I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel like I truly respect myself. It only took 40 years.
For much of my adult life, I thought I respected myself. I thought that I was okay with who I was, felt good(ish) about myself, and how people treated me. But I’ve come to realize (as hindsight is always 20-20) that having self-respect is all about what you do, not how you feel.
Looking back, the writing was on the wall. I had no self-respect, as evidenced by the fact that:
- I stayed with a man who cheated on me three times
- I stayed in a respectable career I disliked for too many years
- I lived a life of regret for mistakes I made and beat myself up about them
- I surrounded myself with like-minded toxic people
- I compared myself with those around me and envied them
- I held onto bitterness and resentment
- I was not confident in who I was and my talents and abilities
- I partied and drank constantly so I wouldn’t have to deal with my issues
- I didn’t have boundaries for the people around me
- I was obsessed with what people thought of me
Well, duh. Obviously, I didn’t have much respect myself. I was a negative, toxic, passive doormat. I look back and I shake my head at my own ignorance. The problem with thinking I had self-respect and not really having it, was that I never really got anywhere. I would repeat the same negative patterns and wonder why I was so unfulfilled and so unhappy.
So, what happened to wake me up, what I continually do now to keep myself in check, and what you can do if you realize that you really don’t respect yourself? Here are some ways to stop being a jerk to yourself, and begin to love the awesome person you are.
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1. Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life
This is the number one way to become successful and will propel you quickly to gaining some respect for yourself. Stop playing the blame game. If there’s something in your life you don’t like, stop blaming external sources. Get rid of your excuses, your victim stories, and your limiting beliefs and accept that you have the power to control your own life. Forget about all those reasons you tell yourself about why you can’t lose weight or how your parents f’ed you up.
If you want to respect yourself, you need to take responsibility for everything in your life. You made the choices that led you to this point, so own up to it. Then, give up the baggage you’re holding onto and from now on when something doesn’t turn out how you want it, figure out why, take responsibility for your actions, and move on.
For the longest time, I struggled with taking responsibility for my failed marriage. Why should I take responsibility for him cheating on me and our marriage imploding? But as I began to realize that I have full control over my life, I accepted responsibility for deciding it was easier to marry him even when I found out about the first affair, I stayed with him after the second affair, and I didn’t do the work to improve our relationship.
Taking 100% responsibility for your life is the first and most valuable thing I learned in Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles book and it has served me very well these last few years. He gives the following exercise in one of his webinars to help you determine what you are struggling with and how you can change it. Answer each of these questions honestly:
1. What is a difficult or troubling situation in your life?
2. How are you creating it or allowing it to happen?
3. What are you pretending not to know?
4. What is the payoff for keeping it like it is?
5. What would you rather be experiencing?
6. What actions will you take to create that?
7. By when will you take that action?
2. Identify Your Values
What do you believe in? Now, I’m not talking about religion, but what beliefs you have that are important to you and gives your life purpose? Your core values are what you identify with at your core, they are what keeps you grounded. When these core values are met, you feel content. You feel like you are living your purpose.
I identified my core values in 2012 and my three main values are freedom, recognition, and love. I later added service to the list as well. When I have these four values reflected in all areas of my life, I feel content. At this moment, my core values are not being met in the freedom and recognition areas due to my current work situation and so I have to admit that each day has been a struggle for me. Though my need for love and to serve are being met in my personal life, I feel trapped in a cage and unappreciated in my professional life. This tells me I need to start making changes and fast.
Whenever I feel unhappy or discontent, I evaluate all the areas in my life and start making the necessary changes to align my life with my values. If you want to learn to respect yourself, write down a list of your core values and narrow it down to a handful. (If you need help getting started, just Google ‘Core values list,’ and you’ll find about a trillion).
3. Set Boundaries For How You’re Treated
In an effort to be liked and get validation, I used to allow people to treat me like a doormat. It was my best friend who handed me the book, Boundaries by Henry Cloud. (So, at this point I have to admit, I actually never read the entire book I just recommended, but we talked about a lot of the concepts. It’s one of the books in my stack to read someday but keeps getting pushed to the side in lieu of something else. Either way, she highly recommends it, the concepts I’ve learned from her about it have helped, it has sold millions of copies which gives it some validation).
Anyhow, she said something very profound to me right after I found out about the second affair (about 5 years before I actually left my ex). She told me that I teach people how to treat me. If I allow them to treat me poorly and walk all over me, then that’s how they will treat me. So it’s important to know what behavior you are willing (or not willing) to accept from those around you and then have the courage to stand up for yourself when you are being mistreated. When someone crosses your boundary, you need to let them know that their behavior toward you is unacceptable. If they continue to mistreat you, then you may need to cut them out of your life.
It’s not easy, but if you want to change your life, it is necessary. So, stand firm. You’ll never respect yourself if you allow the toxic people in your life to mistreat you. This includes how your friends and strangers talk to you and ESPECIALLY how you talk to yourself.
How you talk to yourself is another blog post altogether but begin recognizing what that little voice in your head tells you. Does she/he tell you how stupid you are when you mess up? Does it tell you that you are never good enough or can’t get anything right? Imagine if you said to someone what that little voice in your head says to you. You’d get punched in the face for your meanness. So set that boundary for yourself as well and ditch the crappy way you talk to yourself.
4. Realize All That You’ve Accomplished
You are awesome. Yes, you. Even if you don’t realize it at this very moment, you are and have the power to make yourself and your life more awesome. If you don’t believe me, stop what you’re doing right now and write down ten things you’ve accomplished in your life. When I did this, my eyes were opened to the fact that, yes, I have accomplished many things I never thought I could.
For example (and yes, this is totally a humble brag moment):
- Ran 3 marathons
- Spent 4 days in labor giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl
- Found the courage to leave my husband
- Graduated college in 3 years…
Now, what have YOU accomplished? Revel in those things. Celebrate how far you’ve come. Relive those moments when you’ve completed something you’ve worked so hard on. Focus on you and your accomplishments. Don’t compare yours to mine or yours to your friends. You’re awesome and I respect you for getting this far on an article that I didn’t intend to actually be this long. Now that’s an accomplishment in itself!
5. Forgive Yourself and Others
Forgiveness is one of those things we love to hold onto, don’t we? Well, I did. I held on tight to my resentment as it was my evidence that I could continue to be the victim. “Look at what he did to me! I’m treating you like a jerk because he did this and this…” Welcome to my self-pity party, folks.
What I didn’t want to realize then was that by not forgiving those that hurt me, I was only hurting myself and stunting my own personal growth. Let go of the people who’ve hurt you or did you wrong in the past. What are you accomplishing by clinging to the is the anger and hatred toward them? Aside from you becoming a bitter and resentful person, the lack of forgiveness will eat at your spirit until you hate yourself and everyone around you.
Just as important as forgiving those that wronged you, it is important to forgive yourself. For years, I used to beat myself up for mistakes I’ve made in the past. Stop wallowing in your guilt and go back and read point #1 – take responsibility for whatever transgressions and do what you can to make it right. Maybe that means you are asking someone to forgive you for the wrongs you did to them. Maybe that means asking yourself for forgiveness. Stop beating yourself up and forgive. Replace the resentment, the negative self-talk, and the drama with positivity and gratitude. Let it all go and you’ll be well on your way to self-respect in no time.
Having a healthy dose of self-respect is important for personal growth. It is important for you to be able to look in the mirror and like the person you are. The world needs you and your awesomeness.
The bottom line is: don’t be an asshole to yourself or to others. Respect yourself. Respect others. Do your part in making this world a better place.
Books I’m Currently Reading:
- Miracle Morning For Writers by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott
- 52 Ways To Live A Kick-Ass Life by Andrea Owen
- Beyond Mars and Venus: Relationship Skills For Today’s Complex World by John Gray