The Forgotten Trait of Self-Respect

In today's society, with our emphasis on building self-esteem and self-confidence in ourselves and our children, we have forgotten the importance of self-respect. We often hear the words interchanged, as if they mean the same thing. The modern misuse of the word self-respect has watered down not only its original meaning but also its value in our lives. Going back to old English, the definition of self-respect was “proper regard for the dignity of one’s person” or “to hold in honor”. It comes from within and is not reliant upon things outside of ourselves, such as physical appearance, public image, wealth, social status, praise, accomplishments, awards or achievements. Rather than being something you “build” or “earn”, self-respect comes from no other reason than the fact that you have the right to dignity because you are a human being. It means to honor yourself as a person regardless of your life circumstances. Knowing this important difference will affect the choices you make and therefore the quality of your life.

When we think of the people we truly admire now and in history, it’s because of their self-respect and not their outside achievements. We can all name more than one celebrity who had “it all”, talent, awards, money and fame, only to have it all come crashing down. Their self-esteem and self-confidence might have brought them to the top but their lack of self-respect brought them down.

I use an analogy of a broken shopping cart to explain the importance of self-respect in determining your path in life. Have you ever been to the grocery store, got a shopping cart and then found it had a bad wheel? Every time you go to push it down the aisle it starts to veer off into the shelves and you have to keep pulling it back or it’s going to crash into something. Your self-respect is your carriage that guides you through life, while everything in it is the outside “stuff”. If your base or carriage is faulty it doesn’t matter how many achievements, awards or money you have.

As the mother of a teenage daughter, I know it will serve her much better in life to learn to nurture her self-respect rather than have her become dependent upon constant praise and attention from outside herself in order to be happy.

People who have self-respect:

  1. Know who they are and never apologize for who they are.
  2. Like and excel at being who they are.
  3. Won’t settle for relationships that are not good for them.
  4. Don’t concern themselves with how others perceive them.
  5. Are able to say ‘no’ to things that don’t suit them.
  6. Won’t compromise their values to ‘fit in’.
  7. Take responsibility for themselves.
  8. Are honest with themselves.
  9. Know their time is valuable.
  10. Never give up on themselves.

The great thing about self-respect is that no one can take it away from you. It also frees you from the expectations of others. You are not swayed by another person’s opinion of you, the next fad or the latest diet. Instead of always seeking, you really know that who you are is enough. You will want to learn and have new experiences, but not to change who you are or to please others. Nurture your self-respect. Take quiet time alone in nature, meditation or prayer. Learn to become comfortable in your own skin and honor the fact that what makes you unique is enough. 

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