Respect. The word carries multiple meanings depending on who you ask. Your parents might say it means obedience. Your boss might say it means leadership. Your local police officer might say it means not flipping him/her the bird after he/she’s written you that well-deserved speeding ticket. No matter who you ask, you’ll get some variation, with each answer having to do with topics like how you treat your elders or even how you stand in line at a coffee shop.
The underlying connection between each explanation has everything to do with awareness and how we interact with the many individuals who pass in and out of our daily lives. Respect is covering your mouth when you sneeze in an elevator. Respect is showing up to appointments on time or raising your hand in a classroom. The examples are endless, but something is missing: you.
Enter self-respect, which is a feeling that is hard to come by overnight. Some have more than others, and it is either something you’re born with, learn over time, or give up on entirely. Self-respect comes in more ways than standing up to bullies or demanding that the lukewarm vegan latte you asked for be warmed up immediately. It’s what stops us from eating an entire bag of hot cheetos—I mean, most of the time—and it’s what tells us to leave when a relationship is no longer fulfilling, is abusive, or just a waste of time.
But if you’re like many, myself included, self-respect is more difficult to grasp. I’ll never forget the time I choked down the worst bowl of pasta—if you could even call it that—I have ever eaten at a restaurant because I didn’t want to be “that person” who causes a fuss and gets sneers from the kitchen. Not to mention every time I bump into someone, be it their fault or mine, I apologize. I’m clumsy, so it’s probably my fault anyway.
Digging deeper into the psychology of it all, I know it’s a matter of confidence. The two go hand in hand, and the terms “self-respect” and “confidence” are sometimes interchangeable. Here’s the difference: I feel confident when I am wearing my favorite pair of jeans or when I go to order a matcha latte with almond milk, whereas self-respect is having the courage to speak when it feels uncomfortable and being able to stand up when you truly believe you deserve better.
And it’s so much easier said than done. The first rule is to remember that respect is a two-way street. It shouldn’t matter where the other person has been, where they come from, or who they are. If your interactions with them are filled with nothing but contempt, a lack of courtesy, and any hint of disdain, then peace out. Deuces. Ixnay. See ya never. That is the attitude you should strive for in the hopes to gain or even regain any sense of self-respect. It’s when you adopt this whole “treat others as you would like to be treated” ideology that things start to change.
Not only does your confidence strengthen, but as you begin to expect mutual respect through the practice—keyword being practice—of self-respect, you’ll find the people around you, either at work, at home, at the doctor’s office, or wherever, will also start to treat you differently, and for the better.
If this all sounds like something you read in the pages of your latest “how to get your shit together” novel you bought on Amazon, I get it. I felt the same sense of helplessness when I decided it was time to necessitate my needs, my worth, and my dignity. So, before you throw that self-help book in the trash, read through a few of the initial ways I discovered that gave me the power to introduce self-respect into my norm. Think of these as examples to supplement the pages of info you’ve already processed as real, applicable ways to get started. Just don’t expect to be Aretha Franklin overnight—or ever, because she was The Queen of R-E-S-P-E-C-T way before Queen Bey.
Shift the Way You Approach Communication
I’ll make this short, clear, and to the point, which is exactly how you should approach communicating with people outside of your inner circle or the friendly barista at your morning caffeine spot. This can include your boss, clients, the customer service rep when you call to dispute a charge on your credit card, etc. I can’t tell you how many emails I have written with exclamation points, smiley faces, and phrases that made me feel like Dobby the house elf. “Just wanted to follow up,” or “Hi! I hate to bug you again…” I am even guilty of the occasional “Thank you sooo much for all your help :)” when the so-called “help” involved the person on the other end of the email doing exactly what is within their job description or title. You know what you need, and if you ask plainly and politely, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be given what you ask for. No amount of unnecessary punctuation is going to make the guy who responds with one- to two-word answers help you any more than he would if you sent an onslaught of emojis.
Stop Being a Martyr
Quit throwing yourself in the line of fire when delegating or easy fixes are at hand. If you’re exhausted and need your partner to do the damn dishes, make them do the damn dishes. If you have an intern that can organize some files while you conquer your massive to-do list, give them the reins. These may seem insignificant, but you’ll find you have more room to breath, even if it’s for a few minutes.
Snooze notifications. Make yoga a non-negotiable. If your body is starting to react to stress, take a day off and light a candle, soak in a bath, and watch The Crown and whatever other royal family documentaries are on Netflix. Listen to your gut, your body, your heart, and say “no” when you can and more often. You will feel powerful as you slowly start to regain control of your own life. You go Glen CoCo!
If You’re Not Happy With Something, Find a Solution
You’ll notice that a lot of the people that you think have the most self-respect seem to deal with disappointments and failure in a way that blows your mind. These are the people who lose their jobs and are hitting the pavement the next day, ready to dive right back into the game without looking back or having a nervous breakdown. This boils down to the element of self-respect that allows you to feel you are so much more than what you do for a living or how much money you make. People with ample amounts of self-respect confront problems with solutions rather than complain or wallow in their defeat. Pick yourself up, wipe away that tear, and move forward instead of staying stagnant in your fear or doubt.
Be a Leader, But Also a Mentor
This is key when it comes to working and personal relationships. Great leaders are the ones who find that diamond in the rough or that new employee with zero experience but a sparkle in her eye and turn them into self-respecting badasses. This doesn’t mean you have to hold their hand and dance around their feelings as though they were a delicate flower. You need to ignite their potential by leading with a constructively critical yet guiding hand. This can mean addressing failure but highlighting success where it’s due. Don’t squander dreams before they’ve even been able to blossom.
On a final note, I say this to myself every single day when I need a reminder to hold on to my newfound self-respect: stop apologizing. Unless you actually have done something with malicious intent or if you bumped into someone because your eyes were glued to your phone, just say “excuse me.” You’re not sorry, you’re frickin’ awesome.
Feature image via Stocksy