Self-respect affects every facet of our lives.
He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If we lack self-respect, it‘s likely, we won‘t respect others.
When we lose it, we‘ll lose confidence.
If we can’t regain self-respect, we feel vulnerable, lonely, and uneasy.
Conversely, when we gain respect for ourselves, we radiate courage and get along well with others. We leave isolation and feel more in sync with other people.
Respect yourself and others will respect you.
– Confucius, Sayings of Confucius
What causes us to surrender this precious commodity?
How to Lose Self-Respect
The fastest way we lose self-respect is to engage in activities that go against integrity. All of us have an image of the ideal-self in our heads. Whenever we do something that’s not part of that ideal person, we slide down the self-worth curve.
Yet, most important, we can use the same principles to climb the upward curve.
How to Regain Self-Respect
Whenever we support the image of the ideal-self, we feel good about ourselves.
Simply stated, we want to do more of the things that harmonize with our personal belief system and avoid (as much as possible) the things that make our inner moralist cringe.
Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth we have spoken it.
What does this mean for us? To regain our self-respect, it‘s essential we get very clear about which activities align with our code of ethics and which corrodes it.
That’s why I suggest to create two lists. One representing the “do’s” and the other one the “do not’s.”
(1) Build a “Self-Respect Growth List”
First, list all the actions that align with your inner belief system, the person you want to be, and the goals you want to achieve. Get very specific about which specific actions align with your integrity.
Repentance is a kind of self-reproof for having neglected something useful; but that which is good must be something useful, and the perfect good man should look after it. But no such man would ever repent of having refused any sensual pleasure. Pleasure then is neither good nor useful.
Up next, what to stay clear of…
(2) Build a “Self-Respect Destruction List”
What are the activities you engage in that go against your code of ethics?
Remember, every action brings us closer to a personality where this act becomes a habit. And, keep in mind, every exception you make brings you closer to a life where the exception becomes a rule.
Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
(3) Using the lists as habit guidelines
Before you engage in any action, listen to your gut-feelings. Ask yourself if it will grow your self-worth or it will shrink it.
From now on, engage in activities that correlate with your code of ethics, and you inevitably win self-respect!
Now, I’ve found it to be critical, to put this list together and put it up at a place where you’re exposed to it frequently. I’m sitting at my laptop, and I’m glancing at it right now. It helped me to replace mindless stuff with things that feed my purpose.
Keep updating your lists and mentally rehearse doing the “right” things, avoiding the “bad” things.
Let’s remember, time is running out. The perfect time regain self-respect (and destroy self-defeat) is today.
Finally, let me end this post with a quote that, I find, is worth reading a couple of times…
How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him?
You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.