Besides, if you don't own who you are, you blend in. And what’s interesting about that?
5. Don't let other people define your boundaries.
Many people have good intentions, but their advice is often clouded by their emotional baggage. So when someone tells you “you’ll never be able to do that” or “you shouldn’t” or “you can’t,” ignore them until you have figured out for yourself what's true.
6. Learn to say no.
Letting others know what isn’t OK doesn’t make you a bad person — it makes you a strong and respectable person. When you stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do, you create more time and energy to engage with the activities and people that do make you happy. (Have trouble saying no? Start here.)
7. Date the partner who is SURE he or she wants to date you.
You know the first place all of us tend to throw self respect out the window? Yup, you guessed it: dating. I’m convinced there should be a firm rule when it comes to dating: If it’s not hell yes, then it’s hell no!
I speak to countless people who have so much to offer the right partner but are in a paralyzed state of waiting for their current partner to decide about a critical aspect of the relationship. I understand that it takes time for a couple to grow, but I'm talking about people who've gone beyond compromise and are living in a state of numbing self-sacrifice.
Muster up the self respect to start over! Though scary, starting over will be less painful than being with a partner who doesn’t want or isn’t incapable of giving you what you need.
8. Let whatever you get done today be enough.
Self-respect means not engaging in being overly self-critical, judging or restricting. It's so easy to chain ourselves to a to-do list and then gauge our worthiness on it’s completion. How about a purposeful shift towards self-kindness? What if, as you finish one task and contemplated the next, you said to yourself: I could do this, or I could not. If I choose to stop now, I will allow whatever I have completed today to be enough and I will not beat myself up for it. How’s that for respecting your bandwidth?
9. Know that you are not your genes.
We could spend a lifetime untying the knots of our past, but at some point, we must realize the knots are no longer ours. They belong to our parents, grandparents and their grandparent’s parents. The lineage is complex and lengthy and effortlessly passed from one generation. We have a choice and at any point we can reflect on our childhood influences and declare: “This is not my story. I am not my genes.”
10. Apologize with self-respect.
Saying “I’m sorry” is seldom pleasant or easy, so if you’re going to do it at all, make it count! An important part of apologizing is learning not to make excuses. (Because that's just disrespectful to the other person and your integrity.)
So next time you’re tempted to plead your case, lay a hand on your heart, check in with that inner barometer and listen to the truth. If an apology is called for courageously, offer one (minus the excuses).
11. Be willing to accept reality.
You must be willing to see things and people as they are. It can be painful to acknowledge that there is a problem with ourselves, our loved ones, or a situation. But if you don’t deal with the problem with curiosity and courteousness, your situation will be prolonged. And that is not very respectful of your time and energy.
12. Write love notes to your body.
Our health, like everything else in our life, is a relationship. The more we pay attention to it and nourish it, the more our body thrives. Often when we consider becoming healthier we can find ourselves in front of the mirror looking at our bodies and wondering what we need to “fix.”
Instead of making self-deprecation your morning ritual, stand in front of the mirror and list three things you love about yourself. Later, write them down, preferably on sticky notes. Then pick the one or two that make you feel the way you want to feel every single day and leave these love notes on your bedroom mirror, in your wallet, on the TV remote and read them even on those days when you might not feel that way.
In closing, remember to treat yourself the way you'd want others to treat you. By focusing only on our self-perceived faults and flaws, we’re basically giving permission for the rest of the world to focus on them too.